Interview: Patrik Söderstam

by Laura Hudd .

The feeling with a film is so much greater than that on a catwalk. The catwalk is great to show the garment's fabric but that's it. If you can trust people to get the feel of the fabrics, you can get so much more feeling, message and attitude out of film. 

A film also lives on.

Laura Hudd: How did you come to work in fashion?

Patrik Söderstam: When the hormones started to take over my body, when I was about 11 years old. Once testosterone came to run in my veins things started to happen. I remember I wanted to decorate my room upside down. I dreamt of making a pair of super wide aikido trousers to wear. I got into music and became a 'synth' - I mixed a lot of styles, but the clothes were always more important than the music. My idols were Robert Smith of The Cure, Alannah Currie of the Thomson Twins and Allan Wilder of Depeche Mode, because of their style.

I had to fight quite a lot because of my style. The hard rock guys always tried to pick a fight, and they got it. From there I just carried on. I don't like how this retro generation rules the 'cred' youth culture now, with the current electro thing. That style is just a case of copying. It is boring.

Laura Hudd: What did you find most valuable during your time at the Stockholm Cutting Academy and Central Saint Martins?

Patrik Söderstam: I learned the basic techniques for constructing clothes at the Cutting Academy, it's a good base. When you know this skill you can do your own pattern cutting and that's important, I like it. At Saint Martins I just did what I wanted to do. I changed all the projects into what I had in my brain at the time, so I basically just used the college to realize ideas to build on in the future. But that's how that school works: if you don't get that, you are lost there. I don't want to go in to whether the school is good or bad, it is just this phenomenon.

Laura Hudd: Did your time working with Robert Cary Williams change your approach to design?

Patrik Söderstam: Not really. I was not there for a very long time. I just did the normal student helping out stuff. I just thought that if this guy could do it I definitely could as well.

Laura Hudd: Can you describe your research process: how do you develop your ideas?

Patrik Söderstam: This collection project is an evolution of ideas I have been working on for a long time. I keep these ideas in my collections and then just change certain colours, prints and details. The cuts, shapes and silhouettes are roughly the same. Of course along the way I have new ideas, that's how I see my collection evolve.

I work more like a car company would work with their cars. Every now and then they come out with new improved models. I don't have any special influences on my 'collections'. I research all the time and the stuff that inspires me goes in to my brain and sketchbooks, and out come ideas. It's not unlike William Burroughs 'cut-up' technique for making poems, only I cut up feelings and information and come out with ideas that I sometimes use for clothing.

Laura Hudd: What are the key influences behind 'TV', your A/W '04 collection?

Patrik Söderstam: The print for this season comes from the static pattern on TV, that's on when all the programs are over. It is so silent and mysterious, like a gateway to another dimension, especially compared to all the shit that's in there otherwise. The clothes with the static print are sort of a media camouflage, so you can hide away in that other dimension. The lycra pocket is another key thing. I think it gives the cloth a futuristic feel. They also make an interesting look as the things that are in the pockets stand out. You can fill the pockets with a lot of stuff, I hope some stylist will get the idea and fill them with something interesting. The lycra pockets are something I am going to continue doing in future projects. Otherwise, my silhouettes - the all over baggy one and the baggy top with tight button, are still important.

Laura Hudd: TV is presented as a unisex line: what are the benefits of designing for both genders?

Patrik Söderstam: You can sell it to both men and women.

Laura Hudd: Are you in favour of encouraging the sexes to dress exactly the same?

Patrik Söderstam: No, not at all, that does not sound very sexy. It is just that a woman can look very sexy in a big shirt or baggy trousers, if she is relaxed in it. It is the body (and brain) inside that matters. I just give another option for the people. I don't need to see a women in a tight see-through body to find her sexy, a big loose shirt works better for me.

Laura Hudd: Can you explain your 'Kompak' concept, (a bag that the wearer can fold their garments into)?

Patrik Söderstam: In this collection, TV, I am introducing my Kompak concept with a pair of my Swoosh trousers. The trousers can fold into a little bag that is attached to the inside of the waistband, so the trouser becomes a little bag that you can carry over your shoulder. It works with the 'urban city nomad feeling that I like and it has that functional, futuristic design feel. In an upcoming collection I will release more Kompak garments like a suit and a jacket.

Laura Hudd: You have said that 'TV' explores changing the wearers' anatomy via the manipulation of the clothing. Is flattering the body a major consideration for you?

Patrik Söderstam: I have always liked futuristic ideas. I think we move too slowly when it comes to design. I have been wearing super tight trousers with padded calves for eight years. I think the look is great, it becomes sort of like an animal's leg, a sculpture, something robotic. After I had designed the first padded calf I found out that men used to do that for sexual reasons, I can understand that. This time I did a lycra pocket over the calf so you could pad it yourself. Then I went on to put the lycra pocket on other areas of the body/garment. I thought it was important to let the wearer decide if they want to experiment with padding or just use the pockets like pockets.

Laura Hudd: On two occasions you have presented your fashion collection as a film. Did the knowledge that the collection would be represented in motion image influence the way you developed your garment designs?

Patrik Söderstam: No it did not, but it could have done. I sort of see my collections as film presentations in my head. I see short films or an ad. I guess my generation dreams and thinks in a TV/film kind of way, because of all the things we have been watching.

I definitely had ideas before I did the collections about presenting them as films. I see my films as a bit like reality dreams. My clothes are made to live that surreal dream, in a relaxed reality.

Laura Hudd: What advantages are there in working with moving image over a traditional catwalk presentation? How do you think the role of film will influence fashion in the future?

Patrik Söderstam: You don't have to work with a bunch of sad models and you can do it in your own time. You don't have to deal with that glamour bit that goes with a catwalk and it is less expensive. 

The feeling with a film is so much greater than that on a catwalk. The catwalk is great to show the garment's fabric but that's it. If you can trust people to get the feel of the fabrics, you can get so much more feeling, message and attitude out of film. 

A film also lives on. You can send it out easily, you can show it again and people can see it whenever they want. A catwalk show is just a moment that disappears. 

It will be easier not to follow the fashion business' rules with fashion weeks and all that. Films go hand-in-hand with the internet and all the future possibilities there. With all things happening with internet, film, TV and mobile technology, films will be important. For me, who might not be your average fashion guy, living in Sweden and being a daddy, films will be important. It will allow me to be more flexible when it comes to timing, money, integrity and creativity.