Ever since our friend Rasmus Bak came into our Tenue de Nîmes Elandsgracht store eight years ago we have something special going on with Libertine-Libertine. The first collection of Danish trio Pernille Schwarz, Rasmus Bak and Peter Ovesen consisted of only a hand full of shirts, some pants and little selection of knitwear. But to be honest that didn’t matter: We immediately felt this could be the start of something beautiful. Since that day Libertine-Libertine became one of our most successful Tenue de Nîmes brands. This interview was published a couple of seasons ago in our Journal de Nîmes and we felt like sharing it again with you today. We hope you will enjoy reading it and don’t forget to have a look for a selection of LL below this article.
1) Please introduce yourselves and tell us about your backgrounds?
Well, Libertine-Libertine was founded in our native Copenhagen in 2009 by the three of us; Pernille Schwarz, Peter Ovesen and me. Pernille, our Head of Design, has a formal education form the renowned Designskolen Kolding, Pete is a graduate in philosophy and economics and owns a special head. Me, I have a blurry background mainly in music and fashion - I guess I am self-taught. That's the bastard wolf pack constellation right there.
2) You have been business partners since day one. Could you reveal the secret behind a long and happy partnership? Yes we have, can you believe it?
I don't know if there is any secret but there was absolutely a huge will to take risks and seek out a constellation with a special dynamic. You know, sometimes it feels just right and then you have to go with the gut feeling. However, looking back I can see that the way we split the different assignments between us played a huge part in our early success and our ability to carry heavy weights on few shoulders. We were very open about which aspects of the work were stimulating and which were stressful and it became clear, quickly, that with an ego-less approach it was doable to stay afloat, despite the enormous work load. Besides that we all had the ambition to get into this recession-hit industry shit storm with complete dedication and establish a kick ass work life. That moral has laid the foundation of the entire company and is still paramount.
3) What was your main goal when you started Libertine-Libertine brand back in those days? And did these goals change?
We had the urge to launch a brand and company based on intuition and existentialist values and a platform where we could realize our sincere love for high quality products. I like the thought of having a spirited and free floating brand and company that refuses to get pigeon holed. That main ambition is still the same but a lot has been added to it since. Game is on.
4) You started designing menswear and got into women’s wear years after. Could you explain why?
That's not exactly correct. We've actually had a small range of women's wear in the collection from day one and have always been aware that we wanted the women's to be an integrated pat of the brand. However as the company was, and still is, entirely self-financed we had no funding to develop a full scale women's collection that we felt would impress the world, so we kept it tiny and tidy. One could question that strategy looking back but at the time we were operating from my living room and slept between prototypes and boxes to save a few hundred Euro's a month. It wasn't really an option to handle it differently.
5) What is the most important difference between designing a men’s and a women’s collection?
Another big question, you're on a roll here Menno. Well, I don't think there is one real superior thing that makes the big difference. These are two very different processes for us. In fact, the only thing in common is the certain fabrics that we choose to use for both lines. Either because they’re outstanding fabrics with a high level of craftsmanship that we really feel are important for the collection or it can be fabrics that serve a clear purpose in some of the key looks. Everything else we have a completely different approach to. The man and woman we have in mind when designing the collections are not stereotypes and not necessarily alike.
6) Please choose one item from your Libertine-Libertine archive that feels like the perfect piece and could you explain why you believe this is such a great one?
I am actually pretty attached to quite a few archive pieces of various reasons. Some of the more vibe-y styles we have made certainly have earned some affection but I am particularly fond of some of our most simple signature styles - like the Italian made merino knits and shirting. They work in so many different contexts regardless of your normal style preferences. But now we speak of it I must say that the denim shirt we made together some years back is actually a highlight for me. Again, a simple product, but I think it came out very well balanced and represented both our houses. The quality and detailing was spot on. It was a big success as well which meant a lot momentum-wise for the young shaky company we were back then.
7) How do you look at the world (of fashion) nowadays? What are the opportunities and what are the most important challenges we got ahead of us?
Well a key opportunity and constant challenge is to make the consumer even more aware of the importance of quality and well produced garments instead of the impossibly fast paced and produced shit that is being delivered to countless stores each week in an over-saturated market. Once you have knowledge about the process of manufacturing, your perspective changes completely. I believe it is absolutely achievable to contribute to change people's buying habits. The general, absurd world of fashion I stopped worrying about a long time ago. We feel it is pretty easy to simply detach ourselves from the aspects we don't like and we are ready to face the consequences of such moves in order to preserve a work atmosphere we can relate to and feel has some degree of integrity. This will never change.
8) You will launch your new identity soon. What was the main reason to re-define your entire identity? Could you introduce us to the ‘new’ Libertine-Libertine?
We really felt the urge to develop a stricter frame work graphically for the brand - time has changed and the artisan vibe in the old logo (the signature is made by master architect and father of Pernille, Poul Schwarz) didn't correspond so well with our perception of the brand anymore. I think the new design represents a stricter and focused brand; it gives me associations with quality and courageousness. It also provides a frame that organizes loose ends and it's a frame we can go nuts in - so let's do that, I know you guys are up for it. No seriously, I think it is so important to challenge these kinds of things and make sure the brand identity reflects the state of our own minds. The spirit here is that LL is a vibrant venture on a mission and a lot of the creative output and the majority of our designs derive from this actually.
9) Can you reveal some of the Libertine-Libertine future with us? What great new stuff may we expect from you?
We have entered a new era in the story of Libertine-Libertine and the past months we have worked intensely on re-grouping and defining the vision for the coming years which we are all top motivated to make reality. It is very important for us to keep developing the brand, pushing the collections forward and reaching our international ambitions. We might even enter the retail business with our first big flagship store! Overall there is great balance, we are cranking up, and I am looking forward to some good times ahead
10) What are the things in life that really make you happy? Could you describe the perfect day in the life of a Libertine-Libertine co-founder?
When the biggest passions of my life; work, art and family all co-exist beautifully I feel accomplished and grateful. A perfect day would start with a slow morning with my lovely wife and son; long shower, jazz in the air, loads of fresh hot coffee. My son would probably be impossible to get dressed and pooping a lot, my wife would probably be annoyed with my ukuleles and guitars laying around the house and giving me a random bullwhip while passing by - so loving and caring. I would leave the house with a big smile and go to the LL HQ by bike along the lakes. The sun would be out and so would the cops. They would fine me €100 for passing through an old theater alley - however on this day I would outrun the pigs. Ok. It is 10.00 now and work is ace. Perhaps we are putting out a few fires and solving some issues compassionately as we always aim to do. New samples for the new season would arrive. All killer, naturally. Late afternoon I would pull the plug and go to the Death Has No Dominion studio in the meatpacking district of Copenhagen. We'd have a ton of new songs and ambient material to complete while drinking chilled Bandol rosé and Sancerre white. After that I would be lucky to find my way home. It's all pretty true actually and I could repeat it every day more or less. I have a taste for peaks you know.