The ingenious creative duo Vin + Omi are back this season, and with a transition we’ve all been waiting for… ready-to-wear.
Once again we prepare to attend one of the most popular shows during London Fashion Week, Vin + Omi. Eager to see what brilliant ideas lie behind their latest collection ‘WE ARE NOT SHEEP’, we caught up with Omi to talk about starting out, the creative process and words of advice.
Tell us how Vin + Omi all started?
We came together in 2004 and thought of inventing a fabric. So we invented a breathable latex fabric, it’s entirely organic and we made it so using vegetable dyes. We did this because we wanted to really support the plantations in Malaysia so we tried to make it sustainable. It all started off pretty much as a charity project.
Once we got a scholarship from NESTA, this opened up a huge window for us. The whole premise of the scholarship was research, which was great because they didn’t want to know about profitability, just the future of development. So we had a good time playing with fabrics and materials without selling because we didn’t need to.
Can you tell us more about your creative process as a duo?
We’ve been working together for 17 years, and so it’s a long time. We have our separate studios. So he’s not allowed in mine, I’m not allowed in his, which is great. We do have a communal area where we sit down and brainstorm.
So how do you put it all together?
We normally start with a cause. So this season we’re starting with the cause of Carbon Footprint and there is always a political message underneath it. So this season the show is called ‘WE ARE NOT SHEEP’. Vin came up with that idea, and we both said we should stop following others. People are just following, there are so many cookie cutters. So we went around with the idea of ‘WE ARE NOT SHEEP’ and then we started researching how we can use plastic and turn it into wool. So all the wool you will see in this collection is actually made from plastic bottles simulated into yarn.
Sounds awesome. On the few times you don’t agree, how do you compromise?
A lot of people say that we don’t have a signature silhouette or cut, so we normally go off and very weirdly we start off with the fabric, the colours, and the political message. I go and I draw my collection and Vin draws his collection and then we mesh it all up. It’s always the yin & yang because Vin is very alternative – for example – in his music taste and I, on the other hand, I’m very pop. He’s very organic; I’m very straight line. So when you look at the collection you can see which one is mine and which one is his.
This is the first season your collection will be ready-to-wear. How did this transition come about?
We had a meeting with the mayor’s office in London and they were talking about the BFC’s ‘Positive Fashion’; a new initiative. We then met with the head of communication at the BFC who was in charge of ‘Positive Fashion’ and she told us that there is a huge demand for Vin + Omi! We only had this meeting in December, and very quickly we had to change gear into ready-to-wear. So we’ll be at the showrooms at London Fashion Week, for the first time selling.
Will you continue to pioneer eco-textiles in your collections? And how will you do that in your first ready-to-wear collection?
Yes, are working with this organisation in New York called the River Keepers. River Keepers allow us to produce fabric from plastic they clean from the Hudson River, we then manufacture this material. We are now also developing chestnut as leather, so in this show, the leather is made out of the skin of chestnut, so it’s not real leather, but it smells like it. We add the smells and all that stuff to get it to feel like and perform like leather!
How important do you think a university degree is when wanting to pursue a career in Fashion?
It’s irrelevant. You’re better off getting an apprenticeship. I graduated as a photographer at St Martin’s and Vin was a sculptor. Once we got our scholarship from NESTA It pretty much became as if we were doing our PHD you know, just like when you’re researching and you’re testing out the market or people. Whilst doing all of this it allowed us to learn everything along the way.
I always say it’s like I’ve been in college for the last 17 years, learning everything about the industry, whilst on the job, It’s like it’s the longest internship programme ever.
What advice can you give our readers who want to pursue a career in such a competitive industry?
I think one of the things they should do is stop idolising a certain group of designers or people. What they need to do is sit down, learn the basics and learn how to run a business. That is so important, if you know how to run a business, everything will fall into place. I would also say tenacity and hard work; real hard work. The minute you show that you are working hard, doors will open for you left, right and centre.
VIN+OMI will be showcasing their ready-to-wear collection at LFW this Thursday 15th February.
Words by Flaka Dula