The Danish-born designer Vibe Johansson studied fashion design at the Polimoda Fashion Institute in Florence (Italy), followed by Design Technology in Copenhagen (Denmark). She established her eponymous label in 2008, when her first official women´s collection was successfully presented, the F/W 2008/2009. The label became available in the selected stores across the world (especially Japan). In 2012 she was nominated for the Max Factor New Talent Award.

I got a chance to talk with Vibe about her passion when she was a child, about her obsession with the literature (especially the English one), the talent that she missed to have and much more. Of course there is a big part about her brand, her aesthetic and her last work, the S/S 2014, in the second part. This was an intriguing, directly and spontaneous interview, as Vibe is.

Who is Vibe Johansson?
- I am 30 years-old, I live in Copenhagen with my husband + lovely daughter Iris.

What is your current state of mind?
- Inspired, as I am working on new AW14 pieces and listening to Chopin.

What is your motto?
- Actually, I don’t really have one, since I do not believe in sticking to one opinion, I continuously try to evolve.

What is your obsession?
- I am obsessed with old English literature.

What is your best quality and what is your biggest weakness?
- I am very calm and thoughtful, which I see as strength. My biggest weakness definitely can be at times, to overly consider other people’s opinions. This can be very draining.

Which talent would you most like to have?
- Musicality. I always dreamt of playing an instrument.

What would you change about yourself?
- I would like to be able to live in the now, instead of constantly having to plan 3 months ahead.

What the word freedom means to you?
- Time to spend as one pleases.

Best and worst memory?
- Personally, I tend to move on from bad memories and rarely dwell on them. So I honestly can not think of any, other than small daily trivial things.  However, my most recent good memory was the trip I had to Japan in the spring, during Sakura, with my husband and then 5 months old daughter Iris. It was the ultimate good experience.

Which smell remembers you your childhood?
- Curiously, as a child I always loved the smell of gasoline.

As a child what you thought you will become when growing up?
- A painter. My parents was confused for a while and thought I wanted to paint houses for a living, until they realized I meant to become an artist. Later on, I wanted to study psychology, but the fashion adventure interestingly got in the way.

What turns you into become a fashion designer?
- I started designing my own clothes in high school, because I could not find what I wanted to wear. Later it became more of a way to express my aesthetic vision than it would be about personal styling.

What inspires you and what distracts you (turn you off) creatively?
- I am mostly inspired during the dark evening or night hours and find it difficult to work creatively in a too summery environment. I guess my mood fits well with growing up with the long dark winters in Denmark. I lived in southern Spain for a year when I was 21 and found it very hard to be creative over there......

How much does intuition play a part in the way that you work?
- I find it next to impossible to go against my intuition in all aspects of life. It is the most important thing about my work and integral work process.

What do you think of the fashion system?
- There is always a bright point that makes it all worth it, but in general it can be a very demanding system to be part of.

What about new way of communication like blogging?
- Once you filter through all the irrelevant posts and “outfit of the day’s, I love the fact that inspiration and valuable informative ideas can be shared and appreciated all across the world in an instant. And I love it when I stumble upon some new inspiring blog or online magazine.

Top 3 magazines?

What is your personal style and who do you mostly wear?
- Black and simple.

Your Top 5 essentials?
- Leather, knits, a large bag and something to write/draw on/with.

Best movie, track, album, exhibition or event?
- I would much rather talk about books; My all-time favorite author is John Fowles, especially his books The Magus and A Maggot. Currently, I am reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula and I have recently read my first science fiction (in that sense): Alfred Bester’s The Stars my Destination. Other favorites include Vladimir Nabokov ´s Lolita, Kazuo Ishiguro ´s The remains of the day and Italo Svevo ´s Zeno’s conscience.

- You established your brand in 2008, when you presented your first collection (F/W 2008/2009). What was the turning point to make you decide to establish your own brand? I guess it is really risky and you have to be brave. Describe, please, the process of making a brand. How to start, especially if you maybe don´t have a strong financial background?
- Honestly, I did not plan that much ahead when starting the company. At the time, I was still a student and I just created the collection, which I took from there. Maybe this was not the most organized way to do it, but it has worked out well for me, as I rely strongly on my intuition, so a 5 year business plan would probably not have worked anyway. In fashion, it is hard to make predictions and what works for one company might not work for the next. I like to go with my good feeling and the opportunities presents along the way.

