Swedish design has long been associated with clean lines and a sparse use of embellishments. Though this still rings true for many Scandanavian brands, Atelier Saman Amel elevates this idea to another level whilst retaining a wealth of personality which makes their clothes easily identifiable despite its lack of logos.
For those unfamiliar with the small scale tailoring outfit, the brand was founded by childhood friends Saman and Dag ten years ago circa 2010. Their collective taste level and maturity belie their age — 26 and 27 — young by any measure for a successful menswear brand that can count the likes of Mr. Porter as the exclusive distributor of its lean ready-to-wear line.
We sat down for a discussion with Dag Granath to talk about their upcoming lookbook, entitled “CURATED LOOKS”, and delved headfirst into the ethos of Saman Amel as well as our predictions (or hopes, rather) for the direction of fashion in a post-coronavirus world.
Dag Granath: We have known each other since we were 9, and both worked at J. Lindeberg (a Swedish brand known for its golf apparel). Saman started at The Academy of Cutting and Tailoring in Stockholm, and initially had the ambition to create couture but as time went on he had more of an interest in making ties, suits and jackets which were more oriented to a classic aesthetic. I never thought I would pursue a career in clothing. My highschool was right next door to his. As Saman’s classmates were mostly female, he couldn’t fit any of his jackets on his peers so asked me to help. To this day, we’re still not sure how we landed those jobs because we were both only 17 or 18. We started travelling more to Italy, and it grew organically from there.
Our focus is not on creating designs that have never been seen before. It was more about creating an aesthetic that works for a certain person, and being able to elaborate within that framework. So we veered away from designing for designing’s sake, but rather used it as a tool to build that framework.
I had this discussion with a friend earlier this week. I can’t say that it is something that we invented in terms of trying to position the brand. If you limit yourself in terms of design and work within a confined spectrum — jackets, trousers and garments of that ilk — what you are left to work with boils down to a few things: colour, tones, textures and materials. It’s about building your own vocabulary within that realm. It’s a constant push to refine your taste and find your own language, rather than invent brand new ideas. The more you experiment within a certain aesthetic, the narrower and clearer it becomes. We are constantly questioning ourselves and eliminating ideas that haven’t worked in the past. If we look exactly the same in four years, I would be disappointed.
For example, many more conservative people in say London who have a paler complexion would be afraid to opt for lighter colours for fear that it would make them ‘disappear’, so they stay away from colours like beige and brown. We tend to focus on dressing in either colder or warmer colours. Dressing in ‘cold’ colours would involve avoiding red and yellow overtones in fabrics which would otherwise highlight the paleness of the skin.
It’s not that we don’t enjoy making formal pieces, but we find that the concept of formalwear to occasionally be somewhat of an anomaly. Society as a whole, and to a certain extent the world of classic menswear, holds onto the strict rules of black tie for no specific reason. This largely depends on where you are. Sweden is in the extreme in one sense — the CEO of a company needs to be the least formally dressed person because the organisational structure dictates it to be that way. For someone in London, this is quite the opposite. As a rule, you want to dress elegantly but not alienate people by dressing overly formal. Conversely, if an invitation for a party specifies ‘black tie’ as a dress code, it would be prudent to respect those requests. Having said that, a great majority of social events don’t require that. At the end of the day, it’s about finding a balance between elegance and relevance.
A significant portion of our clients are from creative industries, from music to interior design. That type of client wouldn’t ordinarily consider tailoring as a part of their wardrobe, but are now starting to think a little differently and want to buy less but better. Investing in better made pieces specifically tailored for them. Tendencies in consumerism are shifting, where people are more conscious in their choices. They want to wear tailoring because they want to, not because they have to — and this attracts a different kind of customer as well. We are interested in cultivating that interest, and making sure that what we make would work well with more ‘fashion’ items as well. Our demographic also tends to be a little younger than your typical Savile Row customer, but it is still extremely varied: retirees, CEOs and young guys who arrive on a skateboard. The mix is fantastic.
It sometimes stresses people out, too. For startups, it used to be the case that you would feel compelled to wear jeans and a hoodie. Lawyers always wear dark suits. These expectations are becoming diluted and personally I find that exciting. A byproduct of that is a lot of people need guidance to navigate that landscape.
I’m not sure I have a good answer! As a general rule, if a greater portion of the outfit signals formality I always think it is nice to make it less dramatic by adding a casual element. So if I wear a dark double breasted suit, I don’t feel the need for a collared shirt and tie — it puts me in a box. It’s not that I don’t enjoy wearing a tie, sometimes it’s just more comfortable without. I don’t like the idea that you can’t go from the office to a bar in the same outfit. You just want a wardrobe that isn’t compartmentalised. It’s a balance of being formal enough, but approachable for all contexts. I’m not sure if this ideal can be fully realised, but one can aspire.
I’m most attracted to the tonal off white ensemble with cut off jeans and a double breasted baby camel hair jacket. That jacket actually belongs to Saman. He wears it like a piece of outerwear, sometimes bringing up the collar. This time in Sweden we still get some sun but evenings can still get quite nippy — so you don’t need a heavy coat but you want something akin to chunky knitwear with a substantial collar. I think we aspire to bring an element of ‘sexy’ with some attitude, and not just settle for elegant and clean. Guys also want to be sexy.
We will definitely explore going to Asia. When the coronavirus situation blows over, I think all brands will need to be active and consider trying new things. We have quite an interest from Japan and Hong Kong — perhaps not this year but next year if the situation allows.
Agreed, we need to work towards being a change for the better. Not only about our specific business, but being part of positive change in society as a whole. It will be much more important for brands from now on. Speaking with clients lately, the level of empathy and support is a beautiful thing to see. You need to acknowledge the fact that maybe your clients aren’t interested in buying jackets right now. It’s not a time to move product or sell, but build relationships. If they like what you do, they will perhaps commission a jacket six months down the road.