Monta Apsane & Ieva Laube are the two creative souls that will spice up your summer with amazing swimwear and lingerie. Their design brand Collar is youthful, edgy and hot. Its patterns are mixed with minimal yet very sexy cuts and they make all their products based on slow fashion values. No wonder that we clicked instantly when we first met in April – inspiring women coming together, sharing same values and love for good design.
So, dear friends, let us introduce you to Collar, to its creators Monta and Ieva and to their SS18 swimwear collection.
But not only, let us introduce you to the brand that believes in women, unconventional beauty and encourages all the ladies out there to love themselves just as they are – women are beautiful and powerful creatures.
So, let’s start from the beginning. Please tell us more about yourself? Who are you two and what inspires you?
MONTA: I am a designer and together with Ieva we are leading the Latvian swimwear and lingerie label called ‘Collar’. This spring I graduated Art Academy of Latvia so from now on I will only focus on swimwear and lingerie design. (laughs) As long as I know Ieva both of us have been interested in many things, we are always eager to learn new things and explore so that is what inspires us I think and that is what we are doing right now with Collar.
IEVA: I’m trained as a journalist and have been mostly working in design and creative industries journalism and copywriting. All the time my great interest has been storytelling no matter the form or medium and that is what I do also at Collar – brand communication and management.
The most inspiring thing for me is that fine moment of realization that it’s in my own power to create meaningful things, carry out beautiful ideas with my teammates and do something that I have never done before.
You both are two key figures of Collar. What was the inspiration for starting the brand?
MONTA: While studying conceptual art at the Visual Communication department of Art Academy of Latvia, the professor gave us a task to choose an object and try to define it in a different way and give that object completely different functions that it normally does. I think this was a moment when I started to see things differently, somehow the task was so right and I was enjoying it a lot. And somewhere there in-between I started to think about swimwear and the design field.
IEVA: I joined Monta a little bit later in the run, when she had already made some of the first designs, so we started doing these self-initiated photo shoots. I don’t really remember how we started all this because we didn’t have an “official” agreement that we would start working together, it just happened. We were best friends for a long time and decided to do this project to intertwine our daily lives together. I think the inspiration behind all this was that it could give an outlet to our creative being and we could realize something by ourselves that is meaningful to others as well.
What keeps us moving is that we see how our work and designs provide an alternative view and a healthier understanding to what is the human body, beauty and how women are viewed.
We want to change the standards and how women see themselves, and we can do it because we have true and remarkable examples of these women around us.
From changing standards to idea collecting, from where do you get your inspiration?
MONTA: I have some periods that I am obsessed with some artist, it could be a musician, film director, an actor, doesn’t matter. And then I am going through his/her biography. Right now for some time it is the Canadian sculptor David Altmejd. But for example a year ago or so there was a period with painter David Hockney and actually the new collection is inspired by his wonderfully colourful works and water patterns. It was such a huge coincidence that this spring a retrospective of his works opened at Tate Modern in London, and we totally didn’t plan that but the new collection is based on his creative and artistic manner.
Woman-power or human-power?
MONTA: Human power
IEVA: Human poweeer!
No matter the gender or stereotypes we all may have about the opposite sex, we truly believe in the great potential of man/womankind!
People should only be judged by their actions, work and how they fulfill their potential and abilities for the sake of a better future for all.
Collar is not only about making quality design, but the meaning behind it is more deeper – celebrating differences and encouraging women to love themselves as they are. Please tell us more about the philosophy and why it is important to you?
IEVA: At some point in our short history of working in fashion we really got bored with the standards the industry puts on women and how they should look, always just showing certain body types or particular faces that are in line with this season’s trends. It’s actually both ironic and quite depressive. So we wanted to change all that because it’s actually in our power to do so. We really appreciate uniqueness and individually that is in every human being, we praise the strength of a character and empathy, and above that a truthful personality. We see these characteristics in the women around us but we also see that they usually don’t give themselves credit or forget to appreciate themselves from time to time, so we want to actualize being in harmony with your own true self, encourage self-love and appreciation of others by appreciating and valuing yourself first.
