APUJAN is a London based womenswear label who integrate fiction inspired designs with unique knitwear techniques to produce collections where the surreal meets the real and timeless silhouettes are imbued with a contemporary twist. Blending Eastern and Western influences to create garments that beautifully emphasise the female form, APUJAN has become a must-see on the London Fashion Week schedule.
APUJAN showed their SS22 collection titled “In the Maze of Noises” as part of London Fashion Week’s digital component. A collection which continued Apu’s fascination with that place in the ether where fantasy and real-life collide, the designer drawing inspiration from novels such as “The Wizard of Oz” and “Alice in Wonderland” together with the demonstrably darker works of American gothic writer Edgar Allan Poe.
Those inspirations manifested themselves in an assemblage of pieces which saw the designer continue to evolve his signature design aesthetic of exclusively developed fabrics, digital embroidery and digital print, producing another standout collection that married traditional Oriental influences with contemporary clothing.
Boyfriend spoke to Apu after LFW to ask him how he used the language of the lens to showcase the collection, the rituals and respect that are core to the design process and the storytelling that sits at the heart of everything the designer does.
You love to interweave fantastical elements into your collections; where did this love of the fantastical originate? Was there a particular person, artist or experience that influenced you to explore these themes?
I love reading, whether it is classical novels, mystery novels, science fiction novels, or different types of stories. Reading various stories give me different perspectives. I think about the overhead world view behind characters and what happen in their story, the arts and costumes among them. Therefore, there is more room for imagination, as if we can think of the story behind it, we can make it more completely, whether it is the era or the world.
Your designs go beyond the silhouettes and demonstrate different techniques in the fabrics you use, from knitted pieces and unique jacquard, embroidered and printed fabrics that have been exclusively developed by you. Would you say you are not only a designer but also a textile designer? How does one inform the other?
Our fashion brand starts from fabrics. Every season, we start with knitting patterns and fabric development. We start with yarns to experiment with different fabric materials. We tell the stories by using weave, jacquard, fabrics or patterns. We also use these different permutations and experiments to match different styles and designs. The process is all related. It takes a massive amount of time, but you can have more control over your own original and unique materials.
When in the design process, how do you begin you explore your ideas so that you fuse together elements of both traditional and contemporary?
We’ve read a lot of books about ancient costumes, researched, and studied the reasons for doing so at the time. The content, including production method, function, ritual and respect, these informations have helped us know that what to use or to simplify.
Last season, you explored the theme of the exploration of dreams through a fashion film – has the use of this medium empowered you in terms of using film as an extension of your ideas and inspirations or do you still think a live show best showcases your collection?
The on-site fashion show is quite different from the digital fashion show. The distance and the way of presenting are quite different. In the scene, you can capture the items you want to see and the interaction with people. The waiting for guests is all part of the show. We relied on the language of the lens; although it is unrestrained, you can see closer details and different angles, and you can tell a more complete story with the image.
As we return to a semi-live fashion experience this season, many designers still feature collections in a digital-only format. How do you feel about the digitised element democratising fashion for a less elitist experience that allows you to reach a wider audience?
At the same time, there will be more digital presenting such as films. Regardless of the epidemic or not, it is one of the directions that brands can present and the way they tell stories. It is indeed not restricted by distance and space. There are many possibilities.
Your label launched in 2013 – what key lessons have you learned in your years as a designer, especially over the challenging pandemic period?
We have been accumulating experience in fabric development and have been trying different cross-border collaborations through clothing to meet different occupations and different designers. Also, imagine different wearers who wear these clothes, where they will go and do, and the development of fabrics will also accumulate the data that we want.
You’ve said you love to use film not only as an advertisement for your collections but also to explore different themes and tell stories. Ahead of your SS22 launch what kind of themes where you inspired by this season and any little teasers about what we can look forward to?
The theme of this season is related to information overload. It is about that we live in a social age. Too much media and too much information make us unable to distinguish the truth. Too much information permeates our lives. This is not a negative feeling but a true reflection of this era. Even the dreams in the fashion show are full of information overload. Even the clothes are full of messages to be conveyed.
In the past, you have collaborated with brands like Samsung and Eva and the Cloud gate Theatre of Taiwan. Are there any other brands you like to work with in the future?
We also co-branded with McDonald’s. It was a bit of a surprise at the beginning. However, there are more international brand cooperations, which are all amazing experiences. We also want to know the experience of these brands over time and the interesting stories behind them.
It’s integral to your collections to highlight the dangers of urbanisation and to design pieces that have longevity. The pandemic has pushed the sustainability conversation into the forefront of fashion design. What changes would you like to see the industry examine and achieve further?
As you are about to launch your SS22 collection, what hopes do you have for this season and the future of APUJAN?
I will reply to the last two questions together. We never know where the fashion industry or the world will go, how the epidemic will go and how the world will be, but no matter what, our work has not changed. We will continue to develop fabrics, continue to use clothing to tell stories, continue to design and make clothes, continue to think about what fashion can bring to everyone, continue to send messages, no matter what method is used.
Many thanks to Apu for taking the time to speak to us in what was a super hectic post LFW period for him and the brand. Big thanks also to Shery and the team at Black PR for all their help.