Comfort, quality, and sustainability are the main pillars of the Ibizan clothing brand Can Pep Rey, renowned for their timeless and essential pieces. To create the brand, co-founders Paul Conradi and Lea Russ took inspiration from an old Ibizan ‘finca,’ where they spent three months living in confinement during the lockdown. This experience reminded them that the thing they were missing the most was their loved ones, hence why they decided to dedicate their Spring/Summer 2021 collection to them.
This collection focuses mainly on the act of getting together, using the picnic as the main motive. "It seemed to be the most inclusive way to gather with people,” they say. “You are not limited by the number of chairs or the space you have. A picnic can be anywhere and with everyone.” That’s why this collection focuses on simple and essential pieces made of silk and cotton that anyone can wear, no matter their age, class, ethnicity, or religion. Everyone is welcome to join their picnic blanket.
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Paul and Lea, let's start from the beginning. How and when did you meet?
Paul: We met many years ago. Lea has been one of my sister's best friends since high school. We both come from Wiesbaden, Germany, where there are not too many people interested in or connected to fashion. In 2018 I asked her if she wanted to join Can Pep Rey, and since then we have been working together, and shortly after, we also started living together.
You are the co-founders of Can Pep Rey, a clothing brand created in Ibiza in 2014. Why did you decide to embark on this project? Why did you opt for clothes and not for anything else?
Lea: Can Pep Rey was founded in 2014 by Paul and his ex-partner. I joined the brand in 2018. We wanted to create a platform that enables us to embark on various creative projects. Clothing is the base for Can Pep Rey as we believe that, although there are a lot of brands out there doing nice and simple clothes, we could add something with our focus on fabrics and high-quality production in Europe. Fashion is a great base to get in contact and collaborate with many different kinds of artists and artisans.
The brand, as well as having been created in Ibiza, also draws on the essence of the island as a source of inspiration. What does the island mean to you? Why did you decide to conceptualise the brand around Ibiza?
Paul: Ibiza is somehow home. Having spent a big part of my childhood there made it a very special place. Nature, the people, the light, and the smell are different from anywhere else. The island creates a calmness that helps you centre yourself and appreciate the beauty of life. We wanted to create a brand that creates clothes that are so light and easy-going that you want to wear them every day.
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The name of the project is inspired by an old Ibizan finca built over five hundred years ago, with thick white brick walls, furniture that has never been changed and a record collection that has been curated by several generations. Tell us, how did you discover the existence of this magical place?
Paul: Can Pep Rey is our family home. We grew up in and around this house, so it was not really about discovering it but more about learning to appreciate every detail of it. Learning things doesn’t have to be complicated and renewed all the time. It's about building a base that is so simple and great in quality that you can live with it forever.
With Can Pep Rey, you aim to create quality clothes that can be adapted to any occasion, and most importantly, that offer comfort. According to you, which materials offer the greatest comfort? Which are your favourite fabrics?
Lea: When it comes to comfort, it's mostly about the weaving or knitting process. Our favourite fabrics come from a manufacturer from Japan that creates the best and most comfortable sweaters made from cotton, silk, or linen. Comfort for us also means wearing a piece of clothing that you know it's made with dedication and in great working conditions. A good cotton sweater always makes you feel good.
You are known above all for your timeless pieces made to be functional, comfortable and versatile. Which garments are essential in any wardrobe? Which are the basics that everyone should have?
It should be our classic sweatshirt made in Japan from vintage knit, our unisex t-shirt from Italy, and our miner pants made in Portugal. These three pieces are unisex, so you can share them with your boyfriend or roommate. They're so simple that they'll never be outdated, and their quality also allows you to keep them for a very long time. If you had to pack a suitcase without knowing where you are going, you would definitely be covered, no matter if you are going to the Moroccan desert or Tokyo. And even this year, that we're going nowhere, it's still super comfortable and the perfect set.
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Sustainability is one of your main concerns as a brand. You work with manufacturers in Japan, Italy, Belgium and Portugal to ensure good working conditions and the best quality standards. Apart from this aspect, what other issues are of concern to you on a personal and brand level?
On a brand level, there are still many issues to tackle related to shipping and the waste it creates, especially when it comes to the growing rise of online shopping. The dyeing of clothes is also something we're still looking to improve, while we also keep pushing our suppliers for more sustainable options when it comes to the use of raw materials. We acknowledge that we're not perfect, and every year we learn about something new, so there are always things we want to improve. Personally, excess consumption in our society is a real concern at the moment. Buying less and better should be on the consumer's mind, and the same should go for all the companies involved in the making of any kind of product.
You are not only a clothing brand. On your website, you have your own magazine in which you talk about travel, collaborations with artists and topics that inspire you, among other things. How did the idea of becoming a multidisciplinary project come about? Has your engagement with your public improved since you started with this proposal in 2017?
Can Pep Rey was never a concept purely focused on clothing. We see the brand in the same structure as a house is built. So the clothing is only covering the wardrobe, but there is also a living room, a guest room, a bathroom, and a kitchen. Each room in the house stands for a different project.
The magazine started in 2017, but we really started giving it full attention this year. We enjoy getting in contact with like-minded creatives and working with them on different projects we would never be able to do ourselves. Since 2017, we got in contact with many different amazing creatives, who we can now call our friends. With the magazine, it's important for us to feature others and to give them space, but we have had definitely quite a good response from the public since its inception.
On the website, you also have a section where you sell souvenirs with a strong presence of objects from Morocco, such as clay pots, slippers or tote bags made from carpets. Where does your interest in Moroccan culture come from? Is there a connection with Ibiza?
