When we imagine Scandinavian aesthetics, there’s often a presumption towards clean minimalism and neutral palettes that the Nordic regions do so well. And whilst some of that may be true for Scandinavian fashion designer Lea Nyland, her new collection entitled ‘Collision’ encompasses those elements and so much more. As the name suggests, this collection is vibrant and impactful, not just aesthetically but also environmentally.
Launching on Monday the 25th of October, ‘Collision’ draws on the events of the past 18 months. Where screens became a focus of our attention both for entertainment and as a source of connection as we faced confinement on a global scale. The designer, who specialises in womenswear, describes her designs as ‘creative speculation united with her Scandinavian heritage of modern and functional‘. Utilising this design approach in her collection, Lea features circular silhouettes and round shapes throughout the collection to represent unity and our interconnectedness, as well as masculine shapes that bring symmetry. The palette is a mix of vibrant rainbow brights and vivid digital prints tempered by neutral tones. The former references the RGB colour preset on our screens and the unexpected glitch that can happen digitally and in society.
“sometimes we need something to break down, a collision of some sort, in order to rebuild new and better”
Crucially, ‘Collision‘ draws on the perception of a glitch as something that can be disorienting but also transformational; Lea demonstrates how we can take inspiration from darkness and uncertainty and translate it into something optimistic and beautiful. This philosophy echoes Lea’s design process; her clothes are made to order in small batches, and everything is done in-house, with all garments hand made from natural fibres and deadstock materials. Her studio, a chrysalis for the metamorphosis of deadstock material into vibrant, original, experimental yet accessible designs.
Having previously lived and worked worldwide, Lea has counted Denmark, Norway, Spain, Turkey and The United States as home, and she’s currently based in London. This varied perspective has enriched her creative vision lending the curious inventiveness so characteristic of her contemporary aesthetic as she seeks to empower women through comfort and style while respecting the environment.
Lea was someone whose collection we were super keen to see, style, and find out about. Prior to the launch our team met with Lea and while Chalisa styled the pieces we see in the accompanying shots, we sat down with the designer to ask about the collection, how the events of the past 18 months have recalibrated her work as a designer and how she adheres to a slow, sustainable, and ethical business model.
Congratulations on your AW21 collection, which launched on the 25th of October and is entitled “Collision” What inspired the collection, and how much does that very impactful title reflect the concept and the message that you want to share with us?
The inspiration for the collection came as a reflection on the past year and a half spent in confinement. And how our relationships with screens became a source for our entertainment and our main source for socialising. It was almost like a lifeline to making it through a tough time, and I became interested in how the colours on the screen are initially displayed on a black background that only comes to life through light. I didn’t want the collection to feel heavy and depressing; I didn’t want the viewer to relive what we have already been through. It was important to me that it felt uplifting and had a suggestion of opportunity. Drawing the parallel line to a glitch that can happen in our electrical products, I saw a similar glitch happening in society as we know it. But sometimes we need something to break down, a collision of some sort, in order to rebuild new and better. That’s what I am hoping for us as a society, and that’s what I wanted my collection to feel like – hopeful and free!
The pieces have an amazing cut and flow to them, which are utterly feminine, yet there are also masculine elements. How important is it to play with the female silhouette and traditional construction methods when designing your pieces?
It is key in my design process to play with the balance of feminine and masculine. As human beings, I find that the most whole and grounded people I have met are the ones who have managed to develop both their feminine and masculine sides within themselves; they’ve found balance! That is something I love to explore in my process – finding that juxtaposition that creates balance. I love taking something familiar and maybe changing it up a bit with an unexpected detail or cut, colour or fabric. I would love to be able to entice the viewer’s curiosity – my ultimate goal would be to give someone an AHA experience while exploring one of my garments.
“I would love for my garments to be like her best friend, boosting her confidence and whispering in her ear, ‘you’ve got this girl'”
They also come in a gloriously bright and bold colour palette that is a move away from what we associate with Scandinavian hues. What prompted that decision, and was that vibrancy influenced by society’s return to some form of normality and the sense of optimism which seems to be in the air?
Yes, the colour palette was definitely intended to feel bright and optimistic, as mentioned previously. It was supposed to reflect RGB colour presets we see on digital screens, as the print was developed to look and feel like an actual glitch, and from there, the rest of the colour palette came together effortlessly. I wanted the brights to be paired down with neutrals like brown, beige, grey and white. It was also important for me to bring the bright colours up against some black, as it exactly is displayed on a screen. Although my heritage is Scandinavian, I have always been drawn to colour and bringing it into my collections.
How do you want the woman who wears Lea Nyland to feel when they wear one of your creations?
I always want the woman who wears my pieces to feel comfortable, confident, and free. Free to play around, free to be whoever she wants to be, free to go for the things she wants in life. It sounds a bit silly, but I would love for my garments to be like her best friend, boosting her confidence and whispering in her ear, “you’ve got this girl”.
You have talked about the glitch that can happen in our digital products and also societal glitches. The pandemic has been the ultimate glitch that most of us will have lived through. In what ways has it made you focus as a designer, and did it make you recalibrate your plans for the brand in any way?
Well… the pandemic has definitely given me a new focus! I have been working as a designer in the industry for other brands over the last 6 years and started the pandemic still designing for someone else, but unfortunately lost my job as retail was hit very hard all of 2020. I started 2021 suddenly having all this free time in lockdown, and I thought to myself, I might as well start sewing some pieces in my own flat. In May, I was contacted by a PR brand inviting me to do a pop-up shop with them in Soho over the month of June, and it ended up being hugely successful. It was like a lightbulb came on, and I felt like I had to continue on this path of doing my own brand, so this AW collection is my first complete collection on my own. I am curious to see how the launch will go, and it will be an indicator for me to see what the path will look like moving forward for the brand.
