The Latvian swimwear and lingerie brand Collar was founded by designer and art director Monta Apsāne. Together with writer Ieva Laube they are the leading ladies behind the conscious brand. They are striving for body positivity; they are encouraging women to love their skin with or without their imperfections. Collar wants to dress the personality, not the body type. They have a strong vision on how women should see themselves and are trying to make a change with their collections. And that’s why we spoke with Monta and Ieva about their collections and their vision on the fashion industry.
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You’re basically a team of two – a designer and a writer. What makes you two such a good duo to create this unique brand?
We would say it’s the long–standing friendship that we’ve had since the secondary school and this somewhat magical bond of understanding that we share. To find a friend with whom you can finish off each other’s sentences is very rare. This similar outlook on the world and how things should happen and take form is the way how we express our being to the world. And in most cases it’s so easy because we share a complete understanding of what we as a label want to portray and communicate. We add to each other’s vision and skill sets with our own strong sides, and that is how we discover new forms of how to solve things, implement ideas and realize our projects.
With a mysterious and refined expression of beauty and a twist of edginess, Collar wants to strive for a confident state of mind. You try to achieve that through strong visual images, clean aesthetics, textual storytelling and fashion films. Do you use your collections to make a change in the way women see and dress themselves?
Yes, in a time when female bodies keep on getting over–sexualised we wish to bring back the concealed intimacy. Something that is mysterious, covert and belongs only to women themselves. We want to offer an alternative way of seeing your being and body, and ultimately dressing it accordingly. For such a long time swimwear and lingerie has been all about sexuality, being desirable and the fruit of someone else’s imagination. Let’s change that! We’re not denying this side of the human being, no. It’s completely natural and necessary but we want women to express sexuality, femininity and confidence for the sake of themselves, no one else! We all desire to stand out, feel wanted and loved, and have something unique just for ourselves, and that should go together with functionality, being comfortable and feeling respectful. We want to encourage self–love and acceptance. We don’t want to point out flaws or offer a perfect image to which women should live up to by changing themselves, but truly embrace who they are and acknowledge their self–worth, no matter if they are skinny, well–endowed, covered in freckles or wrinkles. It’s all about how honest and confident we allow ourselves to be.
The industry made the connection for lingerie and swimwear with sex. What is your vision about that? What makes a woman sexy for you?
Those are just inveterate stereotypes of how we should feel and act as women, and it’s completely old–school if you ask us. We’re at a place and time where every one of us can freely choose the way we communicate our being – whether to shout out our sexuality or keep it alluringly sacred to be shared with the one of our own choosing. We believe that a confident state of mind and a strong personality is what makes a person charming. An intelligent and considerate being. Women that embody strength in a seemingly fragile beauty.
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Your collections are conscious and have a respectful outlook on the world and people around. You are producing limited quantities, so you won’t overproduce. What is your opinion about fast fashion?
Fast fashion is a dead end, it’s too worthless and unsustainable to leave you mentally and physically satiated. Not to mention it’s devastating to the environment and people tied in the process of making it. It’s a waste of time, money and the human potential and energy. As a brand we’re fully aware that we cannot be 100% sustainable because there will always be something that’s harming the environment. And as we stand for high quality, durability and long lasting shapes, colours and aesthetics, we just cannot produce swimwear out of ecological cotton no matter how much we would love to. In that case the life span of such clothing would be just a couple of months and that would be even more unsustainable because you end up buying and throwing out more. That’s why we’re putting our efforts into producing everything locally in Latvia, using just as much fabrics as we need not to leave leftovers or overproduce, taking care of our resource management, and ethical and financial well–being of people tied to our label.
Collar pays a lot of attention to the female shape. For every collection you come up with an entirely new swimwear shape. Collar is constantly varying with form and techniques. But how do you stay creative after a couple of collections? Where do you find inspiration?
Mostly it is art that we find inspiring. Also the subjects and observations of the world around us lead to creativity and the need to express our voice and way of envisioning fashion. And travel helps too! It just gives that distance you most necessarily need to look back on to the things and processes you’ve already gone through. Frequently those are photo series that ignite the interest of a particular aesthetic or an unsettling feeling that’s almost tangible and that we would like to capture or explore in our process. For the SS17 collection, called Athirst, inspiration was drawn from the work of photographer Peter Kaaden. 
Collar strives to retain fashion as an art form. Can you tell us what the connection between fashion and art is?
What we aim for is that fashion would have this high artistic quality, creating garments as sort of a master piece. However in our work we see swimwear and lingerie as fashion design not art because for us the timelessness of products mean that they most certainly have to be functional and comfortable with the thought of the wearer in mind. The art side of the process kicks in when we present our collections – we strive to do it in an unconventional way, exhibiting them as a part of an installation or a live performance to give the garments a more alive and personal character. We also started doing that because we were tired of the usual fashion show attitude and way of presenting fashion. Because creating the pieces has taken so much time, effort and love that we just wouldn’t want to diminish that to those “10 minutes of fame” of a runway show.
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Collar dresses personality, not a body type. You have decided not to use the classic lingerie models, but more reliable women characters such as your muse Vika Anisko. You also chose to show the imperfections in your campaign images. Is that a statement you want to make? Do you think all swimwear and lingerie brands should use ‘normal’ body types as role models?
We want to show real women – inspiring, charismatic and strong in their inner being no matter the size, standardised body shape, or an individual opinion on “flaws”. We stand for body positivity where it’s being curvy or thin as long as it’s healthy and does not damage one’s emotional, mental or physical state. We chose Vika not just because of body positivity but because of her personality, her warm–hearted inner being and what she stands for. And you can see this charismatic persona in the pictures. She’s a photographer herself so it was interesting for all of us to place her on the other side of the camera too. We would like to regard our brand as open to all body types, diversity and above all – an honest outlook on your own existence.
Can you tell us something more about your collaboration with photographer Julia Prohorenkova for the fashion expedition at the Berlin Fashion Film Festival?
We’ve created a long–standing collaboration with Julia since she photographed our first collection Captured. She always manages to envision and portray the exact image and feeling that we have regarding a particular collection, mood or aesthetics. Our way of looking onto female body and what feeling to capture it in has always been heading in the same direction. So we started doing our collection presentations together and she created photos for all of those happenings. We went to Berlin Fashion Film Festival with our co–created and curated art, jewellery and photography installation ‘Athirst’. We decided that for this particular collection we should create a more lucid, alive feeling so she created moving images – cinemagraphs. The installation was about the continuous thirst for time of the modern human – our aspiration for balance, fulfilment, success and desires that lead to getting scorched from time to time.
Every collection of Collar has a symbolic meaning. We can say that your visual narrative is very strong. Especially if we take a look at your fashion films, what do you want to achieve with these short films?
These short films are a way to prolong, expand and deepen the message and visual aesthetics we want to express. It is another medium, a dimension in which to show the garments, the mood that is connected to it, and give it all a more pictorial feeling. To create some sort of a sensation regarding the pieces and the character that’s captured in it. Our team is a bunch of creative personalities and making these kind of short films also release the flow of creative thinking, as well as push ourselves outside the usual working methods and perceptions.
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