*International Interview – original response*
L&V: “John Samuel – you graduated from Central Saint Martins and London College of Fashion. Further you worked for various fashion designers showing at London Fashion Week.
How did the city and designers influenced your own path? Could you share a specific experience which made you to the striving person you are by now?”
SY: “As any fast paced cosmopolitan city, so many things are happening and on top of that London is where lots of talented artists gather. There is always a new life in London. Everyone colours each other with this energy. It makes you a humble keen learner, having a thirst for innovation or for the news. London is like a ring where one need to box your life to be a head, competitive, curious, daring and so much more. This takes you closer to vanity. It is an amazing place to be.
I always loved fashion in some ways, but I can not say that I always wanted or knew that I would be a designer. I am trying to be one – to be part of it is hard. Coming from a small island called Mauritius, fashion is not really something. So when I got to university, I was finding myself in a fashion library. I found heaven, I started to read a lot about it and there is so much more to discover. It made me feel that I wasted all those years.”
L&V: “In March you are showcasing at Vancouver Fashion Week. What can we expect from the SAMUEL YEUNG label for Fall/Winter 2016? Tell us the story behind your collection.”
SY: “Colours and expect to wear your painting… – lots of colours, different silhouettes and something beautiful. I call it the fairies are in. They are not dressed like fairies but have the heir of float walking.
I fell in love with the work of Jean Claude Baissac. I absolutely love his paintings and his concept. A few years ago I went to meet him. I always wanted to do a collection with an artist. It is simple to choose a work we love, and I was lucky that he also liked my work and believed in what I do. So he became our inspiration for the collection – WEAR THOU ART. The idea is to decorate your house – our body is our house for our soul. From the beginning of mankind, we have seen that we have always ornamented ourselves, and our surroundings. I love having paintings or any kind of art piece decorated around. I wanted more, I wanted to wear it – to feel it and make it our skin. That is the idea of WEAR THOU ART.”
L&V: “The silhouettes of your creations should make women feel sensual, confident, strong, ambitious and feminine. Did you had at the starting point of your brand any specific woman in mind who is maybe also your muse?”
SY: “I like strange women. I love Winona Ryder, Natalie Portman (from “Léon – The Professional”), Tilda Swinton, Helena Bonham Carter, Tamara De Lempicka & Claire Danes. “Annie Hall” is one of my favourite but it evolves. I can not say that I have a muse or that I have one specific woman. I like them all and all of them have their own personality and there are certain traits that I like in them which stays in my mind.
My starting point is always an open mind with lots of research. I can not say I would start a collection from a specific point – I just start. My start is always around what I like and it is important for me to research it and if it is worthy for a collection then I follow the white rabbit. Who knows where it leads… – I like the surprise when I develop something. I don’t like surprises in life or production. Everything has to be organized otherwise it is chaos. Especially with my chaotic mind – just imagine how it would end up. I don´t like to see weak woman and I prefer to empower women. So I tend to think what I create makes them feel better, good, special and different.”
L&V: “What pieces from your collection would you say are “must-have” items in the powerful woman’s wardrobe and why?”
SY: “(laughing) The whole collection – I guess! I think this collection gives another dimension to women. I love women who think differently or people in general who explore new ways. So the idea of dressing women or to transform women is very appealing. Everyday we are a chameleon, and different stages of our life keeping us changing physically, mentally and spiritually with different functions and responsibilities. So at this specific time, it is about belief. What we believe in, turns into actions. What I mean – transforming women, that doesn’t mean necessarily to turn her into a classic beauty, which is fine. No – beauty as we have heard over century is in the eye of the beholder. What I meant is that the pieces of our collection are giving or allowing women to be who they want. We don’t want or have to fit to this stereotype hourglass silhouette with broad shoulders to be strong and meaningful. We can come in different shapes. We found that our collection is a must have to every women who believe that style is not about the body shape but about character, personality and the chemistry that develops between our mind, body and the outer world. This will blossom into something unique. The brand has a certain personality and character. Some like it, some don’t.”
L&V: “Whose work is resonating with you right now and do you have an inspirational mantra or a phrase that you live by?”
SY: “Imran Amed at the moment. It is amazing what he has done.
Imran is portraiting fashion in a way that I can read or associate. He reflects certain intellectual glamour with a certain reality, checks about fashion but at the same time respects the dream side of this industry. To find ‘le juste mesure’ is his ingenuity – glamour, luxury, business. Fashion is a business and mal-aimee from his cousin Art.
For many years I was much into: “Si l’Art avait un sens, ce serait le sens inverse”. Many things in life doesn’t make any sense – but it does to some. Generally there are different parts of me at wars. I can be a very strict believer or can also be very easy and open to anything. It depends on the situation, circumstances and consequences. It is important to have a mantra, an idea of what we want and where to go. At the same time, life blows us to places that we never expect – that what makes life exciting and worthy. Sometimes it makes sense sometimes it does not. It means no matter what we decide, the most important thing is to do what we believe in and to walk the path. There is a difference of knowing the path and walking the path. Only the one can experience it. The one who walk it will understand it. I love movies like “Matrix”. I might have watched it a 100 times – really it changes all the time, and it is true. Like life which is a box of chocolate, you never know what you get. That’s what mama told me – Forest Gump. BTW I also love Robin Wright. ‘Si l’Art avait un sens, ce serait le sens inverse’ – But Art does matter sense.”
