Designer Lars Andersson
There’s something mystical about knitwear designer Lars Andersson. Yes, it’s the dark, draped aesthetic of his women’s and menswear but it’s also a sense that the Swedish-born designer, who has called New York home for over a decade, has discovered his true calling: producing hand-loomed and often handmade, yet modern clothing out of his Brooklyn studio. Meanwhile, at his showroom in the Garment District, surrounded by racks of dark wool, cashmere and leather pieces from F/W10, we spoke to the designer about his past, future and surprisingly not-so-dark personality.
Deanne Yee: Who taught you how to knit?
Lars Andersson: My mother taught me how to knit around the age of six.
Deanne: You’ve said that the first piece you ever made was a sweater for your monkey doll that same year. What was your first “human-sized” piece?
Lars: [It was] a huge chunky, itchy sweater for myself when I was 17. I think it weighed five pounds.
Deanne: And I know you studied for some time at FIT before leaving to work on other projects…
Lars: I left FIT before finishing my degree, and for some time I worked on fetish-inspired fashion for drag queens on the New York nightlife scene. It was very dramatic and different from my design aesthetic now.
Deanne: I would say your design sense now is almost a 180-degree change from drag queen costumes!
Lars: Yes, well, it took me a while to get to this place. But I grew up knitting and it was a natural progression for me. I worked on bespoke knit pieces for friends and when I decided to launch my own line, I finally stopped worrying about trends and what other designers were doing. I would say my aesthetic now is very minimalist and intuitive.
Deanne: What about the craft inspires you, in comparison to tailoring?
Lars: I love being involved from start to finish. I actually get to make the fabric that I use to form my garments. I also see it as a connection to the past. I obviously respect tailors, but I not only have to imagine a collection, I have to think about how I am going to make the fabrics to make that collection.
Deanne: You mainly work with Japanese and Italian yarns; what are your preferred fibers?
Lars: My absolute favorite is linen. I also love silk and wool. For me, it has to be natural and it has to feel good on the body.
Deanne: Do your designs evolve organically, or do you project the patterns prior to beginning a piece?
Lars: The absolute first step is designing the fabric. Then I do organically form shapes through draping and experimenting. By the time it reaches my showroom, it has been transferred to a pattern for production purposes.
Deanne: Looking at your collections, it seems that many of your pieces could be considered unisex—the capes, scarves and sweaters, for instance. Do you think of your aesthetic as unisex?
Lars: Well I think about half the menswear collection can be worn by women. So, to a certain extent you could say menswear can be worn in a unisex way. But the menswear and womenswear collections each have their own distinct identity.
Deanne: Do you work from inspirations for your collections?
Lars: It always starts with a mood for me. For the S/S10 collection, I was inspired by a mix of Vikings (you can see this in the detail of the raw seaming of some pieces), a very natural palette and feel, but at the same time, the collection was urban and sophisticated. For F/W10, I was drawn to tribal wear, such as the those worn by African tribes, and then the mystical mood of Odd Nerdrum, a painter who uses traditional, old world techniques. I was obsessed with hats from Nerdrum paintings. That translated into some pieces in the men’s collection. I’m also very inspired by music.
Deanne: Your lookbooks, the recent video you did for your F/W10 collection (below) and designs all have dark undertones, and your bio describes you as a “dark urban hippie”. Tell us more about the “hippie” aspect of your personality. You’re a vegetarian, yes?
Lars’ F/W10 collection video
Lars: No, I am not a vegetarian, ha! Don’t make fun of me, but that “hippie” trait comes out in believing that everyone should have a happy, loving, optimistic outlook on life. The aesthetic of the clothing is affected by this “hippiness” in the sense that it is completely handcrafted. The collections are free in spirit. The idea is to be unrestrained, and to support the notion of individuality.
Deanne: Describe the darker aspects of your personality?
Lars: I suppose, like everyone else, that I am very self-critical. I also struggle with self-esteem issues, probably like most of the world does. I have an appreciation for “dark” cultural movements in art and music. I also love the aesthetics associated with the early ’80s Goth movement—and bands like Bauhaus.
Deanne: What types of music that inspire you?
Lars: Well there are so many kinds, but offhand, at the moment: Fleetwood Mac, trance music and music from the gay rock-and-roll scene in Europe.
Deanne: You have also said that you are influenced by New York’s downtown, underground culture. What are some of the places/things within this culture that inspire you?
Lars: I became very involved in the gay rock-and-roll movement that was happening in New York when I first moved here. I was entranced with the dark, glam-rock appeal of those seedy NY clubs. We didn’t have anything like that in Sweden. Before I knew it, I was go-go dancing at clubs like SqueezeBox. It was decadent, all very dramatic….and glamorous.
Deanne: How does the creative environment in New York compare to that of Sweden?
Lars: I mean, I haven’t lived in Sweden for 15 years, so it really wasn’t that cool when I left. Unfortunately, I haven’t been there to experience the cultural renaissance that the country has gone through. From fashion to music to art, Sweden is a much different place now. I love New York City though! I thrive off of the city’s energy, and it is definitely a place that is undoubtedly inspiring. It is also a city that you can find at least one person to be interested in whatever you are doing…no matter what it is.
Deanne: So tell us a bit about what you are working on now.
Lars: Well, we are working on production for spring. And after that, I’m working on the next spring collection. For the menswear, we’re making a limited-edition collection of lace and cashmere underwear inspired by a gay Arab in Paris. And the next spring collection of womenswear will be lighter, more romantic in feeling. The inspirations include Stevie Nicks and gypsies, so there will be lots of lace and linens. I’m heading to a friend’s country house in upstate New York for the summer, and I’m glad about that. The forest is a mystical place for me. Marianne Frederiksson was a Swedish author who wrote mystical stories about the forest. I’m inspired by her stories.
Lars Andersson F/W10. www.larsandersson.net.