ABOVE: PHOTOS COURTESY OF SASCHA ODA.
Soulland, the street-tinged menswear label founded by Silas Adler in 2002, recently made its international debut at London Collections: Men. Perhaps best known for its silk screen printed sweatshirts laden with irreverent slogans (“Exotic Erotic,” “Gordon Gekko,” and “High Society” come to mind), and hyper-graphic all-over floral motifs, there are also more sober offerings including patchwork plaid suits and solid denim separates.
Inspired by Freemasonry oil paintings, Alder chose a ribbon tied into a billowing bow as the collection’s logo—”It’s a way of signing off, or like giving a present to guys,” he says. Another gift for his loyal fans: a weekly online newsletter featuring the collection’s sources of inspiration and multidisciplinary muses including Martin Kongstad, Kevin Lyons, Röyksopp, and Sarah Andelman, among others.
We spoke to Adler about his journey from high school dropout to dressing Kylie Minogue and J. Lo, and staying in business as a self-taught designer. Here’s his story.
HOME BASE: Copenhagen, Denmark
BUSINESS PARTNERS: Silas Adler, Jacob Kampp Berliner
HUMBLE BEGINNINGS: The only thing I wanted to do at 17 was skateboard. I was very much into that culture—not only skating, but the lifestyle as well. I spent all my time making t-shirts and eventually dropped out of high school. My mom was suspicious, but supportive in the end. She just wanted me to focus on something positive. The options were stay in school, and stop skipping class to skateboard, or continue to make t-shirts, but I’d have to get a day job and pay a small rent. So I worked in a Japanese restaurant and made shirts at night.
EXPERIENCE IS MY TEACHER: I didn’t know anything about the fashion industry. For the first few years, I interned at a local Danish brand that made cargo pants favored by J. Lo and Kylie Minogue. They received great press coverage for a year or two, but eventually the brand flopped. It was a great education in what not to do.
TAKING SHAPE: The brand’s real development started when Jacob [Kampp Berliner] joined the company. He really brought business experience, not fashion, but a strict business sense and structure. We started following the fashion calendar, and got serious about reaching customers internationally.
ON THE JOB TRAINING: Everything I know I’ve learned from the production process. I’ve learned design, construction, sizing, and textile development from tailors and craftsmen in the factories. But they’ve also learned from my ignorance. Since I don’t have any formal design training, I often present crazy ideas that go against the traditional techniques and methods of production. They say, “You can’t do this, you can’t do that!” At first they’re annoyed with my requests, but then we collaborate, they experiment, perhaps break a few rules, and then they’re impressed with the results!
TREND FORECASTING: We work 15 months in advance, so it’s really based on my first instinct. Sometimes we’re on trend, and other times, well…
FOR MORE INFORMATION AND TO SHOP THE COLLECTIONS, VISIT THE BRAND’S WEBSITE.
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