Meet the man behind the most stylish range on the high street
Swedish powerhouse COS has been challenging the expected menswear codes since its 2007 launch. Regarded by many men as the go-to brand for reinventing the classics, it’s a trusted source of stylish wardrobe essentials season after season. The head of COS menswear design is Martin Andersson (pictured below), a Swede with a CV so British he could be the next Bond.
Previously at iconic British brands, Hackett, Aquascutum and founder of his own successful eponymous brand, he has a clear talent for fusing his (and COS’s) Swedish heritage with a modern British twist. Esquire chats to him about the challenges of maintaining a brand that is always expected to be one step ahead.
ESQUIRE: What was the inspiration behind the AW16 collection?
Martin Andersson: Each season we start the collection from scratch, utilising the wealth of research and inspiration we have recently undertaken. The AW16 collection has two main stories, ‘future vision’, and ‘everyday decadence’ — these encapsulate the key COS parameters of modern, timeless, functional and tactile design. Key influences include Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s paintings, the 100 chairs in 100 days project by Italian designer Martino Gamper, Studio Swine’s Sea Chair, Berlin-based artist Lev Khesin, among many other sources. Our next step is to reduce and consider function, both in detail and versatility. Key pieces included the Donegal tweed wrap coat, with simple pared-back fastener and lapel, as well as the knitted navy bomber, a staple piece of each season’s collection.
How do you think this will work with the UAE market? Was there anything you specifically did to suit it to the UAE?
Since COS began we have designed one collection seasonally, available globally in our stores. We like to think of our international customer as style-conscious, confident, with a big-city mindset and who is up-to-date with that is happening in the world, from art and music to culture.
High-street brands are able to follow new trends very quickly. How is this affecting you?
We aim to deliver a product that has a high-quality design so that it lasts beyond the season. We tend not to look to classic definitions of trends but instead allow ourselves to be influenced by a manner of different and sometimes unexpected factors. We feel our customers appreciate our approach of timelessness, instead of trend-driven seasonal collections.
How would you say social media has influenced the fashion industry?
It’s had a huge impact in the way we view and consume fashion. We are always interested to see how our customers, as well as bloggers and social media influencers, interact with our collection and style the pieces. The instantaneous nature of social media means we are able to see and hear this feedback almost immediately after the collection is available in our stores.
How has COS evolved, in terms of its online presence?
It is interesting to see how technological developments influence the ways in which we communicate with our customers. On one level we continue to communicate in a very traditional manner through our printed magazine, something we have produced every season since we launched the brand as a way to share an insight into the ‘COS world’. However, we now also communicate through Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram, as well more locally specific channels, such as WeChat in China.
With key pieces, how do you judge when to stick with or change a winning formula?
I feel there will always be an appreciation of this minimalist, pared-back approach to design. We try to adhere to our core design principles of creating timeless, functional, modern and tactile garments for our customer. We always look to the world of art and design, in particular the work of Nordic furniture designers, which tends to be clean and understated — elements that run through the COS collections.
What direction will we see the brand going in for the next few seasons?
We will remain true to our core design principles but will seek out new inspiration in the worlds of art and design. It is important to us that we continue to support and collaborate with upcoming and established artists and designers. So this season we are supporting the Agnes Martin retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. We have looked to the work of Martin for a number of years — her use of colour, texture, material and pattern. Many aspects of her work have resonated through previous COS collections, and undoubtedly we will revisit her work as inspiration in the future.
Which pieces will you be wearing from this season’s collection?
I will be updating my tailored pieces. I will be adding the wrap tailored jacket and trousers in cotton to my wardrobe, as well as the stone cotton-wool mix jacket as a separate. I like to dress down formal wear, so I will wear these with smart sneakers and a T-shirt.