GENERICSENS X JENS LAUGESEN
Award winning Danish fashion designer Jens Laugesen sat down with writer & editor Steve Salter to mark the launch of GENERICSENS 2.0; a multi-sensory fashion, photography and video project, created as part of an ongoing collaboration with Belgian photographer & filmmaker Jean François Carly and film editor Maxim Young.
Launched as a digital presentation as part of London Fashion Week in September 2021, GENERICSENS 2.0 features key members of London's LGBTQ+ community, including the core members of the Boudicca collective led by dj Samantha Togni. The project was pays homage to the gender fluid nature of Laugesen’s eponymous brand exemplified by the signature hybrid design methodology of a brand which was created for a unisex audience. Laugesen also worked with stylist Sara Dunn, selecting a mix of archival garments, co-creating unique looks to express the individual style identity of each model.
The film's premiere at LFW also coincided with the opening of an immersive virtual exhibition hosted by Danny Peace, founder and curator of SIILK Gallery, an Athens based gallery specializing in progressive photography.
Jens Laugesen in conversation with Steve Salter
Steve Salter : Thanks so much for taking the time to explore the new collaborative collection with us, as there is a lot to kind of unpack. How would you summarize GENERICSENS 2.0?
Jens Laugesen: Back in the 2000’s I collaborated with my Japanese distributors: The Wall Co Ltd who were also the people behind the unisex store Addition Adelaide. They had been my main stockist in Tokyo since the launch of my brand. I remember being drawn to this concept of mixing traditional notions of ‘men’s’ and ‘womenswear’ within one collection. To me garments don’t have a gender, I was always against the idea of giving garments a specific identity or gender during the creation process.
When I did my MA at Central Saint Martin’s, I tried to do these crazy and experimental designs like everyone else was doing and I failed at that; I started to work from iconic items like a man’s tuxedo jacket, deconstructing then reconstructing them to adapt the shape to fit everybody. It was about not giving the garment any specific gender identity or dictating who should wear it. I was drawn to the democratic idea that anyone, regardless of the gender they identify or don’t identify with, can wear the same trousers or jacket. Showcasing the same garment on multiple genders has been something I’ve experimented with since the first Ground Zero trilogy collection.
SS: It's interesting because these are the conversations we're having increasingly so now. We've made tremendous strides forward. But today, there's still that rigidity in how men's wear, women's wear be shown in respective fashion week formats, even though it's not how today's people consume. This is illustrated in how you've decided to shoot the collection and who to partner and collaborate with, encapsulating the journey we've been on and how far we've come.
JL: When I was selling in Selfridges, the buyers couldn't understand if I was a luxury or contemporary young designer because I had both levels in the same collection. Today everybody mixes high with low; high-end couture pieces like a beautifully tailored jacket alongside contemporary pieces like t-shirts, hoodies and jeans are always shown side by side in the same collection. My first stockist in Japan was Adelaide. They had just launched a unisex concept, Edition Adelaide around when I launched my first collection in 2003 after I graduated from St Martins. Adelaide was an established luxury boutique selling conceptual luxury pieces for women, but Edition Adelaide was all about unisex. Mamiko Hasegawa, the founder and buyer, really liked those concepts in my brand and it was selling well in Japan so they asked me to do a Japanese diffusion line. I wanted to create a label with an emphasis on concept-led essential pieces, I believe everybody should own exciting basics. So that’s when Generic Sen’s was first created.
SS : That was for spring-summer 06, right?
JL: Yes, It went on for three years. I was really inspired by the ground zero zeitgeist and the Faith in Chaos which has been a source of research for many of my past collections.
SS: And what made you return to Generic Sen’s? Like now, was it a sense of you you've kind of hinted that then there was the backdrop of 9/11, which is like the end of days kind of moment we had our sort of end-of-days moment during the pandemic, was that the link?
JL: In the middle of lockdown, I wanted to re-start this collaborative project. Like you said my MA collection, inspired by the September 11 attacks, was all about having faith in chaos, which was also the title of the film I made with Nick Knight in 2004. So I felt a resurgence of these ideas when I was working during the pandemic. I started to become creative again during lockdown. I felt like I was revisiting my formative days at Saint Martin's days when I was finishing my MA collection in the wake of September 11th. Even though it was a horrible thing to witness, I still got inspired by it somehow artistically as it makes me understand something new had to come from such devastation like bird Phenix form the ashes.
For the relaunch, I just wanted to produce more work, it was interesting to look back at my hybrid design pieces from the early days of Generic Sen’s. I wanted to see how they would transpose to today's audience and to explore how they would react to the concept.