Wednesday, March 3, 2010

LB talks real fashion with Alexander Koutney

LB: What were the opportunities that came your way that you took and that you are glad about taking?
AK: It's hard for me separate the bad decisions from the good. Some decisions that seem to have been mislead turned out new opportunities down the road that I could have never foresaw and vice versa.

LB: Could you trace the significant steps of your development, beginning in SA to the present?
AK: Working for Marjan Pejoski, Saint Martins, Showing in London, Moving from flat patterns to Draping, getting in to my first showroom, every collection feels significant right now.

LB: What were your thoughts when you left SA?
AK: I was in a good space when I left South Africa. I just knew there was a marathon to be run that started in South Africa but was going to continue in London and so far has taken me to New York and who knows where it’ll end.

LB: Was it easy to get into St Martins?
AK: Getting in was easy, getting out proved much harder.

LB: What did it mean to study at St Martins versus an SA college?
AK: I never studied fashion in South Africa but I imagine the expectations would be quite different. Siant Martins is very competitive and packed with talent and that’s what makes the fashion world work as well so it’s a good proving ground.

LB: How many hours do you work a day?
AK: 14+

LB: If you do not have access to the fashion predictions, how do you keep up with trends?
AK: It's not just about trend if you want to strike a chord you have to tap deeper. One the skills you need as a designer that stays relevant and doesn’t drop the ball for a season is to have an awareness of what is happening around you in terms of design especially fabric, palette, silhouette etc but also have a knack for determining the cultural zeitgeist as it relates to forthcoming seasons.

LB: Where do you get your inspiration for your next collection?
AK: I’m playing with ideas all the time and I move through ideas quite quickly if something sticks then I develop it. A print, a silhouette, a draping detail or feel, fabric direction, palette, the collection ends up being the strongest of all the defined elements that come together together with an idea that creates the motif. Its quite chaotic but somehow democratic.

LB: What is the value of being in New York versus London?
AK: There are pros and cons. Some practical issues about the two cities, some a function of the 2 systems and underlying creative cultures. For one New York doesn’t have the government and corporate support platforms that London has among other differences. But at the end of the day I live in New York and its been good to me for the most part . This is where I have grow from. I try not to think of what ifs and just get on with it.

Victoria Secrets

LB: How did you get noticed by them?
AK: I made some conceptual accessories for a British Vogue editorial at the request of the stylist Charlotte Stockdale which was shot by Nick Knight. That went well and it turns out Charlotte was the Creative Director for the Victoria Secret Show and it snowed balled from there.

LB: How many garments did you do?
AK: 7 looks

LB: How will this influence the rest of your career?
AK: Well it allowed me to work with some amazing materials. It created awareness of the brand and the challenge is to build on that. I don’t think one show like that changes the game that much it matters more what you produce consistently season by season.

LB: What do you hate about this industry?
AK: Well it’s a conversation but that is very seductive if you feel for clothes and are invested in the power of style and the images it cultivates. But as with all conversations some people speak a lot of shit and that’s annoying to have to listen to.

LB: What do you love about this industry?
AK: It’s a real pleasure to get to make clothes and craft images it’s a real treat to sometimes feel you are contributing to the conversation.

LB: What industry support is there for designers like yourself?
AK: There are a number of platforms that can help your career in New York only one or two showcase events that are worth doing but its best to be well on your way as brand before you rely on these industry tools. At the end of the day you have to survive on your own and everything else is icing.

LB: Is it realistic for a designer to achieve success in less than 10 years in the International fashion industry?
AK: I’ve never seen it. But the press will try the damndest to make you believe the next overnight success.

LB: What are the South African Designers’ advantages?
AK: A different perspective helps.

LB: What are their disadvantages?
AK: Direct access to markets is an obvious but unavoidable problem. I think that Individuality is not recognised and systemically nurtured within an international strategy like many other smaller and somewhat remote countries have achieved.

LB: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
AK: Right here with bigger sales, a healthy balance sheet, better collections, inspired and motivated.

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