JOIN THE CLUB

Ris­ing de­sign star San­der Lak brings his im­pres­sive fash­ion CV to the new It la­bel Sies Mar­jan.

VOGUE Australia - - News - By Sarah Mower.

Ris­ing star San­der Lak brings his im­pres­sive fash­ion CV to the new It la­bel Sies Mar­jan.

Ever since that freez­ing day dur­ing Fe­bru­ary’s New York fash­ion week when a bun­dled-up au­di­ence had their pulses raised by the first sight of the Sies Mar­jan col­lec­tion, the early spot­ters have been prac­tis­ing their pro­nun­ci­a­tion. It will be es­sen­tial to get it right, after all, when you mur­mur a sub­dued “Sies Mar­jan” to the umpteenth ad­mirer who wants to know who made the pret­tily twisted flo­ral-sprigged dress you’re wear­ing.

“It’s Sees Mar-jahn,” says San­der Lak with a di­rect smile and an un­trace­able English-Euro­pean ac­cent. “It’s my par­ents’ first

“WHEN I SEE SOME­ONE IN THE CLOTHES, I’M GO­ING TO WALK UP AND SAY: ‘THANK YOU’”

names to­gether.” The gan­gly-limbed cre­ative di­rec­tor of Sies Mar­jan, his shirt per­pet­u­ally half tucked in, is a former head of de­sign at Dries Van Noten, which partly ex­plains the clam­our sur­round­ing his de­but in the crum­bling splen­dour of the art deco pent­house of Tribeca’s 100 Bar­clay build­ing. A faded land­mark cur­rently un­der renovation, the space made an al­most sym­bolic set­ting for Lak’s tou­sled-ro­man­tic aes­thetic, a line-up of in­tri­cately cut spi­ralling dresses, slouchy pants with cargo pock­ets, skinny-sloppy knits and fall­ing-offthe-shoul­der drap­ery, all spiked with a bril­liantly offbeat sense of colour.

Lak him­self – Dutch by birth, with a child­hood spent in Bor­neo, Malaysia, Gabon, Scot­land and Am­s­ter­dam be­fore he com­pleted his stud­ies at Cen­tral Saint Martins – comes across as a kind of world cit­i­zen, his ar­rival un­fet­tered by no­tions of na­tional bor­ders and busi­ness shib­bo­leths of how clothes should be de­signed and mar­keted. “I don’t see age or skin or cul­ture as any sort of cat­e­gory,” he says. “I’m try­ing to cre­ate my own cul­ture, a clan.”

Like Demna Gvasalia at Vetements and Ba­len­ci­aga – al­beit with a di­a­met­ri­cally dif­fer­ent aes­thetic – Lak be­longs to the ris­ing gen­er­a­tion of de­sign­ers who have spent the past decade or so work­ing in the back rooms of big fash­ion houses and are now emerg­ing in their own right. Turn­ing up at a time when the fash­ion scene is pretty much in chaos only adds to their feel­ing of op­por­tu­nity. “That’s what’s amaz­ing!” says Lak. “It feels like there are no rules now, that no­body can say what’s right any­more. We can do it our way.”

His way is at once grounded, spiked with hu­mour and a pas­sion for quirky colour, and marked by to­tal pre­ci­sion. “I started by look­ing at old clothes; the cargo pants came from think­ing about what the cool girls, who I could never be friends with, wore when I was in high school in Am­s­ter­dam in the 90s,” he says, laugh­ing. “Then I look at colours in­di­vid­u­ally, fine-tun­ing them. And we re­ally worked on fab­ric: a jacquard with a moun­tain scene, an old-school For­tuny fab­ric that was very dif­fi­cult to make, and a flower print like a cheap shower cur­tain.”

The re­sources, along with the rare lux­ury of time to put all that to­gether, come from the fact that Sies Mar­jan is an en­ter­prise backed by fi­nancier Howard Marks and his wife, Nancy, who head­hunted Lak to take over the stu­dio and the sewing ate­lier once oc­cu­pied by the Chado Ralph Rucci col­lec­tion. “We needed a year to build a cam­paign and a cul­ture, to work out what is our ba­sic fit, the scale of siz­ing and pro­por­tion,” Lak says. “Nor­mally you de­sign some­thing and fig­ure that out later, after the sam­ples are made.”

Lak’s tal­ent ex­tends to a gift for in­te­rior de­sign. The wall op­po­site the el­e­va­tor at the Sies Mar­jan stu­dio has been hung with 20th-cen­tury am­a­teur por­trait paint­ings, and he’s dec­o­rated the vast sa­lon-like re­cep­tion ar­eas with bril­liantly up­graded fur­ni­ture – a couch re-cov­ered in fluffy white shear­ling with pink fake-fur cush­ions tossed on it, a 70s glass ta­ble – and banks of book­shelves. “I love fake ver­sions of iconic fur­ni­ture. I bought a fake Lud­wig Mies van der Rohe chair in a ter­ri­ble plas­tic and had it re­uphol­stered in car­pet,” he says. “I’ve got a leather couch with fake- and real-fur pil­lows. And plants; I have to have plants.”

Lately he’s been work­ing over­time in New York putting his new Chelsea apart­ment to­gether. “I’m so ex­cited: I’m go­ing to live in an old ball­room! My first grown-up apart­ment!” There’s just one other thing Lak is look­ing for­ward to. Un­fazed by the sud­den ac­claim, and the whirl of Sies Mar­jan be­ing in­stantly snapped up by re­tail­ers (Bar­neys New York and Match­es­fash­ion.com among them), he says that “the best mo­ment will be when I see some­one in the clothes; some­one who I don’t know, who has spent her own money. I’m go­ing to walk up to her and just say: ‘Thank you.’”

All clothes by Sies Mar­jan.

San­der Lak in his Man­hat­tan apart­ment, with ac­cents in­clud­ing an orig­i­nal Hans Weg­ner chair and vin­tage lamp from 1stdibs.

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