Sies Marjan has been described as the luxury label that came from out of nowhere. The line, and its creative director Sander Lak (Sies Marjan is a combination of his parents’ names), has earned heaps of A-list industry praise for its brand of shockingly bright colour schemes and easy feminine shapes. This week, Sies Marjan revealed the latest in “The Girlfriend Project,” which pairs photographer Nigel Shafran with some of Lak’s closest friends in his Spring/Summer 2017 looks. Lak was recently in Toronto for a trunk show at The Room at Hudson’s Bay, and we met with the Dutch designer to talk about colour, New York and, of course, Beyoncé.
FASHION: This morning, I had a moment of panic because I realized my wardrobe is entirely black.
SANDER LAK: Oh, my gosh. Well, you’re wearing something red.
Tell us about Sies Marjan and colour.
Colour for me has always been a huge thing. It’s the first thing that I register. I have a very strong emotional connection to it. It’s like when people have very good hearing or extremely good eyesight. They get sensitive to things in a different way. I feel like I had that with color. As a kid, it took my mom months to get my clothes because I would be like, ‘No, that’s not the right colour’ or ‘No, I can’t do this.’ I had no idea about fashion or that colours are created. I just really had the sensibility to it. When I was a kid, we were living in Africa in the rainforest, so there was a lot of green around. What my mom used to do is dress us in blue so that she could spot us. That has always stuck with me—the idea of colours contrasting against each other where you can see certain things brighter when you put them in front of something else.
You’re from Holland. Why did you start your collection in New York?
When it comes to this risky thing of starting a new business, I really felt like I wanted to be in a surrounding where it is all about getting it done today. It’s all about tomorrow, and it’s not so much about, oh, three years ago, five years ago, 10 years ago, 50 years ago. I think that’s really great about New York. Also, what is so great about New York is that if I, for example, want to meet someone or I want to do something, it takes two phone calls. Before you know it, you have this person in front of you and you’re doing a collaboration the next day. It’s very hands-on. It’s very instant. For a new brand, a new company, it’s crucial.
Would you ever consider the ‘See now, buy now’ model?
[Shakes head] That works when you have a lot of information, when you have a set customers, when you have a lot of your own shops, when you’re that kind of company…. A lot of the collection that you see is actually mistakes that happen along the way. ‘Oh, this colour didn’t turn out well but actually this colour is better.’ You need that kind of process.
You said there was a piece you might not have thought would sell, but it ended up selling more. I was at a lecture where Terence Conran (the designer and restaurateur) said he didn’t believe in market research because how do people know if they’ve never seen it?
That was the ruffle top. The one Beyoncé wore. We had no idea. We were like, this is such a showpiece; nobody’s going to walk around with these big fluffy things around. But I always felt like we need to do it because it’s just what the brand is and what that collection is. It’s our bestseller. I’ve seen it on ladies uptown in New York having lunch. They’re just wearing that huge ruffle, and they look fabulous.
How did the Beyoncé thing come about?
She bought it herself.
Four looks from Sies Marjan’s Spring/Summer 2017 collection.
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