I met Simon, the 24 year old CEO and co-founder of the label (di)vision for a lunch to discuss the story behind the label. Simon and his partner Gio, the 22 year old creative director behind the brand, work together at Storm Copenhagen and came up with the concept for the label together, which is to deconstruct used garments and create a new ones from them. The young talents quickly sold out their new collection and headed to Paris Fashion Week last fall, where they pushed a small Copenhagen based business into an international fashion market.
Where did this all start?
I have been working at Storm Copenhagen with my friend Gio. You get really inspired from working around all these clothes and talented people. Being inspired by our surroundings, we wanted to start something our own. We had no education or background in fashion design. I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit and wanted to create a project of my own. My lack of education in design never became a problem though. I have always been solution-oriented and good at figuring out how to do things myself. For example I learned a lot just by being online, where you can basically study anything. So, that’s how Gio and I started.
What are your roles?
Gio has some crazy ideas. He is the creative force of our brand. Together we came down with the idea of gathering used military garments from around the world and see the possibilities it had in order to make a new garment. What we do with the garments that we consider useful, is deconstructing and reconstructing. I am more in the department of merchandising, technical details, structure and so on.
De-construction of older garments can be a really complicated process, and you don’t have a degree or a background in fashion design. Do you think that the stress that sometimes follows the traditional way of studying can affect student’s believe in the actual up-cycling process?
I think it worked pretty well for us that no one was there to tell us “no-no”. At a creative institution, you still have a lot of boundaries around you. If we ever have some questions we just go to YouTube and there are no restrictions. Not going to university can also leave your mind more open to new things.
Once at a former workplace, I heard about someone who was about to throw out an inventory of jeans that couldn’t be put up for sale. I couldn’t imagine throwing out 30 pairs of jeans for 3000 DKK. each. Obviously, they were designed for women and wouldn’t fit a man. But I immediately noticed that if I would change some buttons and lower the waist, they could. I tried it out with few of them and my friends started to ask me where I got them and wanted to get a pair for themselves. So, I basically changed the perception of something and it gained a brand new value. That’s how the idea behind di(vision) was born.
Do you think the years you and Gio have worked at Storm Copenhagen has helped you understand the quality requirements that garments from high-end brands demand?
Definitely. We have picked up the ability to tell what kind of design sells and which doesn’t. It takes experience to find the fine balance between seeing what looks attractive and what is too expensive for it’s quality.
Working in the field gives you a great insight of how the business really works and a good picture of the reality as well. You have to analyze what is the most common size people are buying and how much they are ready to spend on each garment. If not, you are going to end up with a dead-stock. We are extremely aware of these facts. All of our products have sold out due to this type of mindset.
Was it challenging to do the design and marketing for your target customers, or were you already confident with your idea?
We dropped our first designs this summer and didn’t really know what the target gender was because it is a unisex project. It ended up being mostly women who bought it and it sold out pretty fast. Few colours sold out in almost only one day. So luckily, we didn’t face challenges while figuring out our customers better.
We do all our marketing on Instagram. I work as a model and my girlfriend works in that field as well. You could basically say that I have a large network of people. I love taking pictures so I ended up doing a lot of shoots for the brand myself with Gio. We just handed our jackets to our friends and asked them to go outside for 5 minutes and take pictures of them. So you can say that our core and aesthetics are really DIY.
You have gone a lot of further than many people who go the traditional way and study to become a designer. Do you believe it has helped you to just throw yourself out in the deep and just make it happen?
Yes, definitely. The fashion industry is sometimes being taken way too seriously. We weren’t really stressing out too much on what we were doing. All of a sudden we are in a showroom at Paris Fashion week this last fall! We got a sales agency working with us and we met some buyers there. Our connections at Storm Copenhagen really paid off and we got in contact with some very interesting people. We didn’t even have a stock or a collection done at that point and everything we had made prior had sold out. We kind of went ,,fuck it” and spent our last money on going there just to see what would happen. So we went there, met some people and made new connections. It worked out great!
That’s such an amazing experience. Just putting yourself out there and bring in results. So action and connection has played a key role in the development for your brand?
Yes. Work speaks louder than your words. And connections are vital. A lot of fashion houses have a designer behind the desk and then a PR manager who does all the important networking for them. Which is of course great, but we like doing things on our own. Especially when you are this small.. The only help we are actually getting that I can speak of is a small factory outside of Copenhagen. It’s a federal project to offer more work to the people in the area. It’s for the social economy and is not high profile. And of course we get a lot of help from our friends and family.
We can basically say that our production goes 100% on here in Denmark, in-house or at the factory. This way we are not only with a sustainable aim, but we can also make sure that the people working for us are doing that in good conditions and environment. That is very important to our brand.
What is the vision in the near future for the brand?
We will keep on doing the split seam concept in different ways while trying out new manipulation methods. That includes waxing, dying and bleaching. Instead of focusing on the garment as a whole, we will focus on the paths the original product can take us. For our jackets to stay unique, we will number every item. And like in our last collection, we will be producing around 100 pieces. We are starting some new collaboration and a webshop project in 2019. The webshop project will be based on 1 of 1’s garments and will be called (di)construct.
It is very important to us to grow organic and stay at your own pace. By doing things in hand ourselves and to only rely the bare minimum on the factory, we are not spending too much money ahead or ending up with products we can’t sell. We are still very new, and trying to figure out which way to go with the brand. There is a lot of designs coming out within the next months, and we will always stick to our main core while designing and producing them. Sustainability, zero waste and humane production is in our brands DNA and those values are extremely important to us. We have no intentions of changing that in the future.
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Tags: (di)vision, Danish fashion, interview
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