CMMN SWDN Studio Interview

CMMN SWDN is at the helm of a new group of young Scandinavian brands and designers.

CMMN SWDN: The making of a Scandi fashion brand

Safir Bakir and Emma Headlund, the design duo behind the brand CMMN SWDN shared experiences at many international brands – from London’s  House of Holland and Swede COS to Seoul / Paris fashion force Wooyoungmi before working with Virgil Abloh for Kayne West. It was while setting up West’s label that they decided to launch CMMN SWDN in 2012 in Sweden.

In 2013, CMMN SWDN started showing during London Collections: Mensince then the two designers have set up a studio in Haggerston, East London. Influenced by Swedish culture and its minimalistic aesthetic, London pushes them to experiment, resulting in brighter colours and bolder prints.

Something About met the duo to discuss the future of CMMN SWDN and the inspiration behind their Autumn/Winter 2016 collection.


CMMN SWDN Interview

Emma you were at CSM and Saif you were at LCF when you met. What were your first impressions of each other?

Emma – We met back in 2004 in London when I was studying womenswear at Central Saint Martins and Saif menswear at London College of Fashion. Initially I think we were drawn to each otherʼs dissimilarities. Saif was loud and confident and I was perhaps more shy and serious. We both find inspiration in contrasting elements and this has been visible in both our design and in our relation to each other.

What was the turning point and how did your prior experiences play into the vision you had for CMMN SWDN? 

Emma – Weʼve always had the desire and dream to one day set up our own brand. Helping Kanye setting up his studio and label in Paris triggered the desire to fulfil that dream and run our own label. So when Kanye decided to move the studio from Paris to London, we figured it was time for us to head back to Sweden and start CMMN SWDN.

Saif – I think I speak for both of us when saying that working in a team alongside Kanye was very inspiring. We could work for hours at end creating, designing and then re-designing the collection to perfection. It was great times, and along with our experiences with more established brands such as COS and Wooyoungmi it helped shape us as designers and prepare us for the hard work ahead setting up our own brand CMMN SWDN.


Where is your studio in Sweden and why did you decide to start your label there?

Our studio is in our hometown Malmö, in the south of Sweden. When leaving Paris to set up our brand in 2012 we chose to go against the grain and not set up in London or Stockholm as most young brands do. By positioning ourselves in Malmö we stood out from the rest and received a lot of attention from both international and Swedish press.

I understand your studio is in Sweden, but you present CMMN SWDN at London Collections: Men. How do Sweden and London impact your designs?

Emma – We do still have our studio in Sweden where we occasionally work from, but since we started showing during London Collections: Men back in 2013 we operate mainly from London where we have a studio in Haggerston, East London. Swedish culture and identity is usually described as simple, clean, uniformed and quite democratic in a way. London on the other hand is more individual, more experimental and people strive to stick out from the rest. We find this contrast very inspiring and think the combination of the two creates a perfect balance.


Does CMMN SWDN do better in one market than another? 

Saif – CMMN is actually performing equally as good in most markets. But lately we have seen a strong growth in markets such as America and Japan, which is a lot of fun. Scandinavian fashion and design has a strong following internationally, now more than ever.

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Saif, what does Emma bring to the CMMN SWDN team?

Emma with her more creative background brings colour, texture and the bolder ideas to the collection and the team.

Emma, what does Saif bring to the CMMN SWDN team?

Emma – Saif makes it all work. He brings structure to the team and has a great attention to detail. He brings me down to earth.


You must spend a lot of time together. Where do you draw the line between personal and professional relationship?

Emma – Throughout the years we have learnt how to seamlessly step into our “professional suit” as soon as we step into our studio. Itʼs important to be able to take critique and not become too personal when discussing work related issues, which is not always the easiest and in the beginning there could be scissors flying…

What was the initial influence/story that inspired CMMN SWDN AW16?

Saif – The AW16 ʻDomusʼ collection was all about familiarity. This season was about looking at clothes as an extension of your home. We thought of our own homes growing up and what felt familiar about them – but we also remembered all those elements and interiors that we hated and disliked but now think fondly of.


A Marrakech market place inspired SS17. How did this translate in your designs? What do you think you successfully achieved with SS17?

Saif – The energy and attitude we experienced in Marrakech on a recent trip helped shape the collection. Much like Morocco, the collection is a mish-mash of stripes and checks in contrasting colours, focusing on shades of ochre, grey and dusty pink. I think we successfully managed to communicate the feeling and the mood of the vibrant Moroccan markets in our use of fabrication and colour but in the same time stay true to our aesthetic and the core of the brand.

What direction do you think menswear is headed in?

Emma – For a long time there has been an obsession with details that you really could see, bold prints, colours and logotypes. Now I believe (and hope) that we are heading in a more sartorial direction, with attention to fabrication and quality. A menswear that offers no shortage of distinctive details but does so in a more subtle and unique way.

With Emmaʼs background in womenswear do you think you would eventually branch CMMN SWDN into womenswear?

Emma – A womens collection is definitely a possibility down the line. However, I think we both want to concentrate on menswear for the moment being, expand the collection and strengthen CMMNʼs position in the market.

Interview: Janine Leah Bartels

Images Courtesy of CMMN SWDN