ABOVE: SKETCH COURTESY OF CMMN SWDN
CMMN SWDN, the super-hip menswear label designed by Saif Bakir and Emma Hedlund, unveiled its seventh collection yesterday in London. Bakir and Hedlund’s deceptively titled clothes are anything but common, and have developed a cult-like following in the two and half years since the label made its international debut. The clothes also typically favored by modern bon vivants (think Kanye West)—in other words, someone with lots of street cred and plenty of flair to spare.
It’s no surprise, then, that the design partners actually formed their partnership in West’s Paris atelier, while working alongside the multi-hyphenate musician’s creative director, Virgil Abloh. “Working with Kanye was a wonderful experience,” shares Bakir, “but it also triggered a desire to start our own label.”
Bakir and Hedlund first met over a decade ago while studying at Central Saint Martins and London College of Design respectively, and prior to holding design positions at French high-street label COS and West’s D.W women’s wear line. They founded their first design studio in Malmö, Sweden, where they were awarded Elle magazine’s prestigious Best Newcomer Award in 2013. The duo recently moved to East London and, in November, CMMN was among one of 10 recipients of the British Fashion Council’s New Generation Award.
We spoke to Bakir and Hedlund in the days leading up to their London Collections: Men debut about their inspirations, social media, and the CMMN man.
HOME BASE: East London, England
DESIGNERS: Saif Bakir and Emma Hedlund
HYRBID FOUNDATION: Bakir: Our collection is about opposites. The Name is CMMN, but it’s really anything but common. For instance: Emma is blonde, and I’m brunette. [laughs] We aspire to push the boundaries of menswear. There’s tailoring, but it’s also sporty to put the more traditional elements of our design aesthetic slightly off balance and to show men what’s possible in contemporary sportswear. Emma has a strong background in womenswear, so she brings those elements into our design process with softer, more luxurious textures, attention to detail and fabrications, embellishment etcetera. There’s a delicate touch, juxtaposed with my take on tailoring and cut. It’s at once oversize and streamlines, hard and soft, so there’s a great balance.Hedlund: Menswear today is much more free with color—it’s even loud at times, which is great. We strive to offer pieces that are easy to mix to really show off one’s personal style, but it’s also important for us to keep the shapes relatively classic, because at the end of the day, men simply want to get dressed.
IDEAL MAN: Hedlund: Last season, we were inspired by the model Dylan Fosket—it seems he’s on our inspiration boards almost ever season. He has a very angelic look. He’s like a man and a boy, and a bit androgynous. We love that interplay of the masculine and feminine. But we really find a lot of inspiration from the guys we see wearing out products on Instagram.Bakir: It’s a platform no one can ignore, which is great, and a bit daunting. But overall, it allows us to reach an international market, and a new menswear customer that hadn’t necessarily existed before. People are always hungry for something new, so we post very strategically to create desire, but also to be able to fulfill the demand. Hedlund: The CMMN man is typically in his late 20s, early 30s, not necessarily well-off, but he definitely takes care of his appearance. Some of our customers are obviously influenced by the street, with a bit of a hip-hop vibe. Then we also have what we refer to “The New Gentleman,” who is very sophisticated and mixes and matches our pieces in a completely new and nuanced way.
ON PROCESSES AND INPIRATION: Hedlund: This season, we found inspiration in the many political movements happening around the world, particularly movements taking place in one industrial city in Sweden. Bakir: This collection, working title “Armani in Manchester,” takes all of the associations we have with Armani—whether it’s Richard Gere in American Gigolo, or the purest traits of traditional luxury menswear [such as] perfectly tailored pinstripe suits, supple wool, silk, and cashmere textiles—and puts them in the center of Manchester. It’s a very English, working class city, known to be very industrial and rooted in tradition, music, and denim—”the workman’s fabric.” It’s almost its own subculture. Hedlund: We used a denim fabric bonded with heavy pinstriped wool, then hand-blasted it to give it even more texture. Soccer is also most popular there, so we included those sportif elements as well with collars and such. When the players, rather the CMMN man, pops his collar, it’s his way of proclaiming his dashing confidence, his was of saying, “I’m the shit!” [laughs]