Atelier Aura is the newest designer at HEVN. We had a talk with the designer behind the brand, Alexander William, about the brand´s core identity, the different processes and treatments his garments undergo and his view on sustainable fashion.
All images ©Atelier Aura
H: Several of our customers have described the totality of your garments as something they have not experienced before. What, in your opinion, makes Atelier Aura stand out?
A: It warms my heart to hear that my vision and idea seams to have come through to your customers.
Atelier Aura stands out by combining traditional craftsmanship, precise tailoring and artisanal finishing with carefully selected, natural fabrics. In my opinion, this make each and every piece carry an aura of raw elegance and unicity. Dark luxury defined.
H: In addition to your native Swedish tongue and the usual English, you also speak Icelandic and Persian. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your way into artisanal design?
A: I grew up in the suburbs on the west coast of Sweden as the son of a war refugee from Iran and a farmers daughter from Iceland. Growing up, I was always occupied with creative interest. My walls were always covered in paintings and sketches. I tried to play any instrument I got my hands on and during the summers while staying with my grandparents at their farm in Iceland, I loved the breaks where my grandfather would teach me handicrafting.
It is my belief that a creative being does not only have one outlet for its creativity, and one outlet is designing – and so I tried it.
H: Would it be accurate to describe Atelier Aura as a tailored men´s collection with some less tailored pieces that are quite adaptable to all genders? And do you see a women´s collection as part of the brand´s future?
A: I’m always aiming to create adaptable pieces as I don’t believe in defined men’s and women’s collections. We cannot ignore the fact that there are traditionally masculine and traditionally feminine silhouettes and cuts to take into consideration, but we can expand on them. Therefore we aim to incorporate both into our collections in the future.
H: Instead of creating an all new set of styles for every season, you have chosen to expand or subtract upon a disciplined number of garments, using variations in fabric, hues, or structures. Is this a part of Atelier Aura´s core identity, a result of practical limitations or something else?
A: It is definitely a part of our core identity. As you’ve described it yourselves, we focus on slow fashion. This does not only mean that it’s a slow and demanding process to design and craft our pieces. It also means that they should be made to last, not only quality-wise but style-wise as well. Timeless pieces and silhouettes, as opposed to seasonal trends and hypes, take a long time to develop. However, they come to stay.
H: Atelier Aura´s core fabric through all your seasons have been 100% linen. What, to you, is the special appeal of this fabric?
A: The appeal of linen to us is that it’s such a timeless, durable and versatile fabric that only gets better with age. It has been used throughout history all over the world. The vikings used linen due to its strength and tenacity under pressure even in wet conditions, it’s actually stronger when soaked than when dry. In the middle east, the Mesopotamians favoured linen over cotton due to its absorbent properties that keep the cloth from sticking to your skin in high humidity.
H: You have chosen to make each individual garment by hand, hand colouring and also applying different patinas uniquely to every piece. What is the significance of this arduous process to you as a designer?
A: The process, arduous as it may be, is crucial to me. I need to be in touch with each and every piece that leaves our atelier. While the rolls of fabric could be ran through a digital printer and cut at random to achieve a visual effect similar to that of handpainting, waxing or coating – the touch, feel and structure of the garment will never be the same as when they’ve been used as a canvas. Much like a painting, the final product can channel feelings and moods in a way no algorithm ever will.
H: Can you share your thoughts on Atelier Aura´s approach to sustainability in fashion?
A: Sustainability is of utmost importance to us. In the end, we’re running a business. While all the numbers, figures and papers are dreadfully demotivating – they have to add up for everyone involved in the process of making the final piece. From growing the crop to harvesting, weaving, knitting, dyeing, pressing, rolling and transporting to pattern making and sewing until finally the designer him- or herself has the finished sample in hand... It’s an incredibly complicated process with ultimately hundreds of people more or less involved way before we even get to the part where we start designing the actual look of a garment. Every single one of these people have to be able to make a living. One may ponder how many €9.99 T-shirts you’d need to sell in order to feed the guy or girl weaving the fabric in a factory in South-East Asia for a day.
Now that’s just the financial aspect of it. Environmental impact is another one. Our fabrics are mindfully selected in order to leave the smallest Co2 footprint possible. The production of linen fabric leads to far less water waste than the production of cotton which throughout the whole process requires approximately 20.000 litres of water to prouce 1kg of finished cotton fabric. Since the dyes and treatments we use are natural from plants and vegetables, the water we use can be safely returned into its natural circuit without any harm to the environment. Even the leather we use for our shoes is vegetable tanned using no chromium or other chemicals which makes it perfectly safe for our environment.
While keeping the business sustainable is expensive, money is by all means less valuable than the health and wellbeing of our planet and her people.
H: Availability and exclusivity is a delicate balance when a designer decides how the brand´s identity - and by extension himself - is to be perceived. How do you choose your retailers, and what kind of customer do you aim to attract?
A: Given my answer to the question above, I’d have to say I aim to attract sensible and mindful people who share my values. This, however, is of course on a deeper level than just the visual aspect of fashion in general.
Avantgarde or ”dark fashion” sometimes balances on a very thin line between being exclusive and being excluding. Throughout the past twenty years where modern day avantgarde has evolved, parts of it has developed an almost cult-like following. This is of course great in its own way, and I very much respect and admire the designers who’ve managed to attract such a loyal audience. However, by being too niched you exclude a great amount of people. People who may never have looked and felt better than if they had worn your pieces – but it might never occur to them to try it, as they do not identify as one of ”those people”. There is no template for the person wearing Atelier Aura, other than that they’re probably not a cunt.
H: Do you have anything you want to tell your customers at HEVN in Norway - maybe a sneak peek into the next seasons of Atelier Aura?
A: Without giving away too much I can tell you we’re working on a very special, unseasonal capsule collection. For now, the details of the project have to remain confidential, but the pieces will carry vast amounts of history and a strong, political statement.