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Jens Werner of J.Lindeberg Is Uniting The Brand Under One Creative Vision

J.Lindeberg’s Autumn/Winter ’18 collection unveils a new forward direction for the brand, taking its sport-fashion roots into the next chapter, by uniting all product categories for men and women—from fashion and active to ski and golf—under one creative direction. This also marks the first time J.Lindeberg shows as part of Copenhagen Fashion Week, presenting the first collection under the recently appointed Creative Director, Jens Werner. We had a chance to sit down for a chat with Werner last week in Copenhagen to get an insight of J.Lindberg’s new direction.

Let’s start with you telling us a bit about yourself and your former experiences within the fashion industry. How does that affect your role at J.Lindeberg—what do you bring with you?

I am self-taught as a designer. I made hundreds of dresses before I started my professional career as a designer. I was studying business, while learning design, pattern making and sewing on my own. Then I got an internship in design at Hugo Boss, and that was my first experience and chance to get a foot into the fashion industry.

After that, I interned at Y-3, which has always been one of my favorite brands, especially because of the close collaboration with Yohji Yamamoto and my interest in Japanese fashion. Y-3 is in the fashion group at adidas, where I was soon hired full-time, and where I stayed for over five years—working not only on Y-3 but also on various collaborations that adidas launched recently, like Rick Owens, Raf Simons, Tom Dixon, Juun J., kolor, Kanye West Yeezy, etcetera.

I learned a lot. Going to a workplace every day with 5,000 employees interested in performance sports, and with 30-50 in the fashion group. It’s interesting to be in that environment. There is a lot of freedom to explore, to find new ways of incorporating the heritage and innovation of adidas sport into fashion collections. If you ‘grow up’ in Y-3 as I did, you don’t really see the difference between “fashion” and “sport” in the traditional ways. It all blends, and is one. This is what I bring with me to J.Lindeberg. The mindset, in daily work, of bringing the design teams together. There is no longer a sport team and a fashion team, they are all working together.

After adidas, I moved to NY to help Tory Burch to launch her sports line called Tory Sport. I was hired as the Design Director to build up her athleisure line, ranging from golf, running, yoga, to tennis and lifestyle casual track suits etc. It was a great experience, to work for a known, NY-based fashion brand, but on a sort of “startup” line within it. Bringing in some of my sports background, to establish a sports collection that is also credible in functionality. With this and the various collaboration projects at adidas, I gained insights in how to build up collections, and carry out new projects and visions.

What brings you to J.Lindeberg? How is it as a brand, influencing your creative direction?

I knew of J.Lindeberg, and what it offered in sport and fashion, when they approached me in 2016. I was drawn to it. I saw a huge untapped potential. I’ve always worked in brands that combine fashion and sports. I was eager to hear more about their future plans, and connected early on with Johan Lindeberg, who had returned as a Creative Consultant.

I think any brand you work for has an influence on you, your creative direction, the way you work, think and design. There is a heritage and DNA to consider. But there is room for creative freedom. Especially as Creative Director, there needs to be a personal touch. The show in Copenhagen for AW18 was the first big step to illustrate the new forward look and direction that I see for the brand.

Explain how you’re combining the different concepts (golf, ski, active and fashion) of J.Lindeberg into one complete lifestyle.

The collections are now designed together. There are themes and elements carried across each collection, and the products are more easily mixed and matched than ever before. The golf or ski product that we show should speak to the same man or woman that buys our fashion clothes. The wardrobe we offer covers a full lifestyle, someone who is modern, active, traveling, working, working out, running errands. Not everyone will play golf, and not everyone is skiing, but the aim is that our sports products are also interesting for “off course” and “off-piste.” A “golf sweater” worn as golf, or as fashion. Ski jackets that are not too technical looking are also perfect to use on top of a suit, or sweater, with jeans. Polo shirts worn with tailored trousers, jeans, or a skirt.

The look of the brand going forward is about this bridge of sports and fashion products, which is almost a material clash of textures, shiny, silky, wool, matte, hairy mohair, cashmere, nylon, cotton and polyester. It is a mix that we used to be known for, in the early days when Johan Lindeberg started the brand with Golf and Fashion. Today, it isn’t about labels, it doesn’t really matter what is fashion and what is sport. The sneaker trend isn’t a trend, it is a stable reality that comfortable shoes are styled with dresses, suits, denim and sweat pants. The mix is coming more and more obvious, and with our AW18 show, we made a clear statement of how we see JL heritage of sharp suiting and mens heel boots combined with sports polos, sweaters, and ski jackets.

What is the inspiration behind your AW18 collection? What is the core reference you were working with/from?

Key inspiration for this AW18 collection was the brand’s lifestyle. In particular, I took references and styling ideas from Ski. Some are more obvious, some less, but the idea was to portray a lifestyle skier, and place it into a fashion context.

