These shades throw light on the meaning of ‘future’

CMMN SWDN and Ace & Tate team up for a supersonic second collection.


When spring rolls onto the scene, you know it’s time to find your favourite sunglasses. And whether you rather wear your shades by day or at night, eyewear is the ultimate opportunity to solidify a personal fashion statement. Well, in comes the supersonic second collection by CMMN SWDN for Ace & Tate, which was first shown on the London Fashion Week runway last autumn and officially launched last week in CMMN’s intimate studio. Glamcult was on site to speak with charismatic designer duo Emma Hedlund and Saif Bakir—who met while studying at Central Saint Martins and the London College of Fashion, respectively, and previously worked for Wooyoungmi and Kanye West—discussing ’90s culture, contrasts and dressing with attitude. “When you think you know, you have no idea.”

First of all, congrats on the great new collection! After showing it on the runway last autumn, does it feel like you’re reintroducing the glasses today?

Emma: Yeah, it’s been over a year since we actually designed the glasses. It’s always exciting when you launch something because you tend to drain a project when you work on it. When you’re almost at the end, you want to move on and do something new. But when you actually launch it, you start seeing it from a different view.

Saif: You fall in love with it all over again—it’s like meeting an old ex years later… [Laughs]

Let’s go back to the previous collection for Ace & Tate, which contained my favourite festival shades. How did you go from that collection to this one?

Saif: That’s what they were designed for! This new collection is really an extension of the first season. Season one was all about this retro-futuristic idea, and we were inspired by movies like Blade Runner and The Matrix. The movies we grew up with that portrayed the future. I remember seeing The Matrix when it first came out in… 1999? It was weird because it was so advanced. It had such an impact on us when it came out, and the same thing goes for Blade Runner. For us it was about designing an idea of the future, and now we’re living in that future. So, season two was all about looking at past ideas of the future and what that would look like today. Taking references from, obviously, postmodernism; they were designing objects they believed were so hypermodern—but when we look at them today they actually feel dated! At the time people thought this is what we’re going to look like in 2020. But our notion or idea of what is futuristic has completely changed.

Emma: We were both teenagers in the ’90s, so we brought this referencing back to our own views in both collections.

Did you design this eyewear collection to go with the CMMN garments for S/S19 or are they standalone pieces?

Emma: We wanted them to be a contrast. Our brand is very much about contrasting elements so it’s always soft versus hard, glossy versus matte, et cetera. The collection was very tactile and a lot of the garments were actually upcycled. We wanted the eyewear to really contrast that.

Saif: The glasses are quite sporty whereas the collection itself is a lot more tailored. That’s, again, that contrast.

Emma: It would be too obvious if you would put these glasses next to sportswear. Our intention was that someone like you would wear them, taking them out of the sports world and into fashion.

Saif: They’re not performance wear, they’re fashion items! We always love contrasting things; as soon as one of us goes one direction, the other pulls you the other way. Maybe it’s because we are two designers and there’s always that duality.

Emma: We come from very different cultures, different genders, different backgrounds…

Saif: Emma comes from womenswear originally, whereas I was educated in menswear.

Emma: I have my Scandi, more minimalist roots. And Saif is Arabic and bolder.

How did you arrive at the road cycling theme?

Saif: To be fair, it was homage to ’90s sports aesthetic and looking back at what we were wearing when we grew up. We pulled all these puzzle bits together.

Emma: A while ago suddenly all the glasses went very small, and we did that for season one. Season two is almost like a reaction against that.

Saif: Again, contrast!

Emma: You do a very slim, minimalist collection. And after that you want to go super bold and big.

But in a way they have a similar effect.

Saif: Absolutely, I think that’s because of the temples. We were looking at glasses from that era and they all were made out of plastic, they were moulded to be performance wear. So, we thought: how can we modernize these designs? That’s when the idea came up of making a completely metal frame with a bent shield lens. Everything is very technical; they are super light and you can remove the nose bridge. We’ve enhanced what could do back then so they are made for today.

When you design a pair of glasses—or even clothes—do you have a face or someone specific in mind? 

Saif: I think we sort of did, but indirectly. Not necessarily a person, but a persona or attitude you want to capture.

Emma: It’s someone who’s out there in the club life, someone who’s looking to stand out from the rest. It’s not so much about hiding behind the glasses; it’s about showing your personality.

So what exactly is the CMMN attitude?  

Saif: I knew you were going to say that! [Laughs]

Emma: That’s a tough question.

Saif: For us it’s always about a mix. Different attitudes, cultures and disciplines. When we started CMMN in Sweden we wanted to do something that was different. Fashion in Sweden was very monochrome; everything was a bit grey and all the menswear was quite uniformal. So we wanted to go against the grain. We named it CMMN as a tongue-in-cheek contradiction to what we were doing. I feel like that’s what we always have in mind when we’re designing. People hear “common” but then they see the clothes and they’re taken off guard. It think that’s what it’s all about… When you think you know, you have no idea.

Words by Leendert Sonnevelt

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