Founded in 2015 by Swann Amdéo and his ex-partner Steven Jacques, the birth of Swen instantly garnered attention. Designing clothes for men described as “modern nomads”, aka #swenmen, the designers stood out by merging Eastern and Western creative visions. And while mixing menswear from various cultures isn’t necessarily new—look at the streets of the world’s metropolises—there’s more to be felt here than merely a geographic blend; an intimate, almost sacred atmosphere prevails throughout Swen’s designs and imagery. Describing his collections as “reflections” or “studies”, on masculinity and friendship, for example, Amdéo takes his quest seriously—but also just wants to make quality menswear.
Glamcult teamed up with Ari Versluis to meet the unconventional maker and his dearest associates in the French capital. “I try to discover things other than Paris because Paris is really into Paris…” Shining a confronting spotlight on fashion’s Eurocentric side, Amdéo gets straight to the point of his practice. Inspired by Mediterranean menswear, his clothes bring together what he calls a “Oriental outfit” with a European cut and feel. In reality, Swen’s designs reflect more of Paris than that which “fashion” considers Parisian. Amdéo isn’t out to raise an ideological issue, however. “I feel very far from political questions; I just try to mix two very different things and it looks like this.” In the Swen philosophy, a body and its clothes shape each other equally. Pinning down his influences as religious—an easy mistake to make—would be incorrect. “The djellaba, for instance, is just an outfit from the city, made for a local climate. It’s not a religious thing at all…”
That being said, Amdéo does have to face prevalent prejudices. From regularly being labelled a “streetwear designer” for using black or Arab models, to people in the subway looking scared because of the way he dresses, the designer has seen it all. Yet he tries to keep a somewhat naïve attitude towards these stereotypes. “I like the idea and mood of Lost in Translation. When people wear my brand, that’s what they look like.”
If anything, Swen’s here to open up boxes and borders. When questioned about a possible homoerotic element in the work, Amdéo ponders: “Difficult question! You could be gay now and straight next year, we just don’t care.” He adds: “For me, it’s just not about categories. I think it’s important to detach; Swen isn’t something to be defined by sexuality, gender or religion. I just want people to think: ‘Can I enjoy it or not?’”
Surrounded by his loved ones—#swenmen in the broadest sense of the wor(l)d—Amdéo keeps his visor wide open. “Everybody can be an inspiration, ‘muse’ doesn’t seem like a current concept; the term seems obsolete, based on a single person. That’s selfish stuff. I find it important to connect, and to see how the lines go between a lot of people.” Working with real, caring people is crucial to the designer, who loves to see how they shape themselves through the way they dress. “How can you be you with clothes? That’s the game I play. ‘Swenmen’ is all about sharing and sweet love.”