You can see high-waisted, pleated long trousers, in heavy wool, pretty thick fabrics, referencing those 50s Ski pants, with a knit sweater, tucked into the pants. This was one main inspiration for silhouette, the skinny top, with volume trousers. In contrast to it, some looks play with the extreme volume on the top, and skinny on the bottoms. It’s more of a silhouette, especially in the big parkas and shell jackets, that reference a modern, big mountain, free ride skier outfit. Some others, are very tight, top to bottom, portraying the racing, sporty performance silhouette of an alpine racing skier.

These styling ideas were brought into everyday outfits, from the office tailoring, evening wear, to street looks, with denim, down parkas, running, biking and gym sets, all with a hint and reference to ski, and the attitude of a skier. The appearance of the collection should be breezy and effortless. It is inspired by “after ski” and the way one is getting ready for party or dinner, after spending the day in the slopes. The collection itself offers everything one needs, for travelling to the actual ski resort, in cashmere tracksuits, puffy down jackets, padded scarfs, for the time in the slopes, with padded ski jackets, down liners, mid layers, and chunky sweaters, and the evening wear, with dresses, fancy tuxedo suits, shirts and wool coats. This includes also a bathing suit, swim trunks, sliders, gym shorts and tops, running tights and bras, and hiking gear. The AW18 collection captures a perfect wardrobe for a winter vacation.

What is iconic for your AW18 J.Lindeberg collection?

Our Ski-inspired jumpers. We developed some sweaters that perfectly merge sports with fashion. Some blend luxury cashmere yarns with technical cooling fibers, that allow you to wear it as a mid-layer under your ski jacket, and also as a fashion sweater anytime. We also worked a lot with mixing crispy, nylon yarns with wool and cashmere, in order to get graphics really vibrant in their coloring. Besides the intarsia graphic sweaters, we also played with ski-competition inspired co-branding patches on some styles, showing off the branding in a very seasonal way.

Also Iconic for this season are our skinny kick trousers, which come as separates and with our tuxedo. They are pretty narrow in the knee, and then a bit wider in the opening. It’s based on one of our JL Archive pants ‘Bootsy’. Especially in women’s, our iconic piece of the season is the contrast panel, flare ski pant, which is high-waisted, has piping around the knee and is the perfect pant for skiing and any occasion after that.

Where do you work best?

Usually in a pretty calm, cozy place. Alone. When it comes to creative work. At home. I think too many influences around you can make you doubt your own ideas. I think I come up with the best ideas and concepts and designs, when I am just by myself, with a white paper, pencil and a regular Coca-Cola.

What inspires you outside of fashion?

There is so much I find inspiring. Technology, the electronics market, innovation. But mostly, I have always been very much interested in architecture. Buildings, cities, the construction of those, the differences in aesthetics, from home to home, building to building. And I think talks, conversations in general, are very inspiring. It can be about any topic, and you sometimes just get a different view on something you had made up your mind on. Modern art is something else that I love, especially when it takes things just into a different context, or it makes the observer see it differently. Communication and media in general has something inspiring, how it reaches all of us, in very short amount of time, how it connects, and also can destroy.

Who do you see as a role-model in the fashion industry?

I don’t have a particular brand or designer who is a role model for me, but I am inspired by brands that have a focus on sustainability in their staff, partners and suppliers. I think every company today has a responsibility to be aware and make an effort to avoid environmental damages wherever possible. And to be transparent about their processes, supply chain and their sustainability programs.

From a creative point of view, designers who consistently do what they believe in most, from day one, are role models to me. The likes of Yohji Yamamoto, Rick Owens, Rei Kawakubo, and Raf Simons, who navigate gently through industry, staying true to their own ideas.

What is creativity for you?

It is the ability to turn influences and ideas into something different and new. To find new solutions for problems or limitations. It is about thinking differently, and constantly questioning processes, habits and ideas. A way of expressing. And to be creative means you risk failure, and you risk people’s loyalty, for the potential of something new.

What direction do you see J.Lindeberg going in?

J.Lindeberg’s roots are in sport and fashion. Since day one, when Johan L. founded the brand, he offered Golf and Fashion products. Today, the two worlds of sport and fashion are merging and blending more than ever before. People mostly don’t see the difference; we all combine sport with fashion. We will focus a lot more on bridging those two concepts, and giving the end consumer a clear benefit and added value of doing so. We are using our performance know-how and credibility, that we gained over the past 10 years of developing Ski wear, now also more and more in our fashion outerwear. Making them more lasting and durable, lighter in weight, warmer, while keeping our fashion aesthetics. On the sports side, we use our fashion experience and in-house pattern makers, to differentiate from other sports brands, with a focus on the fit, the quality and functionality of our products, and combine our style with performance. Overall the forward direction is younger, progressive and daring, we are changing the way we are talking to our consumers, the way we present us, and the overall branding of our products and brand.

Images courtesy of Adam Katz Sinding

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