To the Point With Designer Sander Lak of Sies Marjan

Sies Marjan

The hot new designer talks luxury fashion, Spring 2017 and being a team player.

Colour for spring, just like florals, isn’t all that groundbreaking. But when you look at what Sander Lak, the young creative director behind on-fire, New York-based label Sies Marjan, did with his second go at the runway for Spring 2017, groundbreaking is not far off.

In Toronto to meet with customers and media at the The Room at Hudson’s Bay, the young upstart, who is the mind behind the biggest label to come out of New York Fashion Week in years, is relaxed and prepping for a weekend in the city. It’s his first time in Canada, after all. “I am gonna eat my way through Toronto this weekend,” he jokes. “I have a list.”

When talk gets directed to Sies Marjan’s quick rise after only two seasons at NYFW, he is poised with a smart, reflective answer. “I feel really blessed to have all of this [happening], because there is no guarantee whatsoever that anything will happen at any point for a new brand,” he says. “We’re very aware that that’s a really special thing. And we really communicate that with our team as well. But, we also immediately forget about it. It’s not something that I can be surrounded with too much because if I think about the pressure that comes with that, or the distraction, that it leads to… If I am too aware of the idea of following up what we have done so far, it becomes too much. It starts taking away from the joy, and the work that we do.”

He is also well aware that the work conditions of creating the first two collections (Fall 2016, currently at The Room in Toronto and Vancouver, and Spring 2017, coming soon) helped to propel the brand into the fashion stratosphere. Lak credits having the right team, with “organic, and truthful and honest collaboration,” and the label’s bubble that they’ve created as reason for their success. “It’s like an eco-system, and we have to keep that eco-system, with the exact balance of personalities and strengths, and weaknesses,” he muses. “And we need to work on our weaknesses, and to get better, to build that bubble to be bigger, but not allow the bubble to burst.”

It’s rare for a new designer to have such success so quickly. But it’s also rare that said designer will be backed by a big team, which is a reality for Lak. And the benefits of working with a team are a big part of what makes him so content. “If it’s only the thing that comes out of my head, it won’t be as rich, because what comes out of my head is just one version of something,” he says of why he prefers to be a team player. “But if I take what is in my head, put it on the table, have other people look at it, work with it, digest it, then it becomes this rich thing that comes from different angles and has a three-dimensionality to it.”

He’ll continue to learn from his team and his customers, all while trusting his instincts. For Spring 2017, it those instincts took him towards colour. “I wanted to make sure that the first few seasons were about finalizing the idea of what Sies Marjan is,” he continues. “The second collection for me was really about colour and texture.” But working with colour posed some challenges, because Lak is a bit of a perfectionist who wasn’t happy with until they found the exact shades he was looking for. Only then was he and his team able to move forward with working on the actually garments (think silky separates, oversized knits, hits of leather and pieces that look like a rich oil slick). “If you look at the collection, the colours are a combination of beautiful and sick,” he says. “They work together, but they also clash together.”

Who the Sies Marjan woman is has yet to be fully determined. He has seen young girls as well as older women, and men, all purchasing and showing interest in the label. A perfect sign of the times, for an industry that is in a bit of an upheaval. And Lak knows he now has a unique point of view, starting in the industry at such a time of flux, so he’s using that to play to his strengths. He’s not feeling pressure to do things a certain way, but instead is working how he sees fit within the confines of his new fashion eco-system. “[Fashion is] going in a direction that’s unpredictable. And I think that unpredictable-ness, is, from a creative point of view, really exciting.”