When Jérémie Rozan and Aldric Speer founded Surface to Air in 2000, it broke the mold of a traditional fashion brand. Driven by concept and aesthetic, the goal was to have a creative company that could encompass fashion, art direction and film. The two put forward their savoire-faire attitude to do everything from curate contemporary art to throw underground parties.
Speer overlooks the fashion label, which like the rest of the company is grounded in fluidity and lifestyle rather than trends. The Parisian started his career in Japan where he worked for highly creative companies like Comme des Garcons and I-D.
While Speer has always been involved in Surface To Air as a founder, in 2007 he officially became creative director of the company's ready-to-wear line and helped launch the label into the global arena (the NYC flagship opened on Mercer St last year). Under his guidance, the label has become synonymous with a hip French vibe that's as modern as it is nonchalant. Speer has helped foster hugely successful collaborations, which he describes as working with friends. Those friends include diverse names ranging form Kid Cudi to Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon and even Leigh Lezark.
It’s no surprise that Surface to Air HQ is located in the heart of the Marais, where the team can readily soak up inspiration from the city's hippest and most creative residents. We were excited to chat with Speer to learn how his strong vision and laidback attitude play into the collections, and of course what he’s cooking up next.
Tell us about your background, what was your relationship like with fashion growing up? I grew up skateboarding and listening to hip hop. Then I discovered girls and thought having good style wouldn't hurt...
What were you doing prior to starting with Surface to Air? I was the creative director for a Japanese group and for another one in Hong Kong. I was overlooking the store concept, buyings and collaborations. How did you get involved with Surface to Air? Jérémie and I met through mutual friends. We became partners and decided to set up a company where we could live from what we wanted to do. We wanted to create our future on our own terms.
What is the ethos of Surface to Air clothing? Quality and creativity. Do whatever you want, don't look next to you, and have a positive attitude.
How does the clothing fit in with the rest of the Surface to Air brand philosophy? Fashion is the key element, it's absolutely central to all our activities. We're opening more and more shops across the globe, and we're constantly developing collaborative projects. Fashion is also a link between our various departments. For instance, Surface to Air Films will produce films every season to present the collections, while Surface to Air Studio will develop prints for the collections, carrier bags for the shops etc. And everyone at work is wearing Surface to Air head to toe!
What were some of the early challenges with the label? There were so many challenges. Creating a company from scratch involves many risks--financial, relational. Especially when Surface to Air is not just a ready-to-wear label, but also a creative studio, a communication agency, and we also make videos. People seemed to be confused when they came across Surface to Air as it's not a regular structure. But we did all the mistakes we could, so now I think we're good. Basically running a big scale company and having so many actors interfering can be tricky sometimes.
How does the French DNA play into the label? We're based in the heart of Paris in one of the most happening area. A lot of our clothes are very French, but we also like to throw in some American sportswear or British tailoring in the mix too.
The footwear is especially popular, how has it developed? Why do you think it does so well? We had help from a friend of mine in the beginning, who taught us how to make shoes and introduced us to the right partners. I believe we offer a range that is recognizable, modern and sexy, and on top of that we do our best to make the shoes comfortable too.
Where do you draw inspiration for new collections? Friends, co-workers, passer-bys mostly. A particular theme will lead us in one direction.
Who are your muses? What men and women inspire you? At the moment, Joséphine de la Baume and Dave 1 from Chromeo.
Do you follow the fashion world closely? Who are your favorite designers? Not really. I like to use passionate people and historical brands as inspiration. There are a lot of designers that I admire, but none in particular I really refer to.
S2A is known for collaborations and creative projects, tell me about how you approach these? Nowadays people tend to approach us! Our motto is to only work with "friends" of S2A, people we admire and who we want to create something rare and original, so it makes sense and not just for the sake of collaborating with someone famous. We exchange a lot of ideas but artists tend to have the last word. The process is fulfilling, enriching. The idea is to provide our savoir-faire, confront the artist's vision and offer something unique.
Who would you love to collaborate with? Barbara Krugger.
What can we expect from Surface to Air in the next few months? New collections, exciting collaborations, new stores and films. Always more.