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Asger Juel Larsen
We speak to the Danish designer about his next step — the technical, surf-inspired upcycle brand, Unridden.
How did you begin your fashion journey?
— To begin with, I started studying in London at London College of Fashion, where I did my BA and MA. It was on my MA that I started my fashion brand Asger Juel Larsen, and from my MA collection I got picked for three shows during Fashion Week in London. Shortly after those five years in school I decided to move back to Copenhagen. For me, it was a better way of starting everything.
When was your first Copenhagen show?
— It was in 2012 at the National Museum. That collection I showed both here and in London. After that I was in the wheel and just kept going by travelling and showing my collections all around the world. In March 2016, we had a fire in the studio, which pretty much changed everything for the brand Asger Juel Larsen. We lost everything. It was quite dramatic, but out of bad things, new stuff also happens. Instead it pushed me down a different road and I started thinking about what direction was next. When I showed my last collection under Asger Juel Larsen for SS17 — a collection that was also inspired by the fire — I knew it was going to be the last one in the AJL setup.
— After that I worked on different freelance projects and was involved in a new collection for another brand called WSR. I also did a lot of things together with Red Bull as well as lectures and talks. Then last summer I was approached by lifelong surfer and entrepreneur Søren Alminde, who today is the other half of Unridden. Søren and I didn’t know each from before. He came to me to talk about this brand idea, and already after our first couple of meetings, I could see this going somewhere different. It was much more conceptualized, adaptable and easier for the consumer to understand. I realized that this project was exactly what I’ve been looking for. I knew I was done making collections in the way I used to do, which was more like an ongoing fashion creation made to push my own creative abilities and for competition against myself.
– Most importantly, I feel that this is more current and I see the visions so clearly. Without really knowing it before, this is something I’ve been seeking for some time. Unridden is maybe exactly what I’ve been waiting for, and it’s so exciting. I feel it when I wake up in the morning and when I go to sleep at night. I constantly have this crazy amount of energy that keeps me continuously creative in mind, but also in life, in how I work and go through my day. It’s an incredible feeling. That was a long intro.
That was a really good intro because it’s summing up what we’re going into detail with. Would you describe it as also being more functional and conceptual?
— Yes. For me, making all this collection, it all has this same theme. It’s really something else than what I used to do in Asger Juel Larsen. There’s a radical change between AJL and Unridden. Asger Juel Larsen had a little bit of a fuck finger coming from the side. Pushing limits and constantly being all the way out there. Now, I want to push limits in a whole other way — by finding the right manufacturers and factories to make exactly what I want fabric-wise and pattern cutting-wise. I want to work even more in depth with these things.
Tell us your thoughts about the brand and about the first collection.
— The dream for the Unridden concept is to be as self sufficient as possible. Of course, we need to be in the correct stores and so on. In many ways, you have to do collections because you have everyone buying, wholesale-wise, in these specific two months a year. I mean that, it would be very nice to come around those seasons, in a way, so you are interesting all year around, which also makes the work more interesting.
– The main idea is to, at some point, be able to be the main focus of sales on your own webshop, so you are in full control of what’s being put out. You can sell the story the best way, which is the commercial way of doing it nowadays, but being visible in the right stores for your brand globally is just as important. Unridden can also be sold in selected sports shops, a wide range of outdoor shops and surf shops.
It expands the area. It’s not only a high fashion area, but it’s put into other contexts.
— I love that Unridden does not only cooperate in the high-fashion area. It will be something more affordable, but still in nice high quality fabrics. It’s so interesting to work with all these different types of garments — and to merge them.
Tell me about your first collection. You’ve been quite under the surface for the first time.
— Yes, I wanted to lay low for a while. I wanted to find myself and to be… to just be me. Now, I’ve got so much energy within me, so it’s actually insane, and most of it I’m using in the development of the brand design. I already have visions for our second collection. Also, I decided not to tell too much about Unridden in the early stages, for people to start with the full experience instead.
What does the first collection involve?
— The range will involve five programmes; before I start, I should maybe say a little bit about what the main design idea is. For me, the focal point of this Unridden collection in general, which is not only about this first collection but also about a whole year, two years or five. Right now, the vision is to use a standard wetsuit, and adapt the various details and function within it. For example, the zippers, how the zipper is used, the lines of the body, the elastic cords and so on. There’s so much more to it than you think. It’s minimal and very interesting to study.
It’s very technical.
— It’s super technical, and so genius. Our main focus is not to make wetsuits. We want to make one that’s super sick and cool at some point, but when looking at the bigger picture, it’s more about using and adapting patterns, techniques, and the way it looks. I’m calling it “anatomically tailored.” We’re putting it into another context. It could be in trousers, on a jersey or in jackets. There’s no limit in the possibilities it is giving us. Maybe you don’t see it at first, but when you go closer, you will definitely notice all the wet-suit references. That’s the starting point and the main focus.
There is a lot of recycle, upcycle too…
— Yes, we’ve been collecting old wetsuits from surf places around Denmark. We have a good pile now and we are cutting these up and using them in different ways in the design process.
Tell me about the surf part and your collaboration.
— Basically, the Unridden journey started out when Søren, who’s a surfer himself, approached me. Søren wanted to create a surf brand within a fashion context. I have been skating a lot and listening to punk when I was little, and I like to surf, though I’m still far from great. The word Unridden means riding a wave that hasn’t been ridden before, and that’s the whole point. It’s coming from this, which is also why there’s such a big focus on the brand DNA and identity, and a huge amount of work behind it by some of the most talented people.
Neoprene is an interesting fabric.
— Yes! You can use it in so many different ways. You have it in any colour or pattern. There’s nothing you can’t do really. It reflects a bit the philosophy of Unridden. We call it the new, the untouched, the unknown, the undone and the unlimited ocean. That is the main call of Unridden. We play and design with courage and we want to create courage and freedom through what we do. It’s like the very main focus is about intuition, about doing and about inspiring people to be intuitive in a way that doesn’t have to be surfing the Unridden way. It could as well just be while hanging out at home, working or going for a stroll. As long as you feel alive.
I’m curious, when did your passion for design start?
— Before fashion, it was more a craftsmanship skill in a way. I’ve always been drawing a lot and doing these things — just being creative — but when I was very young, my mom taught me to handknit and use a sewing machine. I really liked it. After high school, those memories tricked me in the design direction.
What are your thoughts about the Scandinavian fashion scene? Do you think we’re on the right track?
— I believe that the North is a good place to be because a lot of people are interested in what’s going on up here. Not only when it comes to clothing, it’s also about tourism. These three countries — Denmark, Sweden, Norway — are very special places and now people are seeing what we always have been familiar with. It is not only furniture, architecture, food or arts — it has just as much to do with fashion, and the Copenhagen Fashion Week has never been as international as it is going to be this coming season.
Pitti Uomo location: Scandinavian Manifesto, 63UnriddenDanishScandinavian MAN