It's been almost a year since my last interview with Obscur's Creative Director and Chief Designer Richard Söderberg. And I have to say a lot has changed in just a short span of time. I'm glad that Richard whom I met in Copenhagen last August at the Wood Wood after-party was able to squeeze in this exclusive interview into his hectic schedule. I also got a chance to preview his entire Fall/Winter 2013 collection. I'm definitely getting a couple of pieces for myself when I visit his atelier in Berlin this summer.
Anyway, here's my one-on-one interview with the acclaimed Swedish designer as promised.
Obscur recently presented its A/W 13 collection entitled “Övergång” in Paris. What was your inspiration for this collection?
My inspirations are more connected with undefined time periods rather than chosen collections. I am right now inspired a lot by my childhood, and the way I grew up. I was totally in love with walking around my father's orthopedic workshop where I saw everything from amputees, different liquids that behaved differently to solid metal joints and prosthetic legs and arms.
I have always been interested in the deformities and the things, people and objects that do not "FIT IN". I feel very much like an outsider myself. I guess creativity combined with working with my hands is sort of a therapy or a retribution for me.
When I was younger, I also recall myself looking at classic tailoring as something so definite for a male like me to wear. I still believe that part of it is true and I think that is visible in this collection.
Compared to your previous works, your latest collection is visibly more refined, structured and polished. What's the reason behind the unexpected, drastic change? Does this mean you are completely veering away from the dark and gothic aesthetic Obscur was originally known for?
I wanted to explore something else in garments. Tailoring is an area which I have always wanted to touch. I'm glad that this opportunity has finally transpired. Therefore, I wanted to explore it and see where it takes me. A lot of sources of inspiration that I had a long time ago still exist, yet I am exploring others and see where it takes me. Something structured and polished is something that I have always seen as something that is forever timeless.
Obscur is currently experiencing so many pivotal changes such as moving its headquarters from Copenhagen to Berlin and its entire production from Japan to Italy. So what should we expect from Obscur's new chapter?
This is connected to my answer to the previous question, I am in constant search of change. I don't know what to expect from the new chapter, but I strongly believe it will be a challenge to myself and the structure I have built for myself. And the most important thing with changing the brand is to be able to make clothes that is of higher and higher quality and to control the outcome more from every move that you make.
You conceptualized Obscur in Sweden. Then, eventually you moved to Copenhagen. And now you are based in Berlin. Do you think Obscur has finally found its home? And why Berlin of all places? And not Paris, London or Milan?
I think the reason is very logical. I am a relatively young person and I am looking for my place in the world. Obscur comes with me and changes with me. The reason for moving to Berlin was quite an obvious one. Berlin has something that no other city in the world has. It is a world of music and style. so raw and pure, and almost untouched since the 90s or even further back. There is something about Berlin that disconnects to fashion and its pretentiousness, and I cherish this a lot.
There are several interesting pieces from your latest collection. I'm particularly fond of the bright green blazer and the iron fabric jacket. Can you briefly share the "science" behind some of your coolest pieces next season? Like how did you come up with the surprising color and fabric choices?
I picked the green color because it was the most synthetic color I could find, in combination with the very interesting stiff texture of the leather. It was the perfect match between organic leather/skin and the non-human/artificial aspect. The metal fabric is 100% iron and I picked it also because of its strong, almost mechanical feel. When you fold it, it stays there. And I realized that by creating something in a material like this it would mold a complete shape of the wearer, and so it did. The usage of non-conventional garment materials was only possible now because I'm working with new people that can actually manage these difficult materials. When using materials that are difficult to work with, the line between success and failure is very thin.
Among the pieces from this collection, which are your personal favorites?
I love the iron metal coat for its structure, and ability to live its own life. To be so strong yet so lightweight. When looking at the collection as a whole, one perhaps thinks that it looks very similar in silhouette, but where they all differ is in the detailing which can only be revealed if carefully watched in real life. I very much like a coat that we made where the lining itself is hanging loose in the garment, and can either be used outside of the body as a shield with a high collar, or as a classic lining. There is another one where limbs are removable and when assembled the wearer looks almost robotic. I like its versatility in its way of being.
It's amazing to see how Obscur has matured and progressed since its inception. And until now it is continuously evolving. What are the lessons have you learned from this cut-throat industry?
Getting your throat cut even if your work progressively evolves. What keeps you in this business is unfortunately not only design, but a large portion is to be able to produce and be clever in your marketing.
Several brands are creating diffusion lines (such as Damir Doma's Silent and Boris Bidjan Saberi's 11) that are much cheaper compared to their mainline? Obviously, they want to cater to a bigger market. Would you ever consider going to this direction one day?
If it would compromise my energy towards doing what I really love to do, then NO.
Does this “Övergång” or transitioning also include your personal taste in music? If so, what have you been listening to lately?
Taste has not changed, but focused. Going to see SILENT SERVANT and SVRECA this Friday at Berghain. It will be a nice one! Techno for energy of the body, EBM WAVE SYNTH for the soul!
Aside from being a full-time designer, you're also a musician. If given a chance, would you rather be a musician than a designer?
I have to point out that this fact is not really true! I could never be a musician, although I would love to. My brother is very gifted as a musician, and I've been trying to make things together with him. If this is a success or not, it is better kept unsaid. Working with my hands and eyes is my gift.
Again, a big shout-out to Richard Söderberg for candidly sharing his thoughts about his latest collection, his life, music and Obscur's next chapter. And special thanks to the lovely Inna Nechyporenko for making this interview possible. Can't wait to visit you guys this summer!