You are committed to a slow fashion, sustainable and ethical business model. What steps do you take to adhere to that philosophy throughout the design, creative, and production processes?
So as I am only just starting out, I have complete control of the production process, making it easier for me to incorporate some conscious practices. That being said, I do not state to be a fully sustainable brand. Being fully sustainable is very expensive, hence why many brands have a hard time making the transition into sustainability. But I am very aware that it is my responsibility as a designer to make this transition, being able to present conscious products to the consumers. As of now, I incorporate deadstock materials into my collections as much as possible, meaning I buy leftover fabric from other brands that would have otherwise gone into a landfill or been set on fire. I also upcycle materials, giving an already existing product a longer life span. As an example, I have a floor-length crochet dress coming out that is made from a vintage blanket, giving it new life. This also means that the dress mentioned will always stay a one-of-a-kind piece since I wouldn’t be able to find the exact vintage blanket to make more of the same dress. I can do the same silhouette but in a different vintage crochet blanket. It allows the buyer to have something completely unique. Furthermore, I use digital printing methods as they require less water and contaminate less than other traditional printing methods. I also try to incorporate GOTS certified fabrics as much as possible.
“I find inspiration in looking at the old giants, such as Balenciaga, Mr Dior, Coco Chanel. It was a time where clothing had value in a different way”
As a designer who follows all those steps to ensure the brand is as sustainable as possible, what more do you think the fashion industry needs to do to regulate and educate both itself and consumers when “greenwashing” remains endemic in the industry?
For the fashion industry to become more sustainable, we need advances in technology, from the fibres that we choose to spin, the fabric preparation chemistry that we use to coat and finish, and the print machinery and inks formulations with which we print. We need regulations from the top down to make every brand accountable and to make it an even playing field, so that giants like Shein can’t just cash in cheaper and more harmful on younger brands’ innovations. But that also means the consumers need to understand that £10 for a t-shirt is not realistic. When you think about who planted the seeds for the cotton, the time it took to harvest, spin it, weave it, design it and sew it – including transporting it to the end consumer – how does £10 cover all that? Something would have had to give along the way. Making clothes is costly and takes a lot of time, and clothing shouldn’t be disposable in the way it is now.
A quote on your website states, “Sometimes the now is so overstated that there’s a calmness looking into the past.” Tell us more about that statement. What elements of the past resonate with you in terms of design, inspiration, and business model?
I do think there is a lot of inspiration to be found in the past – I believe you have to understand what you came from in order to move forward into something new. I find inspiration in looking at the old giants, such as Balenciaga, Mr Dior, Coco Chanel. It was a time where clothing had value in a different way, it may not have been as democratic as the fast fashion industry has made it, but at least we understood the craft it takes behind it.
As a Scandinavian who has lived and worked all over the world before establishing your brand, what life lessons have that heritage, and those travel experiences taught you, and which of them did you call on when setting up your London studio?
I feel like my heritage as a Scandinavian has given me a true understanding of functionality when it comes to fashion. It’s given me a sense of clean and contemporary aesthetics. But travelling and living abroad in all kinds of countries for the past 10 years has given me a great ability to adapt and to understand where different people and different cultures come from. It’s taught me resilience but also empathy, which I find crucial when designing. If I can’t feel and understand other people, how am I supposed to design for them? All of that is what I am trying to bring out in my London Studio.
We understand that as well as being able to shop the brand online, it will be available in pop-up shops through November and December. Can you share the dates and locations with our readers and what visitors can expect to see when they visit the pop-ups?
Yes definitely, the first Sample Sale will be on the 6th of November with I.DEA PR at 102 St. Pancras Way, NW19ND, and will be free to attend. The second Pop Up Shop will be on the 19th of December with Label Loft London at Noho Studios, 46 Great Titchfield St., W1W 7QA. Tickets can be bought at https://labelloftlondon.com/winter-2021/.
In the longer term, as we head towards the end of 2021, what are your goals and aspirations for Lea Nyland Studio for 2022?
As for the short term, I hope the launch will be successful :). For the longer term and moving into 2022, I will continue creating 2 collections a year for the brand. I would love to expand the brand and stock with potential retailers, getting my pieces into some physical stores. I am also very committed to incorporating more sustainable practices into the brand as we grow. I would love to offset our carbon footprint for shipping, move completely away from polyester fibres, and only use natural fibre, incorporate 100% GOTS certified materials, and look into new sustainable innovations within the industry.
Throughout Lea Nyland’s work, there is a natural sense of balance. As the collection references finding darkness in light, she plays with opposing aesthetics; the power and delicacy of femininity and masculinity, and she offsets vivid colour palettes with neutral tones. She also reinstates harmony, ensuring that material that may have sat unused now takes on a new shape and new life. The world and its many perspectives have lent Lea an empathy that shows not only in her choice of materials but also through the feelings she aims to evoke when her clothes are worn. That sense of balance gives us hope that more young designers can adopt a viable yet sustainable approach to design and change the tide of mass consumption with innovative yet wearable pieces that safeguard our planet. As Lea states, “sometimes we need a glitch to shake things up so we can refocus on the new and the better.” Lea Nyland’s new collection is proof that out of darkness can come light.
Thanks to Lea for taking the time to speak to us.
View the collection below:
Photographer Morgan Shaw @morganshawphoto
Stylist Chalisa Guerrero @chalisaguerrerostylist
MUAH Lauren Montgomery @lvmontgomeryhmu_
Model Mireille Bagaye @mireillebagaye
Stylist Assistants @daisyhuskinsonn @maisierosez
Design Assistant @buffy250