“It was always in the air that I was going to do my own brand, but I’ve always had too much work. This is my new canvas,” designer Christian Juul Nielsen revealed during a private preview of his first independent advanced contemporary line, Aknvas.
Over the years, the designer cut his teeth at Dior, Nina Ricci and Oscar de la Renta, paving the way for his more recent ventures as creative director of the rock-‘n’-roll, Seventies-inspired line Land of Distraction, and Hervé Léger. But last season Land of Distraction opted out of showing a new collection and is “sorting things out,” according to the designer. While his role there remains unclear, he took the opportunity of time (his ongoing contract with Hervé Léger being part-time) to start anew.
“Canvas in Danish is with a ‘k,’ and I love the word to begin with,” Nielsen explained. “A bright, new white base where we start again.” After researching social media handles and trying out several contrived spelling interactions, he thought, “Maybe I’ll just create a new word…because at this stage in 2019, you have to create a word to get your Instagram account and social media. The [web site] domain was $12…it was just that easy…Aknvas [pronounced ah-can-vas].”
Nielsen’s Danish influence of the name carries lightly through his collection; his aesthetic is a mix of mannish fabrics with clean lines and easy, appealing shapes. The designer’s inspiration “is in many ways about the girls I know and love…that I see working hard for their careers. Having jobs now where they need to be presentable, but want to be fashion and show personality, because that’s how they made it into their career.” Artistic women he’d seen growing up, or working hard at LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, whom he believes are looking for affordable options with the fashionably chic, “Celine woman” appeal. When designing his brand, Nielsen homed in on the question, “How can I actually create a price point that’s somewhat affordable — at an advanced contemporary price point — but [that is] treated like designer clothes?”
His result was a New York-based, 30-piece collection “for the modern woman.” While only five of said pieces were shown at the WWD preview, each encompassed Nielsen’s ideals of mixing men’s wear materials with shapes and colors tailored to flare femininity. “Everything’s emphasized around the shoulders and the waist,” he exclaimed, like a sharp, houndstooth trenchcoat and high-waisted trouser with slightly flared legs. A pale pink and eggshell pin-striped top with exposed darts, piping and hand-tacking at the waist could easily be tucked into said high-waisted pants, emphasizing while flattering the waist just so. “Lots of easy, clean little things,” Nielsen expressed of his details — exposed piping and darts — that ran seamlessly throughout on sharp shirting and day dresses, made from Japanese fabrics and cottons from New York. The remainder of the unseen collection is said to include knitwear, a capsule of cocktail along with the day- and outerwear.
The designer also hoped to tackle the idea of finding ways to wear clothes from the office into the evening. “We all think we’re going to make it home before dinner, but we’re not and if you’re lucky, you have your shoes to go out. But I’ve really tried to play around with looks — things that match in terms of wearing during the day.” A plaid minidress with puffed shoulders, long, cuffed sleeves and contrast piping balanced power woman with after-work-dinner as so. While the daywear present utilized solely men’s wear fabrics, Nielsen mentioned “a couple of surprises” — three to four cocktail dresses that would still have the men’s wear feeling in silhouette, but not necessarily in fabric.
Prices for bottoms, knitwear and shirting will be around $225 to $450 with jackets and outerwear ranging from $495 to $995.
Aknvas plans to unveil the collection, and consecutive web site, for wholesale and the press on June 6 for resort.