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CMMN SWDN wins prestigious prize

Scandinavian MAN went to London for the semi-finals of the European edition of the International Woolmark Prize 2018/-19. This year saw Swedish menswear brand CMMN SWDN, known for their considered approach and progressive design aesthetics, winning the prize as one of four contestants now proceeding to the world finals taking place in London in early 2019.

Words Robin Douglas Westling

Somerset House, London

Founded in 2012 by Saif Bakir and Emma Hedlund, who first met in 2004 in London while studying at prestigious schools Central Saint Martins and London College of Fashion, CMMN SWDN have today won success amongst leading retailers worldwide earning a spot on schedule during Paris Men’s Fashion Week.

With all four finalists in the Europan competition being menswear labels, it’s a clear sign on the growing business and interest in men’s fashion. And using well-used and beloved garments as the main idea of the collection, CMMN SWDN won the prize as one of four contestants now proceeding to the world finals taking place in London in early 2019.

– The idea was to give the true value of clothes, and to keep that value in the garment above all, Bakir explains. We live in a society right now where the “worn and throwing” culture is a part of the time. Clothes are so cheaply produced that they lose their value. We want to resume it and instead create garments that actually do have a value. By highlighting it, the whole collection has been about taking these garments and giving them this almost “imperfect” look.

– The inspiration has emerged from one’s well-used old favorite garments, that are used year after year almost shaped by your body, Hedlund continues.

The couple’s references are clearly visible in the beautifully hand-knitted slipovers that fit as slim on the upper body with stitched “scars”.

– When creating the collection’s two knitted garments, we looked a lot on the beauty of a garment that has been put together after years of use. We kind of admire how beautiful these garments can be, and mended them, which means that you manually put the fabrics together, bonding the layers using a needle-punching technique, at the Italian knitwear manufacturer Punto Art. The irregular forms of the knit recall the distortions that naturally occur from human hands in the restoration process and are finished darning, a traditional mending technique.

When I point out the amazing craftsmanship by hand, Bakir also fills the importance of being able to produce on a larger scale.

– We work with a factory that enables us to do that (create the garments on a larger scale), making it commercial.

But the duo also pushes the inspiration for the craft and the desire to create clothes with your own hands.

– Today, almost everything is created digitally and I feel it has lost a little soul, Hedlund says.

Bakir continues to talk about the importance of the commercial creation, especially when one is working with the Woolmark Prize with thoughts that the winner’s collection is going to be produced and sold in stores.

– And that’s when it becomes interesting with innovation. Especially when one is working with new factories that can be a process that was done by hand, in the past, can now be done by machine or just combining this with working hands and taking in mechanical help.

A mindset and a balance the couple manages skillfully and, as I think, gave CMMN SWDN their well-deserved spot in the global final.