Sander Lak Closes a Chapter With 'The Colors of Sies Marjan'

Sander Lak Closes a Chapter With 'The Colors of Sies Marjan'

In 2019, the headline for a fashion show recap I wrote read "No One Is Playing With Color Better Than Sies Marjan Right Now."

And it was true at the time. Other than maybe Pierpaolo Piccioli at Valentino, there weren't many designers whose world was so synonymous with rich, decadent colors and the emotions they stirred. Sander Lak's saturated jewel tones and lavish fabrics were as evocative as they were refreshing, especially in New York where his shows were held and where he brought his cool Dutch sensibility.

It's fitting, then, that Lak's new book — his first project since shuttering his cult-favorite label in 2020 due to the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic — is organized not chronologically or by seasons but by color. "The Colors of Sies Marjan," out November 15 and published by Rizzoli, uses the color spectrum to trace the Sies Marjan journey from its founding in 2016 through a range of previously unpublished drawings, looks from iconic runway shows and campaigns.

"I needed to give Sies Marjan the closure it never had," says Lak over the phone from his home in upstate New York. Indeed, for many fans of his label, the book will feel like a walk down memory lane. There's also interviews and reactions from names like Rem Koolhaas, Hanya Yanagihara and Isabella Rossellini. Below, Lak shares more about the book's origins, revisiting his journey and what he'll be up to next.

It's been a while since we heard from you! Congrats on the new book. How did it come about?

We closed the company in September of 2020. I moved to Los Angeles for a bit and I kind of stopped working. The world was on fire, the pandemic was raging on and I was just like “I’m going to take a break." But then eight months later I felt like I was ready to move on and jump back on the horse again. I put some feelers out but I realized that nothing felt right. I felt like I didn't close that chapter of Sies Marjan properly.

It’s kind of like when you break up with someone after a long relationship and then you start dating again. You need to be in the right head space to actually be open to date again, and that’s what I realized with my career. So I realized I needed to do something and that something was this book, to celebrate what the brand was but also to give it a closure that I needed and everyone who worked for the brand and all its many fans really need too.

What was the experience like revisiting all the work you’ve done?

I was surprised. It was like five years of work, but five years of work in modern times is like five hundred-billion-thousand images and content. I didn’t even realize how much you really produce, the amount of images, including every single fitting image we did, to every single campaign, to backstage images, to product pictures ... and all of it is digital. Initially it was quite painful, but very quickly I realized it was very therapeutic as well. I had enough distance from it to really be able to see what I could use and what made sense. It was not a long process, but it was a very intense process. I did it by color, which made it easier for me to select images and have a rule book to follow by.

How did the whole color thing first happen with your brand?

It happened very organically because its something that I take for granted. It's a skill I just have that doesn’t cost me any energy. When we created Sies Marjan, it wasn’t like from day one we were like, "Okay we are going to do a brand about color because that doesn’t really exist," it just happened to morph in that way. Because my mind and my eyes already work in that direction, it will always be part of my own experience of how I see the world. But once we really started to double down on the idea of color being the identity of Sies Marjan, there was a lot more stuff I was doing to feed into that.

There was a party thrown for you and your book during Paris Fashion Week. What was it like to celebrate amongst industry folks again?

It was really fun but also really scary. I had taken some time off to on the book, and as you know working in publishing, it's is a very lonely thing to do, because its just you and your publisher giving deadlines, and just all this work in front of me. But it was the first time that I went out and celebrated work that I've done, so it was really fun but it was also very intimidating and exposing as well to sort of show yourself. When you are doing fashion in the way that I used to do it pre-pandemic, you always have something to show, there’s always something next, you’re always working on five different things at the same time, so showing work is never that revealing or even that special, because its just part of your weekly, monthly calendar.

But taking a step back and coming out of the woods with a book, it's really exposing to have people come and look at something, especially with the book. It's funny because people will come to these events and sift through the book in the wrong order and I'm internally freaking out. And then they’re like, “Oh this is great!” and it's just so rushed, but you also have to just let it be, and let it have its moment. It was really really great to do it in Paris, where we only had one Sies Marjan show there, but we had a lot of fans and customers in Paris and Europe so it was really special.

What’s your head space like now post-book? Are you open to, as you said, “jump back on the horse”?

Yeah, I think it took the book, and the process of making the book, to get to that point. Before the book, even if I had moments where I felt that I was ready, I wasn’t ready, and that wouldn’t have been a healthy thing for me to do and also not the right thing creatively to do. I was still involved with Sies Marjan emotionally so I couldn’t really start a new one. Now I got the book in my hands, and that was really the first time I felt like I could look back on the experience with love and appreciation. I really am so proud, there’s no pain, there no misery, no nostalgia, It just feels like a really amazing chapter in my life, that I have now closed, with this book, and I'm ready for the next thing. That’s really the overarching, bigger picture, which is very personal and very related to myself. There are a few different options that I'm open for. I'm just at that point now where I'm ready to jump back on the horse again with something new.

Well I’m very excited to see you doing great and I know a lot of fans are. Sies Marjan forever!

The good news is now whatever pieces you have, or whatever pieces you can find on The Real Real, they’re all collectors items now, so that is kind of special. I have that relationship with Miu Miu menswear, you know, there are those kind of brands that no longer exist anymore, but you have this kind of obsessive search for it, and that’s kind of nice to know and have that “cult” status, and to have that happen to Sies Marjan already is a really special place to be in as well. Way better than completely being forgotten!

Photos courtesy of Rizzoli