Wanda Nylon Paris based womenswear and menswear fashion brand is developing a functional luxurious stylish wardrobe initially inspired by rain protection and water. Behind this couture label are Peter Hornstein, the German fashion designer who graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, and Johanna Seynik, ex-casting director for JW Anderson and The Row (the Olsen sisters' label) who also cofounded the brand Anthony Vaccarello. We talk with the two stunning creative directors about the intuition that defines their vision and their last iconic Spring/Summer 2014 collection.
Peter: I grew up in Germany. It is were I discovered my strong interest for materials and how they are used and transformed by the design industry. After a craftsmanship tailor and pattern making school in Düsseldorf, where I got a solid technical base, I moved to Antwerp. For me it was a better place to develop creatively. I graduated from The Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp where I opened my atelier and developed my first own line and did some label consulting.
Johanna: I am half Polish and half-French, and spent my first years in Algeria, quite a combination! As a kid, I always had a fascination for costumes and clothes, and I am still very interested in how people build up their attitude through what they wear. I believe it defines their lifestyle.
Peter: Yes, I was taking part in the contest in 2006 and Johanna was taking care of the designers. I won a prize for my Bionic collection, for which I used of a lot of synthetic materials and hand-moulded PVC pieces. We liked each other right away, same sense of style, same humor!
Peter: Johanna had the idea of starting a brand based on the iconic transparent raincoat everybody had seen in the sixties or in Helmut Newton's photographs. There was a real market niche to be filled.As she knew my passion for plastics and had seen the Bionic collection, she proposed to start it together.
Johanna: We both wanted to launch a project with a very readable and strong concept and decided to create it hand-in-hand. The transparent trench seemed the ideal statement product to start with.
Peter: We wanted to use an alias for the brand. Something a bit exotic and confusing. The name could be one of a dramatic stage character or a Crazy Horse dancer! We like people who assume their look and feel empowered by it. It's all about energy.
Johanna: To find the right name that sums up all your project and will be suitable forever is always a hard task!Therefore we decided each one would chose a word, combine them and create a name: I had to find a legendary feminine name and Peter the name of a technical fabric he loves and reflects his style. Thus combining opposites forces in the label: feminine, masculine; extravagant, precise... Hot and cool...
Peter: The initial idea of making the perfect updated transparent trench has quite fast been extended to the desire of creating a whole collection, that itself could lead to the construction of a whole lifestyle brand. We now do two separate collections for womenswear and menswear, with a full outerwear range, dresses, sweaters, shirts, pants, shorts, skirts and accessories, all being embraced by a main clear concept. We believe we are definitely a label.
Peter: We get very positive feedback from clients, saying they feel like stars when wearing our clothes,so many people ask them what brand they belong to! Outerwear is what everyone sees when you walk out in the street daily, it's the first impression and can influence your whole attitude, somehow even empower you and make you feel more confident.It's a very important wardrobe piece. That's where we started from and where we decided to focus on.
Peter: Actually we combine function with passion. Johanna and me are both fascinated by synthetic materials, the touch, the sound, the smell... All those elements put together drive us to make our collections.
Johanna: I drive around Paris with a scooter and always felt the need of finding a coat that would protect me, yet allowed me stay chic at the same time.
Peter: I design and construct the collections. Fabric research and the perfect fit are very crucial for me. Johanna takes care of production and public relations, special projects, strategies...
Johanna: It took us 2 years to start our first collection. We introduced mainly modern classics, wardrobe staples revisited in new technical fabrics. It was a real challenge as these materials are so difficult to work with! Yet as the final quality was clean and the whole looks were very well-cut and had an edgy feel, the collection was a nice success. The main surprise was to see womenswear looks bought by menswear buyers too; hence the decision of launching a distinct menswear collection now.
Peter: We are trying to consider ecological aspects of course, that's what makes the approach contemporary. All the transparent and translucent pieces are made in a soft recyclable plastic and can be washed in the machine at 30°.
Johanna: Giving a name to a design helps to reference it and makes it easier to identify. It also adds an intimate and playful touch to the collection, a bit like naming your family friends when you talk about them at the showroom!
Peter: Comfort is luxury! You cannot dissociate elegance, comfort and luxury when working with qualitative technical fabrics. As these are difficult to cut, saw and manipulate, you need to master the techniques to use them and then work on the perfect fit to adjust them to a body figure and movement. It is a special know-how, just as a craftsman working with leather would have.
Peter: I am not a fan of unnecessary seams or decorations. Besides, I am very aware with what you would combine our garments to create a look. In the end, the materials are so pure and smooth that a simple garment is the one with the most beautiful outcome.
Johanna: Materials research is a key element of our design practice: each different material gives the intuition of specific shapes, and these are readable when simple. The complexity lies in the fabric itself… Try to sew plastic!
Peter: The SS14 collection is very light and happy. We wanted to emphasize that our materials are suitable for the summer season too.We used a lot of flowing and semi-transparent fabrics, even a water repellent natural linen. The shades are soft and pale, shimmering at times. The black is shiny and plays with the light, and the petrol blue is semi-sheer.
Peter: I would say so myself. We are growing and consider of course the feedback we get from our clients. The target is to build a wardrobe for our everyday. Maturity is progressively achieved in the style and technique. As we are constantly looking for new incredible fabrics, which in their turn give us ideas of new shapes, atmospheres, colors... We are aware of the fact that the collection will be constantly evolving.
Peter: It's not a new direction really, however menswear is more casual. Men's attitude when buying clothes is different to women's.
Johanna: One can recognize the label's identity in both collections. Yet you cannot just twist a womenswear look. The colors, shapes, designs and some details have to change in order to make men feel comfortable when wearing it and can identify with the style.
Johanna: We are finishing the prototypes for our new FW14 Menswear & Pre-Fall collections, which will be shown in Paris and Milan during Fashion Week. We've also started to prepare the next set of gloves for the new winter Wanda Nylon by Agnelle collection. It is amazing to work with such a talented glover and fosters creativity and mix both know-hows.
Peter: Perfume, furniture, shoes, swimwear.... They will all be part of a whole contemporary lifestyle.
Johanna: Yes… Shoes!!
Peter: Plastic, Hi-Tech, Power.
Johanna: Sexy, Rain, Protection.
Peter: That sounds like an execution...
Johanna: Don't worry Pete, I'm there to protect you.