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Hailing from one of the most creative corners of the world, Uniforms for the Dedicated are among a growing list of strong-minded and bold Scandinavian fashion brands. With a new noteworthy brand popping up every season it seems, we took this opportunity to speak with Fredrik Wikholm of Uniforms for the Dedicated as he gave us an overview of the creative collective which expands much further than just fashion. During our chat, we also looked to potential reasons as to why Northern Europe has developed such a strong creative community.
Interview: Eugene Kan
An Interview with Fredrik Wikholm
Can you give me a little background about Uniforms for the Dedicated? How many people are involved in the brand and when did it all begin?
Uniforms for the Dedicated serves as a platform for musicians, illustrators, artists and designers who are continuously invited to contribute with their innovations. Uniforms first took form in 2001 as a traveling snowboard collective. Today, the label has evolved into a co-creative design & music network, expanding with each new project. At this point in the process, 12-15 people are in some way involved in music, fashion or arts. Four core members work full time and these are the people who were behind the shaping of the concept and starting up the company/collective.
The primary purpose of Uniforms has never been merely fashion. Instead the foundation of what we are today took form years ago – a group of friends traveling the world snowboarding. Later we realized we wanted to continue the creative journey together and fashion became the tool we gathered around. It allowed us to apply and combine various expressions such as art, design, and music. Sure we had no previous experience in clothing design or production at start (yeah it’s been a long ride) but in the long run I believe the incentives and diverse backgrounds of ours work to our favor.
The first Uniforms collection saw the light of day in spring 20908 and the first music release under same name came in January 2009.
It’s interesting to see that your common bond has been through snowboarding. Would you say that your overall theme among art, fashion and music are all intertwined and complementary or do they contrast each other? With so many heads involved how do you keep things in an orderly direction?
They do complement each other based on the synergies they create and for us, central in our existence, they´re all based on the same value-based foundation that Uniforms embodies. However there are contrasts due to the fact that music, fashion and arts evolve in their own pace alongside each other, thus generating a life of their own. Many heads…many great ideas! All the heads create a great filter hopefully leading to a thorough debate on the products that we put out on the market. Important however is that everybody fits in nicely and know where their responsibilities lie. Common goals are our reason for being.
In terms of arriving at a concept for each collection, what have you guys utilized in the past? What about this 2009-2010 fall/winter collection?
In spring/summer 2008 we saluted the Clown Union Strike by launching the Street Circus collection. Clowns on strike for better wages need to be supported and praised for the joy they spread.
In fall/winter 2008 we created the Underground Loop, a united group of people who pushed the passion for table tennis one step further by starting the Underground Loop movement, taking the sport from its Olympic glory down into basements, abandoned warehouses and club houses where sound systems pump out electronic beats.
For spring/summer 2009, the Sound Effects collection gave birth to the idea of letting music and fashion fully interact, integrating a collection soundtrack in the clothing. The SS09 illustrations and design tell the story how music shapes environments. As a result the illustrations are oceans of various motions and emotions.
Closing in on the launch of Fall/Winter 09 collection, A Play of Nonsense, we´re more or less on needles and pins, that´s how much we are looking forward to it!! Inspiration to A Play of Nonsense comes from the imaginary/nonsense literature of the 19-century and its front man Lewis Carroll – a true master of transforming everyday objects into a new and challenging meaning. Airborne guinea pigs and cube-like characters reflect the spirit of Uniforms for the Dedicated; classic wearable clothing that have fallen down the rabbit hole before climbing up in a new fashion.
There are similarities between Lewis Carroll’s conception of the world and the ways we like to look on our work and entrepreneurship in general. To try transiting the imaginary into action is always tempting.
I would go out on a limb and say many of your inspirations are far from the conventional. Do you think your surroundings in Scandinavia have a large role to play in your eclectic and well-conceived themes? I know that in a recent interview I did with Jean Touitou of A.P.C. he really praised the educational system of Northern Europeans.
We are humble, conventionalism is not a top ranked word in our book but we do things that are fancy eclectic and well-conceived! Not sure whether it´s the educational system or Sweden in it self. The over educated Swedish population tend to travel like hell…that got to count for something haha. I would say it’s a need to escape reality and the structure this small country maintains. I think that all involved characters in Uniforms has sought that escape in the huge mental rooms of imagination we seem to share.
There just seems to be some mystic regarding the country as it has drawn almost unanimous praise for its wealth of creativity in the realm of fashion. What is the creative community like in Sweden? Is there anywhere you would compare it to?
Sweden is as Sweden does…I find it hard to draw parallels to another country or region known for fashion and/or design.