If there is a graduate student or anyone that would like to establish his/hers own brand, what would you suggest? I guess that there are many difficulties. Could you tell him/her which things to avoid or do it in a different way?
- I would advise them to gain some work experience and contacts in the industry, to get an idea of the production process etc. This has been my biggest obstacle, having to figure every tiny detail out for myself. On the other hand, people tend to get tempted by the security of a steady job, so working for others, can also be killer for individuality and creativity. Personally, I knew from the start that I wanted my own company and did not have any interest in working for others.

/ all photos, except the head one, are from the S/S 2014 ad campaign /

From the beginning your design is influenced by traveling, geometric shapes and draping. How would you describe your aesthetic as a designer?
- Quite straightforwardly: I embrace subtle contrasted fabrics, textures and clean lines combined with unexpected shapes or drapery.

Your clothes are described as dual, by meaning that the same dress or any other garment it is possible to wear it from day to night (by changing the styling of course). Is this a thing you have always in mind while you are making, "building" a new collection?
- Indeed, I work very much with the idea that garments should be useful, I do not divide the collection in daywear and evening wear, but love the idea that people will wear them at any setting because they feel comfortable and special in them. By duality, I also mean that some pieces have a dual functionality or can be altered to serve different purposes, for example exposing or covering up fragments of the body.

Your eponymous brand is a total womenswear. Is there any (future) plan to start menswear too? If yes, please tell me about it.
- There is not anything planned at this point, but I do get that question a lot and have often considered adding a menswear line as well. We will see where time leads me.

Could you please describe your work process (the process of building one collection)? And what is the best and the worst part of your work process? Do you have any person, muse that inspires you while making a collection? Is there any ritual?
- Foundations: I like to start fresh for every collection, by sketching, researching materials and so on.
In this process, I rarely re-use ideas from previous collection. My favorite part of working on a new collection is when I can turn off my phone and computer and just be creative. That is when I love my job the most! The first few weeks, when I begin a new collection, at times this can be challenging because it takes some time to decide which direction to go in. Once I have made such decisions, I can work all day and night.

In my work, I do not have a muse or specific inspirations that I can pinpoint. As mentioned, I work very much from my intuition and by experimenting with the fabrics and patterns. Next to this, my process is quite technical in the sense that I get a kick out of solving a complicated issue in regards to the patternmaking. I love the math behind the designs!

Are your garments are produced in Denmark. Could you describe what kind of materials and techniques you use while making a new garment, new collection? Do you re-elaborate (upgrade) materials? Do you collaborate with local artisans?
- Actually, I have production factories all over the world that I work extremely closely with. But all designs and construction and product development are done here in Denmark. Most of my fabrics come from amazing factories in Italy that I have worked with for many years. I work with natural materials like wool, silk and leather, but have recently been fascinated by new possibilities of incorporating tech materials.

Beside clothes, your collection includes bags each season. How is the process of making a new bag design? Is there any (future) plans to expand the accessories part by adding for example shoes or/and jewelry? If yes, please tell me about it.
- Not at the moment. I do add bags or belts regularly, to build or elaborate on the seasonal silhouette, but the studio does not have the capacity to go into too many other diffusions areas at the moment, exciting as they could be.

As I mentioned before, "Vibe Johansson" signature look is combination of geometric shapes and draping. Could you please describe it more? What makes your brand, aesthetic unique?
- According to me, my brand combines the best qualities from Scandinavian minimalism and the more deconstructed dark worlds of irreverent Japanese and Antwerp designers. Dark and gloomy meets clean and modern. In my work, I try to avoid clear references to the design aesthetics of past decades. I am very much interested in how aesthetics are going to evolve over the next few years, where technology gets more and more incorporated in garments and accessories and thus embodied in our identities.

Who you imagine is your customer? How much influence on your vision and on your work has your customer?
- My end costumer likely appreciates the garment for the quality and that they can identify with the aesthetics of Vibe Johansson, albeit I do not design for any specific demographic. I have clients of all ages from all walks of life, in the world, which I think is absolutely fantastic and what makes it all worth it.

Tell me about your last collection, the S/S 2014? What is the red line of the collection? Where is the inspiration point? Which material did you use? Tell me also about the construction side of the collection.
- The collection is based around a more streamlined, geometric theme, with less draping than usual, and more structure. This might have something to do with my fascination with neoprene – this fabric can be manipulated and morphed into amazing shapes. Thus, the construction parts of this collection have been quite challenging. Fabric wise, leather, silk and neoprene (Polyamide) have been the main ingredients. Nature meets tech.

What is next? And how you see your brand in future, like in ten years (2023)?
- I am building the company and label at a slow and steady pace. As I want to have a secure foundation, where the label can evolve creatively without encountering compromises. Therefore, I see myself doing this for many years to come.

/ All images by Daniel Stjerne, courtesy Marlo Saalmink /