INTERVIEW: AUSTON BJÖRKMAN OF SIR NEW YORK

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Photograph by Amos Mac.

Sir New York – designer Auston Björkman’s unisex clothing line – is currently one of the most coveted brands in the wake of the recent marriage between high-end fashion and streetwear. While most of our Sir SS13 stock sold out almost as soon as we got it in, we were able to steal a few moments with Mr. Björkman to discuss his environmental influences, hand-me downs from his older siblings, and Kurt Cobain’s unexpected connection to Trap music. Check out our interview with Auston Björkman below:

OAK: You studied design both in New York and Northern California. How do each of these environments inform your work?
AUSTON BJÖRKMAN: There is definitely a different vibe in SF. It’s much more relaxed, and you can settle in and figure yourself out while you work on your art or craft. There is also a much bigger influence from vintage and DIY street style going on there too, which very much influenced my earliest work. In New York the pace is so much faster it really pushes you to challenge yourself constantly on so many levels. The intense summer heat and freezing winters have also informed my way of designing. I think about comfort, ease and breathability. I try to inject a low-key swag into the line. When you’re in New York you know that everyone is hustling and stressing about something but you never want to look or feel like you are projecting that vibe.

OAK: So to sum it up, the parts of New York that are integral to your brand and design process are…
AB: That grind, that hustle, the grit, the diversity. It’s all fuel.

OAK: What connection if any do you still feel to the West Coast?
AB: Some of my best friends still live there and I still feel very connected to that chill life.

OAK: With so many design houses setting up camp out there these days (Band of Outsiders, Saint Laurent etc.) do you ever see yourself re-locating?
AB: I don’t know if I ever see myself back there. I would probably go to Berlin, London or Paris. But you never know.

Picture 1Sir New York ‘Diamond’ tank.

OAK: Oftentimes we feel nostalgic for an era or decade that we never fully experienced firsthand (eg: being born in the 70s or 80s, yet still being too young at the time to actively participate in the decade’s culture or societal movements). What era or decade would you like to visit or re-visit as your current self, and why?
AB: The 80’s no doubt! All of my brothers and my sister are a lot older than me so I got a good feel of the 80’s music and fashion. Gender was out there [in the 80’s] too, [and] even the most macho guys put on tights and lipstick, and teased their hair way up high. It’s hilarious. But that rebelliousness and creativity have always captured me. Oh, and Micheal Jackson. He changed the music fashion game for eternity.

OAK: What about the present era do you most appreciate?
AB: Trap music — hip-hop slowed down to trippy dream space. It’s got my whole flow down to a T. It still holds all the ambition of “making it” but with an “I don’t really give a fuck attitude.” It’s like Kurt Cobain if he were a young urbanite on the come up today.

OAK: Who did you idolize growing up, and what about that person or people caught your attention?
AB: To be embarrassingly honest, Michael Jackson – I was mesmerized by him as a kid. I thought he was a misunderstood genius transgendered alien and I loved it.

OAK: Who do you idolize now?
AB: I need a new idol.

Picture 2Sir New York ‘Diamond’ tank.

OAK: Who would you most want to see wearing Sir?
AB: Well, weirdly enough it’s all happening the way I imagined [it would] for the brand. I want it to be really innovative but relatable at the same time. My goal was for it to have crossover appeal. I wanted rap stars and club kid night creatures to embrace it, and they have. From Whiz Kalifa and French Montana in their latest videos, to Detox from RuPaul’s Drag Race, all [these different types of people have] been spotted wearing it, and posting “selfies” on Instagram.

OAK: The balance of athleticism and provocative nature in your work reflects the juxtaposition of masculinity and sexuality of athletes and their uniforms. Can you comment more about the inspiration behind this balance?
AB: That’s it exactly. I wanted to capture that essence in a high-end fashion line. I got my start making fetish wear like latex and leather bondage suits and kinky clothing. I knew that wasn’t my aesthetic, but I wanted to convey that sexual confidence in a more stripped down raw masculinity. By that I don’t mean macho, I mean a willingness to show all sides of what masculinity can mean. In both s&m and in sports there is a play on power [and] on dominance and submission, both of which are equally sexy. That is what I try to convey.

OAK: What, in your opinion, makes someone macho or masculine?
AB: Macho is hyper masculine. Macho people usually shun any side of themselves that might be deemed feminine in any way. It’s almost overcompensation. Masculinity is so complicated and honestly a social construct. The definition changes with each decade. It used to be considered masculine to wear a powdered wig and tights. So what is masculinity anyway?

OAK: Were you ever an athlete yourself?
AB: Haha, I was a tiny jock. I had so much energy [that] all I ever wanted to do was to be outside playing. I mentioned earlier that I have older siblings that were very fashionable. When I finally got out of my sport clothes and interested in fashion I used to borrow from my brother Arnt’s wardrobe. Something he once said [that still] sticks with me was “Interesting…You still have a sporty twist.” Years later, here I am: a designer with an “athletic street-goth” line.

OAK: What are you currently listening to?
AB: A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg and Kid Cudi are on rotation. My boi [sic] Stellios Phili is killing it with his original beats, and DJ’s Mess Kid, Ryan Cannibal and Meloxtra are also keeping me alive.

OAK: What can you tell us about the future of Sir New York?
AB: It’s about to get very technical. 3D and futuristic, yet cozy. I can say that Spring/Summer 2014 is all about #futuresurf.

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