Copenhagen: You’ve Got Soulland

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Published August 16, 2010

 

 

At age 25, most designers are just starting out. But Denmark-based Silas Adler is on a different timeline. After dropping out of high school, he started his label, Soulland, in 2002, when he was 17, and has long since graduated from a maker of printed T-shirts to one of Europe’s most talked-about young menswear designers.

Last week at Copenhagen Fashion Week, Adler put his first suits on the runway. His inspiration, he explained as we ate sandwiches on some steps near one of the city’s old reservoirs, was a Leonard Cohen poem that starts, “I am locked in a very expensive suit”—just the sort of ambivalence about dressing up that you might expect from a former skater.

 

Adler has a self-taught approach to life. “I missed out on university, but I’ve always been very eager to learn stuff. For me it would never work out if I didn’t have that urge,” he said.

Halfway through his twenties, Adler figured he ought to be contemplating the suit. “It’s definitely the male garment that has the most power, even more than a uniform,” he mused. “When you’re in a uniform, you’re not an individual—you are a soldier or a worker or something.” There’s more than a trace of Thom Browne in the new suits, but Adler cites Aquascutum’s place on the traditional-versus-skinny-cut continuum as an inspiration, and the related “contrast of self-control and chaos.”

That contrast is the main thing that attracted him about the Cohen poem, which he discovered during a short stint living in Paris. “It’s an extreme contrast, like love and hate, but it’s also such a thin line.  Almost like you wouldn’t know you had crossed it until you’re on the other side,” he says.

The same goes for adulthood, and Adler now has to wonder whether that’s a line he’s crossed. Knee problems from an old skateboarding accident brought him back to Copenhagen for surgery-then he learned he’s going to be a father. “You can think of yourself as not being an adult, but now all of a sudden there’s going to be someone else that’s definitely going to see you as an adult,” he explains. “That’s going to define whether you are one or not.”

Then again, so will the coterie of skater friends he didn’t hesitate to invite to his after-party. “They say, ‘Fuck, man, it’s so crazy that we see you on TV and in the newspapers and you still come to the skateboard contests,'” Adler said. “I’m like, ‘No, what’s great is that you are here, at my party.'”