August 26, 2008 | Rebecca Alexander-Saynt

The Inter-Views of Fashion: Astrid Olsson of Fifth Ave Shoe Repair

Chic Today recently caught up with one of the designers of Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair (latest collection above), , in her Stockholm-based show­room. Catch an exclusive glimpse into this glorious brand as they talk about everything from accent colors and the creative process to future plans.

I don’t really feel like starting this interview by asking about the story behind your chosen label name, Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair, because that question feels very “expected”.

: Exactly, and the answer is to be found on our website…ha-ha.

Ha-ha, yes, I did a little research before our meeting and found out that almost every interview starts with “How did you come up with your label name?” Is it merely a myth that journalists are continuously looking for more imaginative “one-liners”? Either way, I want to ask you about the basic vision behind Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair, which I personally rank as one of the most stylish companies of Swedish design these days.

AO: Ha-ha, as if we would change the original story to suit our whims, but anyway…The company started out back in 2004 as a very delicate experiment in knitwear and jersey, showing feminine styles with only about fifteen garments. Our design was initially very complicated and didn’t show any consideration towards the customer whatsoever, but we wanted to start out a label so we had to start somewhere. I created patterns on a doll just for fun to challenge the shape. Some elements were built vertically; some patterns were composed of triangles whilst others were simple and ready-to-wear. It took longer to mark the garments than to sew them, because it’s one thing if you have different parts with seams, which of course takes a while to put together, but if you have one big piece of pattern that’s supposed to end up as a skirt, it takes even longer. I cared neither about the consumption of the mate­rial nor if the garments became difficult to wear. Back then, we used a special fabric that produced almost the entire collection. Fifth Avenue’s creative focus will always lie in draping technique where the silhouette progresses through sculpting. In contrast, these advanced shapes are combined with classic wear, such as the classic white shirt. Attention to detail and love of fabrics is something we honour and for which we stay ready to walk an extra mile in order to achieve.

More after the jumpWhat inspires you to create?

AO: Architecture, structures, city people…but not in a way that asks “what’s modern and what’s not?” just to get some sort of an update. Most often I find my inspiration in the environment that surrounds me. For example, when you’re reading a magazine or watching TV, you may do so with a slight lack of concentration–you may not notice things with total focus, and you find yourself in that sort of “wrong moment” on the periphery. I often capture interesting angles, always searching for a diagonal, like the golden ratio. It’s also an inspiring process to work in the studio where I’m not always in full control and where things just happen, without outside intervention.

Tell me more about Shoerepair’s By the No - your more experimental collection.

AO: This collection was already with us from the beginning. Everything was very compli­cated and the idea was based on having fun within the creativity. It was not supposed to end up earning a lot of money and still we’re trying to keep that attitude. By the No is a small col­lection and we’re making all the prototypes in our studio where we have 4-5 sewing machines. Limited By the No pieces are made without the restraint of boundaries, where the essence of an idea can be pushed to its limit. It is a collection with the ambition to lead the way for our more traditional retail collection. Experimental and exaggerated with a dramatic silhouette, created by hand in our atelier and only made on order. Evolving constantly upon impulse.

As seen in your previous collections, most of your clothes are made in greyscale, black and white. Why?

AO: I always think in black and even have difficulties to allow simple white into our collections if it isn’t very clean and simple. Of course, you need to gather courage within your creativity to develop, even though it might take a while before we’re designing floral dresses. Onto our next collection we’ve used a Capri blue accent color. “Exploring femininity and masculinity is a constantly recurring issue and will always be addressed in our collections. The colour range has a solid base of black, white with all shades of grey in between. For every season new colours are chosen, mainly in faded shades.

Finally …my last question. How important is the choice of music used on your shows?

AO: The choice of music means very much, absolutely. Still, I don’t think you’re able to find any music that’s reflecting the col­lection totally, because I think you have such a strong picture of that vision you’re trying to exploit and then maybe you’ll have to make the music as well. It might be the same as when you’re working along with a photographer and the difficulties to explain the exact vision. The music does feel important to us, and we get help from the photographer, Nils Odier. On our last collection we wanted to express some kind of future vision. Paris affects and inspires us very much, because there is some dusty charm over the city which we want to reflect into our design. Also, Paris feels like an mixture of old fashion and future at the same time…it happens a lot over there…but at the same time they feels like last season. Onto forthcoming show we’d thought of using everything from a single cello player to a beat machine, full orchestra, or a quiet show with a tea party. The most important is to reach the right “feeling”.

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About the Author: Rebecca does not like biographies. They are stupid and she would rather spend her time editing the site. Which she does with great vigor.

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