With a collective consciousness and focusing on redefining what does it mean to be feminine, this Los Angeles-based collective – led by designer Nicola Morgan and cofounded as well by Yana Sosnovskaya – launched the brand PERFECT NUMBER back in April this year. But they want to transcend clothing, and thus have also created their magazine – with Emily Wells as the editor in chief – to give voice to those they feel represent best the values of commitment, community and progressive thinking. Understanding femininity as “a place for endless experimentation and self-exploration”, we speak with Yana about the challenges of starting a brand, their campaign mocking the fashion industry, and why will LA turn into a renewed creative hub in a few years.
PERFECT NUMBER is a brand conceived as a cultural platform. It seeks to reflect the fluid nature of modern femininity, celebrates diversity, challenges digitally created ideals of perfection, and re-examines and subverts the traditional ideals of gender roles and feminine dress codes. How did you come up with this idea of starting it?
We saw a gap. The year 2018 fundamentally shifted our collective consciousness towards femininity and we felt an overwhelming call to action. We decided it is time for the progressive-thinking people to establish their take on femininity: one that doesn't define itself in opposition to oppression but exists on its own terms.
One part of the brand’s identity is to shift the perspective of femininity, which is important in today’s society as women become deservedly recognised as equal among their counterparts. How would you characterise PERFECT NUMBER’s ideal universe?
First and foremost, PERFECT NUMBER’s ideal universe is about equality and diversity. But speaking of the fashion industry, the ideal universe would be sustainable and ethical, meaning zero footprint on ecology and fair salaries; accessible both in pricing and in sizing, where one size can be adaptive to all body shapes. Also, innovative fabrics that support body needs.
PERFECT NUMBER’s prime goal is to celebrate diversity and shift the perception of gender roles. What is the reason that you mainly focus on the modern femininity aspect instead of on all gender roles?
We are inspired by women who constantly reinvent and redefine themselves, and we want to create clothes for them to be part of this process. We believe that femininity today is a place for endless experimentation and self-exploration. We are inspired by imperfections and the shifting perception of gender roles.
The brand is based in Los Angeles. Currently, it’s becoming an inspirational hub of creative freedom in all forms of arts, including fashion, music, design, etc. In which way has Los Angeles influenced the brand’s conceptual starting point?
The birth of any cultural project does not occur in a vacuum, it is always influenced by the cultural context, the energy of society and, of course, the city. For us, it’s Los Angeles, the city with different faces. It’s posh and kitschy, it’s raw and real. But more importantly, it's very authentic. It’s a conjunction of personalities, urban spaces, happenings, exhibitions, openings and events. That type of energy, you can hardly find in other cities – that energy has marked, for us, its resurgence as the next cultural capital.
PERFECT NUMBER was launched in April and started with two collections handmade in Los Angeles: Pno6, a line of redefined basics that provides the building blocks for a day-to-night wardrobe, and Pn28, a compilation of core but directional pieces. Each collection is led by the brand’s head designer, Nicola Morgan, and made in collaboration with other designers – the first one being David Koma, from London. What is the reason you decided to have a collaboration with local artists for each collection?
One of our values is being ‘community-driven’. We take inspiration from our local community in LA and the global creative community of women who are standing at the forefront of change. We are a horizontal organisation and we advocate abolishing the hierarchical distinction between teammates in favour of divisions based on experience rather than status. That’s why we feel that collaborations are essential for the genuine process of exploration.
The launch campaign, titled Woman On Pedestal, was shot by Thomas Lohr and styled by Marc Goehring. What does the title mean? Is there any anecdote/fun story behind this shoot?
We came up with this idea of creating a campaign that would simulate an art gallery. A place where a woman is an actual piece of art, surrounded by people who look at her and make comments about her. The campaign is both an art statement as a social message about the ongoing pressure women have to deal with in the ‘post-#metoo’ era. She feels like she is laying under a microscope, always performing or posing. She is basically trying to live up to the idea of feminine perfection that she has been shown her whole life. This campaign is also our ironic response to the fashion industry. It mocks the outdated idea that the model, a woman, is an object to be looked at.
The campaign shoot features model Adesuwa Aighewi, a model and activist of Chinese-Thai-Nigerian descent. It stands for a new generation of women, a beacon of societal change. In which way does she represent the brand identity of PERFECT NUMBER?
Adesuwa is one of the most successful models of our days, who is at the same time also a filmmaker and an activist. For PERFECT NUMBER, she represents a new generation of women who constantly reinvent themselves. She is bold, genuine, confident and fearless. She questions traditional stereotypes and challenges the status quo. But most of all, she genuinely cares about people and its social aspects. And this is why we are so much inspired by her.
You also decided to extend the brand with PERFECT NUMBER’s Mag, the brand’s digital, female-focused magazine created for thoughtful discussions on culture, gender, politics, fashion and the shifting nature of femininity. How does this publication contribute to the brand and the message you want to convey?
We wanted to create something more than a clothing brand; we wanted to create a cultural platform. It was something natural to create a tribe or community that exists online and offline, with both informational support and a tangible product. The magazine is dedicated to women at the forefront of contemporary society and culture, whereas it also showcases and supports the emerging talent we believe in.
Are there any particular messages that you are able to send through the magazine that can’t be sent through your clothes?
The digital environment allows us to publish articles every day, which means that the message we want to convey can be delivered instantly. The clothing production works differently and we have to spend a lot of time implementing ideas. We want to be in touch with the community on a daily basis, so with a magazine, this is a good way to do it.
When do you decide that a particular topic is suitable for your magazine? What criteria do you follow in your features?
We want to hear, share and tell stories that are inspiring, challenging and real. We also want to create a space where writers and readers can find empathy, connection and a community. We envision our magazine to be the shifting power that challenges those who read it to think about seemingly ordinary topics in unordinary ways.
What kind of reactions would you like to evoke with PERFECT NUMBER?
We would like people to question the traditional perception of femininity, gender roles, and embrace an idea of diverse and fluid beauty; that an oversized t-shirt can be as feminine as a tight dress. It’s not a matter of clothing, it’s a matter of a personality.
What are the next steps of the brand? Where do you see PERFECT NUMBER in the future? Will it still be located in the creative hub of Los Angeles?
We want to promote the new Los Angeles’ lifestyle as we explore it ourselves. We want to break the stereotypes of the city as a very relaxed, lazy beachside where no one actually works. In the next five to seven years, Los Angeles will be blooming with the help of artists, creatives and urbanists from all over the world. Our goal is to explore the community of like-minded people locally and globally and create a platform that supports and unites them. We’re really excited about the next collection as well because it has a very strong message that is relatable to a lot of people. We’re dropping it in September and I’m really looking forward to it.