It would be quite limiting to label Hampus Bernhoff only as a Fashion Designer. Armed with a Business Degree from Stockholm University and Bachelor and Masters Degrees in Fashion from Central St. Martins in London, Hampus has worked internationally and in many different aspects of Fashion, Design, Accessories and Photography. An all round artist who is not afraid of experimenting with different materials, and challenging aesthetics.
Last week saw the exciting launch of his Spring 2016 Collection for French Contemporary Brand Each x Other together with his husband and creative partner Chary Westberg. Each x Other is a company that fuses Art into Fashion, with collaborations from Artists, Designers and Craftsmen. From Acne in Stockholm, to Kelly Wearstler in Los Angeles, to the latest collection in Paris, I am excited to see what Hampus will be doing next.
Your first degree was in Economics and Marketing. How did the journey to Design School begin?
When I finished my studies in Economics & Marketing I felt no excitement to start working. I knew I wanted to do something more creative, however, I had no means to express it and felt completely lost. I spent a couple of months drawing and photographing and applied to various art schools in London. I was accepted into Chelsea College of Art & Design where I did a Foundation Course in Art. The first day was horrible, we were sent out to a park to draw what inspired us. All the other students drew really nice things and in my panic I drew 3 crows in charcoal like a 5 year old. The same day I had my first life drawing session and I managed really well with a drawing of an old lady that I now have framed on my wall as a reminder of where it all started. It got a lot better, I got to try many different disciplines, Sculpture, Graphics, Textiles, Painting etc. I quickly felt a connection to Fashion and Textiles and felt encouraged to apply to the BA in Fashion Design Womenswear at Central Saint Martins. Thankfully I got accepted and I spent 6 years there doing both a Bachelor and a Masters degree in Fashion Design. It was really an amazing time and I feel I owe everything I know to that experience and the people I met there.
Who were your fashion idols when you were growing up?
I didn’t really have any. To be perfectly honest I didn’t really pay much attention to fashion when I grew up. Looking back, I always knew I was more of a visual person, I did flick through my mothers fashion magazines but I think I never dared to think that I could pursue a career as a Fashion Designer. In Sweden there is a set formula of what skills you need to have to be in the artistic profession. I ticked none of those boxes but in London it was different, I think the fact that I didn’t really have those skills forced me to develop an alternative way of making myself heard.
But growing up I would say I was exposed to the norms of ”good taste” which really has shaped my style of design because it has given me a platform and an urge to challenge them. Miucca Prada is really the designer I respect the most because I feel whenever I see her work it is never an immediate appreciation, it has to brew for a while until I can understand it or fully appreciate it. I always feel challenged or unsure about her designs and it makes me question what I like and dislike, and I like that about her.
What was your very first design?
Not sure what it was exactly, but I do know it was horrible. I went through a lot of really bad ideas in the early days, and still do, but it is all part of the process. My first real fashion outfit that I made in College was inspired by Architecture and I remember the critique didn’t really go very well. My first design that I was happy with was a dress made out of two oversized mens shirts that I combined together and tied the sleeves into giant bows on the front and the back of the dress.
What was it like working for an uber cool fashion brand like Acne?
Apart from Saint Martins it was the best learning experience that I have ever had. It was my first real job straight out of College and at the time the design team was really small so I was given a lot of responsibility quite early on. I had an amazing journey there through every product category and to experience a broad spectrum of design, very useful in the way that I currently work. There are so many disciplines within fashion design ranging from shoe design, accessories, knitwear, denim, outerwear and leather and when building a collection it really helps if you have in depth knowledge in all categories. It was also really interesting being a part of their success and massive growth and although it was a lot of hard work, I got to travel to amazing places and meet really interesting and talented people.
How did you end up going from the Fashion World to the World of Interior Design with Kelly Wearstler in Los Angeles?
After my stint at Acne I started consulting for different brands around the world, one of them being Kelly Wearstler in Los Angeles. She was really struggling with her fashion line and I worked with her on improvements she needed to make in order for it to be a viable business. In the end, her business took off in a different direction, mainly within interiors so she made me the Creative Director for her company and I worked with her on everything from Jewellery, Furniture, Accessories, Wallpaper, Rugs, Branding and Commercial Interiors for Hotels. Mostly I had a craving for the Californian lifestyle and I think Kelly was more a vehicle for me to experience that, but in the end I missed working with clothes and went back to fashion.
What do you think is the most challenging aspect a Designer faces today?
There are many challenges but the one that I am facing right now is time. The fashion cycle is very quick and you have to be on the edge of your seat at all times, make quick decisions, be able to be in constant conversation with the market and balance that with creative solutions that feel fresh.
How do you go about starting to work on a new collection? Where do you find the inspiration from and what are the stages before the final product is in hand?
The process is a very organic one. and that’s what I enjoy the most with my work. Inspiration comes from everywhere, mostly imagery from books/magazines/art and this translates into clothes through sketching. In short: Simultaneously you pick your fabrics, colours, prints and textures… look at finishings and applications and build your collection from there. Sketch,make toiles, generally have a couple of fittings for each garment, communicate with the factories, travel, see prototypes, change, fit again, change, add some styles, cancel some styles, look at finishings etc… until the final prototype is made and you start styling, casting models, prepare the show .
The fashion world is extremely fast paced and fickle, is there a pressure on fashion houses to reinvent and offer something new and exciting all the time? How do designers cope with this?
I think today everyone is referencing everyone to a certain extent, and it is more about finding your own voice and balance with new ideas that feel fresh and interesting. The market is very saturated and the business part of it has really taken a front seat. Of course it is amazing if the sales are good but it is sometimes to the cost of the creative expression.
Your career has been an extremely versatile one, is there anything that you haven’t done yet that you would like to explore?
I am really into photography and that is something that I would love to explore further. I have an obsession with wrapped objects that I have studied through photography through my travels. I also really enjoy making textile prints and it is something I wish I could develop more.
What are you working with at the moment and what plans do you have for the future?
At the moment I am working together with my husband, Chary Westberg, as Creative Consultants for different brands around the world through our company Champary. We have just finished the first stand alone Menswear collection for a brand called Each X Other in Paris together with their womens Pre collection. Now we are continuing designing their defilé Spring Summer Main collection that will be shown at Paris Fashion week in September/October. We are simultaneously working with smaller companies in Europe and have a few new interesting collaborations in the pipeline. Slowly we are moving into our own product categories as well but these are still at the very early stages.