Cos she’s worth it: A decade of daring design

Karin Gustafsson, creative director, on the Swedish brand’s 10th anniversary collection

Look 11: Cotton poplin short sleeve shirt in white - €59.00 Textured cotton silk apron skirt in khaki - €89.00 Leather sneaker with elastic fastening in black - €89.00

Look 11: Cotton poplin short sleeve shirt in white - €59.00 Textured cotton silk apron skirt in khaki - €89.00 Leather sneaker with elastic fastening in black - €89.00

 

On a sunny day in Milan, a black curtain in a darkened cinema opens to reveal the magic inside, with visitors handed black gloves for the experience. This is New Spring, a six metre high sculptural tree made from recycled aluminium that emits mist filled bubbles, blossoms that burst when touched.

It is the work of Studio Swine in London, a Japanese/British partnership committed to sustainability. The interactive installation drew from modernist Italian design and Italian public fountains and was a collaboration with fashion brand Cos “because we share many common values” explains Karin Gustafsson, creative director of the company.

Karin Gustafsson, creative director of Cos
Karin Gustafsson, creative director of Cos

“Working together is a natural fit and a way of engaging with the creative community from whom we draw inspiration so regularly,” she says. Cos has been active for the past five years at Salone e Mobile in Milan, as well as the Serpentine in London, forging links with the art and design world.

Understated, easygoing

Low key, understated and easygoing is how Gustafsson describes her personal style, reflecting that of Cos whose unfussy aesthetic and accessible prices have become such an international success.

Dressed simply in jeans (“my everyday uniform”), a black bomber jacket (“from the autumn winter 2017 collection”) and black sandals, she has a gentle, unprepossessing manner, and with blonde hair and brown eyes, Viking good looks. At the helm of Cos since its inception 10 years ago, she has masterminded its strong aesthetic of timeless, functional and tactile design which, she insists, is due to teamwork.

“At the beginning there were 15 of us and now it has grown to 200. Our design team is very international and everything we design has to have quality – that is very important. We do a lot of fittings and we don’t think of age when designing.”

To mark its 10th anniversary this year, for example, Cos has launched a 10-piece capsule collection with patterns created like a jigsaw from one continuous piece of material. “We started with paper”, explains Gustafsson. “We folded it with the material to see what shapes we could create. We looked at different designs and geometric shapes, how one fold or one cut could create the strongest shape and so maximise the use of materials”.

Organic cotton white shirt, €59 from the Cos 10th anniversary collection
Organic cotton white shirt, €59 from the Cos 10th anniversary collection

The resulting designs, in sand and white cotton and polyester, feature rectilinear silhouettes, double layered panels in shirt dresses, men’s jackets with functional pockets and women’s coats with kimono style sleeves. The collection went on sale at the beginning of April.

Background in tailoring

Gustafsson’s background is in tailoring. “I don’t draw, I drape, and I made clothes from an early age, but I always wanted to do fashion design and after studying tailoring (she worked with one of the top tailors in Stockholm), I came to London because of the fashion and art schools.”

Karin Gustafsson, creative director of Cos, and Azusa Murakami and Alexander Groves of Studio Swine with New Spring in Milan
Karin Gustafsson, creative director of Cos, and Azusa Murakami and Alexander Groves of Studio Swine with New Spring in Milan

After graduation she was hired for the Cos project and established its signature clean lines and understated modernist design. “I wanted to be part of a team. We want to maintain the focus on functionality,” she says. The tactile quality of fabric is key “and we do a lot of research and are developing our own jacquard, exploring new textures and materials”.

She is particularly proud of Cos’s shirting. “We explore the shape in different materials in every collection – it is what customers expect from us,” she says, pointing to the one she is wearing in a soft poplin/cotton cheesecloth, from the current collection.

This season’s shirts include cotton linen boat neck styles, transparent check silk T-shirts and cotton poplin short sleeved shirts. A flattering elastic frill decorates a tunic style top in cotton linen.

Cotton/linen sand top with elastic detail, €69
Cotton/linen sand top with elastic detail, €69

Passionate about art, architecture and design, she believes that such interests inform the collections in their own way. The colours and shapes used in last winter’s collection, for instance, were drawn from the work of the English artist Lynette Yiadom Boatkye and a Dutch inventor Boyan Slat, who devised the Ocean Clean Up.

A key reference for the 10th anniversary collection was Tim Kerp, a German designer and creator of Duetto tables, made for ecological, aesthetic and production efficiency. “We look to people we admire and appreciate and those with a similar mindset and feeling for material. It shows what we care about and customers appreciate it. Art is ahead of fashion and is an immense inspiration for fashion.”

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.