Interview: BLAAK

published on 25 March 2004

London designers Sachiko Okado and Aaron Sharif of BLAAK speak to Penny Martin about their career and the concepts behind their A/W 04 collection.

London designers Sachiko Okado and Aaron Sharif of BLAAK speak to Penny Martin about their career and the concepts behind their A/W 04 collection.

Penny Martin: Can you describe what first interested you in fashion and what brought you to Central Saint Martins to study?

Sachiko Okada: From a young age, fashion was a crucial way of expressing myself. My mother who was a weaver in Sweden at the time, made all my dresses when I was a child, so they were garments I knew you could create yourself. Growing up, I never fitted in the system; I was always the odd one out. I aspired to be normal and to be like everybody else. When I stopped denying myself and finally accepted me as what I was, it was obvious that I should be a fashion designer. When I first came to London, friends around me who I liked or looked up to were from St Martins whether they did art or fashion or photography. It was natural for me to follow their path, besides St Martins was the only college I knew.

Aaron Sharif: I dropped out of an Anthropology degree and found it was too late to transfer to the Psychology department I wanted, so I needed to get into another school. I tried for a one-year course at London College of Fashion in fashion journalism and photography where I discovered newfound high hopes of being a journalist. However, I was taken under the wing of one of my tutors who suggested that I should lose this idea since he liked my drawings, suggested that I should try for design instead. St Martins was recommended as the place I should focus on getting into.

PM: What do you regard as the key inspirations behind your design process? How do you collate your ideas?

BLAAK: We pay attention to what catches our eye. This could be anything from a poster on the wall, a notion made by someone, an old garment we found in a market, or a god-sent book that explains everything. We store all this information as we find it. Before the designing starts there are always a few things that we are mutually into, or obsessed with, and that we find ourselves constantly discussing. This becomes the theme or the focus point of the collection. We will then start researching the subject and dig deeper.

PM: You described your S/S 04 show as 'random-borderline mad'. How would you summarise your A/W 04 collection?

B: Feelings of 'far, rare, raw-ness' and a 'clash between familiarities'.

PM: What motivated your decision to show in Paris rather than London this season?

B: It is very important for us to feel that we are moving, whether the move is up or sideways or whatever. We had been showing for several seasons in London, and didn't feel so excited about doing another show in London. To feel excited and inspired is the core of our selfish lives. When something begins to feel stagnant, it must change.

PM: How do you make the transition from one collection to another: which aspects you retain and which do you discard?

B: We tend to change silhouette in more slowly than the other elements, but there is not a formula as such. It all depends. This season we kept the 'ikat' inspired print technique (ikat is a weaving technique which we translated digitally into our print design.) from last season.

There is a huge possibility of something amazing happening in London, but the street now is cold.

PM: How influential is London and street fashion to your work?

B: If you mean 'street fashion' in the sense of subculture or youth culture happening at present, then there is not much coming out of London. It has been some time since people started to dress the same. I guess it resulted from the domination of capitalism and the pressure of high street fashion. The interesting thing is that in London this 'stamped looking' youth are from all different places and cultures. There is a huge possibility of something amazing happening in London, but the street now is cold.

PM: Throughout your collections you have made use of traditional aspects of dress from both your backgrounds. What do you think it means to introduce these elements into contemporary fashion?

B: Contemporary fashion cannot sustain its inspiration without these elements. We take the soul out of these traditional garments, and mix it with other elements. The result usually doesn't retain the form of the original inspiration. Its part of our vocabulary alongside many other things we get inspired by.

PM: Where did your interest in film, as a medium to present your work, begin?

B: We always showed video as a form of documentary, but began to feel frustrated with the format of girls walking up and down, as it never captured the feeling or the excitement of the actual event. We wanted to make a film that expressed the elements of a fashion show and at the same time, was more true to the content of the collection.

PM: How has working in motion image influenced the way you approach your designs?

B: Our work has been done by the time the film is in the process. However when designing, the focus is on how to enhance the wearer and their lives, which is in a way 'motion image'. It is very exciting and inspirational to work with creative people from other area.

Interview by:



Interview: Jens Laugesen, Jean-François Carly & Marcus Werner Hed

25 March 2004
Designer Jens Laugesen and image-makers Jean-François Carly and Marcus Werner Hed spoke to Michelle Duguid about collaborating on the designer's A/W 04 fashion film.

Interview: Miki Fukai

17 September 2004
Miki Fukai speaks about her working space in this dialogue prior to the unveiling of her Spring / Summer 2004 collection.

Interview: Maria Chen Pascual

25 March 2004
London designer Maria Chen Pascual spoke to Gemma O'Brien about her career and her A/W 04 collection.
Back to top