The word ‘collar’ means a piece of clothing tied near neck. What’s the story behind the name?
MONTA: It comes from the first idea and first designs because we were making swimwear pieces with collars. But after a time it kind of felt that it doesn’t fit in with the design direction we wanted to go for, but we wanted to keep the name because it was something unlikely for a swimwear label. And now it feels that it goes very well together with the covert, concealed sexuality that we’re aiming for. Maybe it will come back as a design element, who knows.
In Estonia we have summer for basically 2 months, if we’re lucky then maybe even 3. Why did you choose swimwear nor everyday lingerie or something else that could be used all year long?
MONTA: The label started as an uncommercial idea not as a business, more like an art project. That’s why our intention wasn’t to sell things but to realize our creative endeavours, focus on form and aesthetics, explore what we saw an untapped resource. Now, when we are moving into business we want to broaden our production and offer for clients, that’s why with the current collection ‘Athirst’ we launched a lingerie line and plan to broaden the label also with accessories in the upcoming collections.
I just love your patterns and stylish yet unconventional cuts. Monta, please tell us more about the birth and creating process of Collar’s patterns?
Usually I get inspired by the work of some artist, the colours or shapes and then I interpret the subject in my own way.
As I mentioned before, for this collection I drew inspiration from the works of David Hockney, his painted water patterns and glimmering lights, brightness of colours. I’m really passionate about creating prints, I find some sort of meditation or relaxation in this process. It’s a creative process in which I can truly express myself. We introduced prints with the SS 17 collection ‘Athirst’ and before that we mostly worked with form and searching for the best cutting, so when that was developed, we started going further.
There aren’t too many men swimwear brands either. Have you thought about making a line for men?
MONTA: Yes, we have thought about it but for now we are concentrating on the woman, her body, understanding her needs and small details that can affect the design. We think that this is such a wide and diverse segment to explore so that we’ll be sticking with it for some time. But never say never, right?
So, you will launch the new SS 18 collection next January, please tell us more the inspiration behind it?
The new SS 18 collection ‘Illuminate’ is inspired by David Hockney’s lucid waterscapes, the glimmering reflections of light and their patterns.
It is a reflection of his strikingly expressive painting manner and fearless play with colour.
Exploring light throughout its daily cycle, swimwear designs have adapted prints, created after the impressions of a particular time of day – sunrise, zenith of the Sun, sunset and moonlight. While lingerie pieces have borrowed the colour mood of haze and wavering vapour atop the water’s surface.
How does it differ from your last collections like ‘Captured’, ‘Grown’, ‘Athirst’ ?
IEVA: These collection’s pieces feature clean and ascetic forms that have been characteristic to Collar throughout the times but now they will have gutty, colourful prints. And the cut introduces a novel addition to Collar designs – laces that can be tied both classically and alternatively thus deconstructing the old and creating new silhouettes.
From the near future to the long term future – where do you see Collar in the near years?
MONTA: For the near future we plan to take part at trade-shows and showrooms to meet new buyers and get to know amazing stores where to place our products therefore getting our name out in the world, because as you said the season here is just 3 months long but there’s sunshine and beaches anywhere else in the world!
IEVA: As well as continue breaking the stereotypes and do the things our own way, present the collections at self-initiated events, exhibitions, shows and performances, collaborate with professionals and inspiring personalities of other fields. Broaden our field of expertise of swimwear to accessories and possibly clothing. And for the long term goal – open Collar stores in the world while not giving in to massive production and overproduction, help women acknowledge their unique being and enjoy how the Collar life unfolds.
What are the design brands that you yourself follow and love?
IEVA: We very much enjoy the work, idea and aesthetics behind Latvian designers ‘Mareunrol’s’ and ‘Elina Dobele’, Knobbly Studio and Closer by WWake jewellery brands, ‘Henrik Vibskov’, ‘Please Paris’ and Walter Van Beirendonck among others.
MONTA: I would also suggest the ‘Lisa Says Gah’ online store where you can spot many interesting and beautiful things!
Interview/creative idea/model: Kaisa Tooming
Photographer: Oliver Vaagen Photography
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