THE INTERVIEW: AllSaints
Urban British store AllSaints seems to be on a roll. The brand finally launched in the region, with its first boutique in Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates opening last month. Meanwhile, creative director Wil Beedle is celebrating the AllSaints coming of age, marking the 21st anniversary with one of his best collections to date, which features a renewed energy as well as a new bag collection. We sat down with the designer when he was in town to oversee the final preparations for the region’s debut store.
So you’ve been to the Mall of the Emirates already?
I had a gap this afternoon for a couple of hours just after lunchtime, so I went down to take a look. It’s quite warm today!
What did you get up to? Did you check out the new space?
Well, I went to visit our store, which is under construction and of course it looks great. I mean it’s just an empty shell at the moment, wooden floors and bare walls, but I loved it, it’s a fantastic location. So I took some pictures and then succumbed to the ridiculous humidity before I had to come back here to do this interview, so I’m afraid it was not an anecdote-rich trip.
Let’s talk about the clothes. It seems to be a new era for you guys. Was it something about turning 21?
I think there is a natural dialogue with every collection, with us and those who perceive it. What we have seen these last few years, both creatively and commercially, is a real momentum, which started from London. I have seen us build collections and share collections digitally and passionately with a real renewed confidence and momentum. So as we reached our 21st year it felt right to access the journey that we had been on so far and we could think about how we would connect; think about where we had been and what we’ve done up until recently. We looked back at some archival footage of who we were when we first started and what it was that surrounded us back then. We felt good about where we were and then used that palette of nostalgia to actually craft something that felt very relevant and modern for the now.
We wanted to create something that was grounded in the codes of the house. This includes things like texture, tonality, and industrialism, which we sculpted into something that was relevant in the future. So what you’re seeing now is kind of an embodiment of our journey so far, which we have pushed further to elevate, enthral and excite.
You are a really modern brand and you have been around for a while, yet I always feel that you have always been slightly ahead of everyone else. Is that intentional?
I don’t know if we are ahead, behind, in front or to one side, but what we do is our thing. I’m in constant contact with the world around us. Inspiration happens through osmosis; we are constantly involved with all these different influences globally. Whatever city I’m in, whatever gallery or exhibition, it all goes in to what we do. So in that sense I am expressing it through the prism of AllSaints. We are very fortunate that we have clear identifiable codes, but the codes themselves are very malleable which enables us to express ourselves in an ever-evolving, ever-diversifying way – and yet it is still recognisable. The DNA, if you like, of AllSaints is versatile. If you think about what that palette of industrialism means, think about the materials that represents AllSaints, the identity that we solidified and that we express, it is mainly versatile and it enables us to connect to our audience on a daily basis.
Do you have any expectations of how the UAE markets will connect with the brand?
It will be great to see how people respond to it. Over the last 24 hours we have been here it’s been really great and I’ve seen a genuinely passionate response to the collection and to the brand, and that’s the good thing about being here. Walking around Mall of the Emirates earlier, I feel pretty confident when I say that there is nothing else like it in there.
Yep, definitely for sure.
And we are bringing something very new to the region. While many people will be familiar with us, I am also looking forward to people who have never heard of us before walking in and suddenly discovering a whole new universe.
And you’re launching a new bag collection?
Yes, the women’s new season is launching with about 50 pieces and our men’s collection has about 30 pieces. The men’s bag collection is made up of three families. The first one reinterprets and reassembles military code. We’ve used some really beautiful skins and looked into our archive collections to create those, and then we have something else which is much more about working on the skins, so there is a textured richness there. And then we have some heavily laundered nylon bags, which are equally exciting. There’s a really broad use for every guy globally and I’m looking forward to introducing that here.
With the AW15 collection arriving in stores, do you have any personal favourites?
Well, I’m not trying to avoid the question but people should try and determine those pieces for themselves. I would hate any designer that I wore or that I loved to tell me what to do. I want to be given the opportunity to look at the collection and have an emotive response to it myself. When I think about the pieces that I love from over the years, whether they are vintage or by other designers that aren’t AllSaints, or even some of the pieces that I have crafted from the collection myself and wear every day, it’s about having that instinctive first response to them, which is not driven by someone else. I think that’s what makes it so special. I already know what I want from that collection and that’s two of the jackets, but someone else might see something completely different and I think that’s what’s wonderful. We share something that’s got a very precise identity, that’s very wide in the way it can be interpreted and articulated, and people can take it and make it their own.