assk is the label refusing to be bound by conventional fashion systems
Designers Agatha Kowalewski and Sarah Schofield are engaging a smart approach to technology and working to make statement pieces with universal appeal.
Sarah and Agatha of Assk.
When Agatha Kowalewski and Sarah Schofield launched their label Assk in 2013, they were living in Paris and working within the city's established luxury fashion industry, predominantly with clothes they and their friends could never afford. They recognised a huge gap in the market for a label that made cool, affordable clothes so began making t-shirts as a creative, responsive project. In the three years since, a strong, worldwide demand for their clothes has driven the label's growth and tough bombers, shorts, and sporty separates in interesting prints and fabrics, have become their hallmark.
Now with VFiles representation and a uniquely modern, versatile approach to running a label, we spoke to Sarah about where they're at, their plans and appearing in the Discovery Runway presented by i-D as part of VAMFF.
i-D: You've suggested that you launched Assk as a kind of response to what you saw as a gap in the market, especially in Paris. How did people respond initially to a couple of non-Frenchies starting a label over there?
Sarah: In Paris at the time there wasn't much between H&M and Chanel. There's also not so much of a history of small, independent designers starting labels like there is in Australia. We were surprised by how positive the response was - a lot of our online sales are still from French customers. I guess we also began at a time of change in France, a time when more people were beginning to launch their own labels. There's a new energy in Paris, which is really exciting.
What have been the highlights of running the label so far?
Being invited to show in New York with VFiles was incredible, as was being picked up by Colette in Paris. We've met and worked with some really great people but probably the best moment was the first time we saw someone on the street wearing Assk - the fact that people love it make us so happy.
You can always spot the people wearing Assk from a mile away.
Yes, an orange floor length jacket is not subtle.
It seems like Assk has something of a cult following, which must be the dream. What is your secret?
Well we didn't listen to the standard advice that most designers live by, like the idea that you should always make basics in your range because they'll sell better. We did try to make some basic things along the way but they never sold for us. Everyone wants our more crazy stuff and whenever we made something for the press or a show that was even bolder, that went down even better and often became a best-seller.
The only thing is that because our clothes are so distinctive, we can't be stocked at a store on every corner because no one wants to be wearing the same thing. Having such recognisable pieces, it's been cool to be in a few higher concept stores rather than selling basics in lots of stores. We're also not relying on one economy to support the label this way.
Relying on a digital infrastructure instead must be important.
Traditionally talking about the internet is seen as lame in fashion but we really look at technology in a positive way and it's really driven our label and our working procedures. We've done so much of our work, including collaborations, completely online.
Your new collection is really strong, what's the idea behind it?
Originally we were inspired by people who believe they're allergic to technology - looking at these people who move far away from civilisation and build their own houses and live away from the Internet. At the same time we were also thinking about this huge influx of refugees in Europe and we were inspired by the idea of inclusion and living in a world with less borders so people can move more freely. With technology it's possible to speak more freely amongst different languages. A lot of the slogans in this collection are like: 'Keep In' instead of 'Keep Out' and we play on a flag patch inspired by the patches in military bomber jackets.
This is such an important thing to be drawing positive attention to right now.
The original army bombers had a patch in them that had the translation for "help" in all different languages. So, regardless of where you were, you could communicate. Other original patches would say things like: "I'm a soldier from the US army, please help me get back to my base" or whatever. They actually had slightly sinister undertones though, with messages like: "If you help me, I'll try and ensure that you come to no harm". Our version is much more welcoming.
Assk will appear in The Discovery Runway and Party Presented by i-D at VAMFF.
Thursday 10th March 8PM.
The runway will also feature labels: Pageant x Banoffee, PAI, Caves Collect, Sister, Article by Courtney Holm, AMXANDER and Lois Hazel
Tickets available here.