L&V: “You are based in lovely Mauritius. Tell us a bit of your life on this beautiful island state. Are you born there as well and what are the people of Mauritius thinking about fashion in general?”
SY: “My life in Mauritius is beautiful. I like it but it is not like spending 365 days on the beach, unfortunately. I would love to but I would be bored after a while. I do enjoy my odd weekend by the beach. It is almost a paradise in some context, especially after you spend so much time cramped in London working. It is a good way to be far away from certain sides of fashion. It is only a few hours from a major city and today the world is a village. The inconvenience I found is that I can’t just pop to a great exhibition or museum or to see a new collection arrival. I need to take a plane to do so. I guess I would have the same issue if I was living in a small village in Europe, then again it would cost so much. One friend of mine who visited me said: “Hey you know everyone in Fashion has an iphone”. Here I am glad to be less materialistic and feel less the urge to buy the new toy or to be in all the time. Mauritius brings certain sanity for me and I love it. It is enjoyable to work in an environment where there is not too much influence. Being in Mauritius is being in rehab for addicts. It is great. Isolation sometimes is also not so great. With the internet, the cable tv and all the new technology, people follow fashion at real time as much as living in a city but more like someone living in a village in a big country. We have the same issues as people living in rural areas such as a limited range of brand availability.”
L&V: “On Mauritius you organized a stunning photo shooting in the beautiful 5* LUX LE MORNE hotel! As we know the perfect location for a campaign is an absolut must, tell us why especially this brilliant beach-hotel ist the ideal match for your collection?”
SY: “Oh… Lux Le Morne is beautiful. I am going to pop in there this week. It is great to be able to work in those various 5* resorts. The Lux Le Morne shooting was for a russian magazine covering over 10 pages. The set up was just all luxury, a real bliss. A great blast. A few months after I found out that another very well known russian fashion editor was in Lux Belle Mare. It is so easy to work in such a beautiful set where everything is laid out to perfection. This SS16 is about space, luxury, taking time & art and we felt that Lux Le Morne matched our philosophy and the collection. We want women to feel beautiful, lovely and free. An escape to the world when they are wearing the collection. There are many 5* resort hotels and I have to admire that I never got tired to work in those set ups.”
L&V: “The label SAMUEL YEUNG approached to Russia last year. What experiences did you brought home from this adventure?”
SY: “Russia is such an adventure. It is a place to visit. Hard place to be, with good hearted people. Everyone works hard to make a living in hard conditions, there is no choice. Now there is a recession in the russian economy. The young russians, also the elder one, love and adore fashion. They have a very different vision of what they want to bring forward in fashion. For me it was jumping into the unknown. I didn’t have any expectation. I didn’t know how people would react. I think they like colours. It is so unusual for them to see such vivid colours. It was refreshing.”
L&V: “You sold already pieces of your collection in russian clothing stores. How fundamental is it for an emerging designer to have other retail stores who support in selling pieces directly to the customer?”
SY: “Life of an emerging designer is very hard. You need so much to enter the market, to stay is another story. There are so many talented designers doing amazing stuff every minute. Rigorously obsessed with hard work, dedicated to a philosophy is not enough! What I have noticed is that with all the right intelligent hard work with a passion for this profession and perseverance – doors will open. Well some will close, and you just have to wait and come back knocking another time. You have to be courageous. Most people called it luck or talent. I think luck comes with devotion and talent comes with hard work. I was lucky to have certain boutiques who believed in the collection and giving us platform to bring our vision forward. So yes it is very important to have retail stores selling the collection and it doesn’t come by knocking on our door nor it is a god given right.”
L&V: “We know you love to travel. What’s the most memorable place you’ve been to, and where would you like to go next?”
SY: “Being from a small isolated island, or traveling with parents when younger does not open you the new world you crave of from your imagination. I love my island and I am grateful to grown up here. When I left to England, after my first year of university I wanted to see the world. So some friends and I bought the “cheap Europe travel” allowing us to travel through Europe. Each place had its own magic with a dear and different meaning to me. The lights are up when I am with people that I enjoy or sometimes alone. I can’t pick one favourite place. I remember each place with the emotion like I was there yesterday. It is like cheating. They might not want me back. The most memorable place… – I can’t choose one. I love the crossing of the ferry from Hull to Rotterdam, the tulip garden and the coffee shop in Amsterdam, the picking of cherries in a remote village in Belgium, seeing historical and architectural buildings like Gaudi, La tour de Piste, Venice, the Colosseum, the Parthenon on the Acropolis, the old city of Jerusalem and most of all doing it with my friends made it memorable. Today I am still in touch with those dudes. A place becomes alive when I am with good company or sometimes it is a light up in my mind when I am strolling. Like I still remember meeting a Canadian on our european trip in a youth hostel. It is a classic moment, like a movie. We spend hours talking, talking about what I don’t remember. Where I would like to go next… (laughing) Vancouver. I am excited about this.”
L&V: “Have you been to Vancouver before? Is there something except of VFW you are very excited about?”
SY: “I am excited to cross the pacific and it would be my first time in Canada. Vancouver is really the opposite side of where I am living at the moment. We are like from a parallel world. I am excited to meet new people, I understood that Vancouver is a very diverse and friendly community. To discover a new place is always exciting and good for the soul and mind.”
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Interview by Patrick Mirlach