When Dries Van Noten alum Sander Lak left Paris for New York to launch his own line in 2015, the then-32-year-old Holland-born designer instantly became the hottest fashion week ticket no one had ever heard of. The fall 2016 debut of his label, Sies Marjan, was the buzziest show at NYFW not only that season, but in the two years since. His killer prints and sense of ease (inherited from Van Noten, no doubt), combined with his bold use of colour and youthful vibe, have catapulted Lak from one-to-watch to bonafide superstar. For his latest Spring/Summer 2018 collection, Lak proved himself a master colourist once again, thanks to an alluring palette of salmon pink, apple red, soft lilac, and sky blue, which set a new bar for modern sartorial elegance. Here, the young designer talks colour therapy, why black is overrated, and why we don’t need to worry about New York Fashion Week.
Your use of colour has become a signature—why are you so drawn to bold colour?
“I’ve always been very sensitive to colour, but it wasn’t until I started working in fashion that I began thinking of it as a skill that could have an actual purpose. I’m fascinated by how different colours look together and what makes certain colours stand out. When I was five or six, we lived in the middle of a rainforest in Africa, and my mom would dress all of us kids in very bright blue and red because we were surrounded by all this green everywhere. She could just look out the window and see little red and blue dots moving around in this green environment. It was the first time I realized the effect different colours can have on each other.”
We heard that you ask your employees to wear colour to work—why?
“It’s not that I want people to wear something they’re uncomfortable with or force them to wear only colours that I like. I just think it wouldn’t make sense to put a product out there but then, back at the company, it’s the complete opposite. It’s like when you see me at the end of the show, I always wear colour. I find it a bit strange that designers would propose something so different from what they wear themselves. Why would I propose to women this idea of colour and then wear black head-to-toe all the time? It doesn’t make any sense.”
But a lot of fashion people wear black all the time—isn’t it supposed to be the most flattering colour?
“But it’s not! Black works really well for certain skin tones and certain people, but it’s not by definition the go-to at all. I understand that it’s a neutral, and easy, but I don’t buy into the idea of certain colours being certain things for all people. It completely depends on the garment, the material, the skin tone, the hair colour, even the shade of the colour itself. Personally, I think black is safe and honestly a bit lazy.”
Why did you want to move to New York and base your line in America? Why not just stay in Europe?
“The American fashion landscape is very wide and interesting. There are a lot of different brands that cater to a lot of different sectors, but there’s still very little in the high-end luxury department. If you counted, you could maybe get one hand of names. For a country and an industry that is so huge, you’d expect there to be a lot more. European designers have kind of filled that space here in America, so I think it’s interesting for me to tap into that from a European point of view while being based in New York.”
Are you concerned at all about the fact that a number of designers are leaving New York Fashion Week to show overseas?
“Designers aren’t so defined by their location as they used to be. There’s something really great about being able to move around if you want—I’m all for it! Ideally, though, it isn’t a migration that goes only one way. It would be great to have an amazing London designer or a Paris designer come here for a season or two. Personally, we’re still a young company, so it’s important for us to show in New York and establish ourselves as an American luxury brand. But for other companies that have been doing this for a while, it’s a totally logical next step. I know people are like ‘Omigod, everyone’s leaving!’ but in the end that space is going to be filled immediately because there’s so much talent and potential here. Movement and change is always a good thing.”