As you most certainly know, Ibiza and most of Spain have a strong historical connection with Morocco. The selection that we presented this year as part of our Spring/Summer 2020 collection revolved around a trip we did through the Atlas mountains in Morocco. The souvenirs are actual pieces that we brought back from that trip.
For this winter, for example, our collection was inspired by Uruguayan gauchos, and we collaborated with friends from Uruguay to create some ponchos and blankets made at their farm. Basically, the idea of the souvenir section is to bring cultures we are discovering closer to our public.
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Let's talk about your Spring/Summer 2021 collection. During the lockdown, you stayed three months in Can Pep Rey, time that helped you realize that what you missed most was your loved ones. This is what inspired the new collection, the desire to reunite with them again, and does so through the concept of the picnic. There are many ways in which family and friends can be reunited. So, why a picnic?
Lea: To us, it seemed to be the most inclusive way to gather with people. You are not limited by the number of chairs or the space you have. A picnic can be anywhere and with everyone. Even if you don’t find any more space on the blanket, you can just sit on top of your sweater or the grass. The vibe is always very easy, and it connects with every culture. If you start researching the concept of the ‘picnic,’ you can get very deep and realize that there’s a version of eating on the ground everywhere in the world. We think that the reason why everyone feels comfortable in this situation is that we all can relate.
Another side effect is that the rules we created as a modern society seem pointless. It doesn’t matter if you don't use a plate, or if you just lie on the floor because you are so full. You can also wear what you want or be naked. If you now compare it to a restaurant, it seems so limited.
The collection has a collaboration with the French painter Rose Madone. Entitled Under the moon with a cup of red wine, the capsule is inspired by the last hours of a long picnic and includes several pieces with the painter's characteristic designs. The last time you worked together was in 2018. Why did you decide to collaborate with her again? How do you connect her designs with the new collection?
We first met Rose in 2017, just before she moved to Barcelona. In 2018 we did the first project together, but we never got to complete it. We all felt it was not done. In 2019, Rose visited us in Ibiza again and painted on the roof of Can Pep Rey. We have had many late nights since, and it seemed natural for this collection to be the one to finalize our project together, for now.
Rose is very connected to the stars, so she chose the last hours of a long picnic as a storyline, a time where talks get deeper and more philosophical. That's why the collaboration is called Under the Moon With a Cup of Red Wine. It describes the time of the day when we most bonded. Her paintings, combined with our workwear-inspired pieces, create their own little universe, bringing the abstraction to our clothes that we would not be able to create otherwise. Additionally, we created a blanket with her, which is the warming base of Under the Moon With a Cup of Red Wine. The format of a blanket gives Rose's paintings a new dimension of structure and practicability.
You have also collaborated with the Canarian photographer Maty Cheviere, known mainly for her romantic-erotic images. For the collection, she has been inspired by Renaissance paintings to portray images of an unconventional family picnic, in which the nudity of the protagonists stands out. Tell us, how does nudism relate to the new collection? Is it an analogy between your clothes and the sensation of being naked? Or does it go more in line with the golden age of Ibiza, where nudism, naturism and hippies populated the island?
Nudism was just never strange for us. It’s normal, it’s the most natural way to be oneself. We have seen all of our close friends naked because it has never been a big deal to us. When it’s too hot in August in Ibiza, you just take off your shirt, and when it's really hot in the sun, you might also take off your pants. It is mostly about liberating nudity. It was really important for us to also show naked men, not only women. We don’t want to liberate nudity only for girls, it's about giving everyone the freeing feeling of being themselves.
When you start searching about picnics, you find a lot of Renaissance images of picnics with people being nude, so it's, again, about letting go of the rule that modern society set up and just do what you feel like. We think a picnic is a perfect platform to celebrate that. Maty’s approach to nudity intrigued us a lot because it felt way more active and present than our own. Her work can be very provocative, yet we found many aspects of classic paintings in her compositions. The 'golden age' of Ibiza is ingrained in CPR's identity, so it may have played a role here, but it hasn't been the prime motivator.
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You are currently working together with ESADE Business School on your new project CPR Activism, a platform dedicated to social and environmental problems. Every six months, the project will be dedicated exclusively to one cause, and all the profits obtained will be donated to related associations. Have you thought about what problems you want to start this project with?
CPR Activism is an idea we are working on. We are hoping to create a platform that enables us to work closely with different organizations over longer time periods. There are so many issues that we would like to help resolve. We are working with ESADE to find the best solution and projects for our approach.
At the moment, we are thinking a lot about local issues here in Barcelona. As we just moved, we feel like it would be a good start to focus on a local issue, and with the current Covid-19 situation, there are a lot of people strongly affected that now have a hard time making an income, especially immigrants that may not be here legally by law. We hope to launch the project by 2021, so at the moment, we are speaking to a few different activists, journalists, and locals to find out what is the best way we can do something useful with our products.
You have recently moved to Barcelona, in the heart of Gracia, where you are working on opening your first physical shop. Why have you decided to settle in this city? How do you think Barcelona resembles and differs from Ibiza?
We decided to come to Barcelona because we enjoy the vibe of the city a lot. Its open culture and creative environment made it an attractive choice. Many of the artists we know from Ibiza are living in Barcelona, which brings us a great network of creatives, and it also brings us closer to Ibiza. The decision was clear when we found the perfect house in Gracia, which is sort of the city version of Can Pep Rey. It was important for us to find the brand in an urban home, where strangers can come and experience it.
Barcelona and Ibiza both share this mix of extremely crowded and messy spaces while being surrounded by tranquil and mesmerizingly beautiful nature. Both are places where you can exchange ideas with many people, but also work on your own thing.
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