Johan Lindeberg Talks BLK DNM, Justin Timberlake, and the Beatles

blk dnm Fall 2011 RTW

Photos courtesy of BLK DNM

Looks from the BLK DNM Fall 2011 collection.

Johan Lindeberg’s been doing denim for over 20 years. The Swedish designer’s impressive résumé boasts stints as the CEO of Diesel, creator of J. Lindeberg, creative director of William Rast, and founder of Paris86. Now Lindeberg’s got another venture on the table, which he hopes is going to change fashion as we know it.

BLK DNM (pronounced “Black Denim”) is a whole new retail concept for a clothing line; that is to say, it cuts out the retail part altogether. BLK DNM will only be available online and in its own stand-alone shops, allowing Lindeberg to sell his wares at wholesale prices (after New York’s Galleri store and studio space, the company will expand to Los Angeles and London next year).

The début is small—eight looks for women, another eight for men—and seasonless: Lindeberg’s other big idea is that his pieces should be available immediately, rather than six months after their initial viewing.

To introduce his first collection, Lindeberg collaborated with director Martin de Thurah for a short film in which a beautiful couple traipses the city and the woods in BLK DNM’s classic moto jackets, jeans, blazers, and a certain black maxi skirt that will have hipsters clamoring.

While partygoers like Charlotte Ronson and Tara Subkoff took in the film at the February 15 launch party, FashionEtc caught up with Lindeberg to talk retail woes, Justin Timberlake, and why BLK DNM is like the Beatles.

You’re bypassing the retail step with BLK DNM—why?

I didn’t feel like adapting to stores. I wanted to be free to do what I wanted to do. It’s a good time right now to use online and e-commerce as a vehicle to reach your consumers. I also realized I can give them a 30 percent better price because I don’t have to sell to retailers. We’ll do our own stores. I’ve been working with brands all my life, so I thought that if I’m starting a new brand, I want it to be different.

What’s the problem with retail?

There are too many boring stores selling the same thing. There are certain stores like Colette and Opening Ceremony and Maxfield in L.A. that really create beautiful environments and inspire people. I think that’s good that I’m going straight to the consumer—it puts a real pressure on stores to make an effort.

Do you think the future of retail is online?

I think it’s online and in beautiful environments—places where it’s inspiring to buy. But stores where they’re just selling commodities—it will be very hard for them to survive.

Tell us about the collection.

It’s very simple. I don’t do “collections,” really, I just try to do great products. When I launch today, I’m launching actual products, which is unique, I think. This isn’t a collection for Fall—it’s immediately online. It’s inspired by me, by things I like for me. And then on the women’s side, I like women who can pull off a leather jacket and have a great attitude. I have a lot of great women around me, so I’m used to using them as muses! I just do things I like.

Are you glad to be designing for yourself, instead of Diesel or William Rast?

Yes. It’s just easier. You use your own intuition. I’ve learned over the years that you just have to use your intuition and not listen to anyone.

Was that ever a problem when you were working for other people?

No, no. I can do that as well, especially if you have an inspirational person like Justin [Timberlake]. But I was trying to interpret his style, and it’s always easier to interpret your own style.

Speaking of Justin: I hear you introduced your 10-year-old daughter to him.

Yes, she’s been out hiking with Jessica [Biel] and Justin.

What’s the future of BLK DNM?

I think it could be a big brand but still with integrity. I like what the Beatles did—it’s broad music but with good integrity. John Lennon’s way is a good way to do it! One day at a time, and we’ll see what happens. But I definitely want to trade an international brand.

So BLK DNM is like the Beatles?

The Beatles were obviously a unique phenomenon, and we’re in a different era today. But if I can inspire people to add this new dimension, I’m happy to spearhead this. It’s a time when things are changing. The market is changing. It happened in music, and I think it needs to happen in clothes.