However I would for sure describe it as a bit of a melting pot for creative talent. The regions of Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmoe (3 biggest cities) equals only about 3 million inhabitants, looking at the amount of brands, design agencies, marketing offices, design studios, musicians, artists and so on you soon realize how extremely dense and dynamic the creative landscape is. The number of people per capita working in any of above fields is amazing. Many of the smaller and/or newer brands has a very open attitude towards each other, we back up each other and try helping one another. Advice is never far fetched. We´re all kids of the design country IKEA and it helped us in shaping and functionality haha.
I think that in the last few years, we’ve seen a great fashion presence emanating from Northern Europe which has created some interest into why the region has been such a fashion hotbed. With fashion being your predominate focus, what sort of difficulties have you had since the start due to a lack of background in the industry?
Sure we had no previous experience in clothing design or production at start (yeah it’s been a long ride) but in the long run I believe the incentives and diverse backgrounds of ours work to our favor. But to focus on the two areas that´s caused a few headaches; I would say learning production from scratch and finding the right partners. Also the fact that our network in terms of buyers and press was extremely limited at first, it´s getting there but so far we feel like we’re a very new brand that has just been introduced.
We´re constantly making mistakes along the way but honestly we wouldn’t be much without them, that´s where progress is born.
Touching back on your collection for this fall/winter, could you give us a run-down of some of your favorite pieces? Which ones are you most proud of?
I´m very proud of the overall Uniforms feel that runs through the collection, realizing what the brand´s behind takes no rocket scientist…hopefully. My favorite items include the wide, red work pant in chord material, green heavy cable-knit cardigan and navy check double weave shirt… all these together are a winning outfit and go nicely with a pair of worn-down boots.
Speaking of boots… any plans to dabble in footwear? I’d very much like to see your aesthetics on a range of footwear.
We´re constantly discussing new paths to walk down, it´s an endless ponder. However we’ve felt so far that if let´s say we were to do a collab, it need to be something totally different then what we usually do. A project that was not expected by anybody, borderline design in a double sense haha. Designing a refrigerator or hot air balloon or why not the new outfit for the Chinese table tennis team, these are collaborations that interest us… On the other hand we seriously like shoes so who the hell knows, contradictory I know. Sorry.
On a more personal level, what are some of your favorite past-times? Where’s your favorite place to snowboard?
Good question, haven´t had to much time to contemplate about the past lately. All the years spent meeting so much great people, friends for life, business partners, long lost buddies, my incredible girl. Being part of a society that actually support creative movements. The adrenaline as you come up on a cliff drop, looking down a powder face knowing it´s your turn next, yelling drop mere seconds before you leave the shelf of the half pipe. Times spent in the Rockies or paddling like mad at Arpoador in Rio or why not setting up our first exhibition in Paris, all different emotions running through your body boils down to one utter overwhelming feel of freedom. Sounds corny I know but it´s the quintessential description of how I want life to be. Nerdy Swede….
Before we end things off, what do you have planned in the near future? I hear talks of a Paris exhibition…? Why Paris?
Paris, Berlin, Copenhagen will all be exhibition pit stops this summer. NY is a wild card we might play as well. We´ll also be represented in showrooms in Stockholm, Oslo, Copenhagen, Milan, Saint Petersburg and Tokyo. August stages the new collection release, a singles release, a music video as well as a new webshop. Trying to stay away from holidays haha.
Who are some of your own personal favorites in the world of fashion? Any up and coming brands to look out for?
I see us as curious gang interested in our creative surrounding but this is our weak point.
We kinda suck when it comes to fashion designers. I’ve always liked Vibskov, Kim Jones, Raf, Comme and especially Number (N)ine, also like creations that look old, baggy and Japanese. Better at name-dropping musicians worth listening to haha.
…In that case, a similar question applies, who are your favorites and up and comers in the music world?
Sure mate, some newer and some a tad older; Wester & Wedrén, The Subliminal Kid & Van Rivers, Style of Eye, Miike Snow, Jonathan Johansson, Paul Kalkbrenner, Stuffa, Bogdan Irkuk, Tiger Stripes, Rollerboys, Punks Jump Up, Adrian Lux, La Fleur, Dj Nibc, JayAre, Sven Väth, John Dahlbäck,The Touch, Fakebeat, Nils Krogh, Krazyfiesta, Ram Di dam, Hall & Oates, Minimal Compact, Frida Hyvönen and so on. Rock your socks off!
I think that pretty rounds things out for me… any last words from you and the Uniforms crew?
Keep your chin up and stay positive, recession times are the right times to get out of the cubicle and start getting new perspectives on life. Now´s the time to set that brilliant idea off yours in to action. Go peeps go!