7 questions with Johanna Senyk of Wanda Nylon, the designer to watch at Paris Fashion Week
Before plastic circled back from the '60s and onto the spring/summer 2018 runways of Burberry, Prada, and Fendi, there was a Paris-based designer who had quietly launched her label with the material as its cornerstone.
Born in 2012, Wanda Nylon is the brainchild of Johanna Senyk (and then-partner Peter Hornstein), of which the duo started out specialising in raincoats, offering up a modish take on wet weather wear. But, to lump them together with today's see-through garments proliferating the catwalks would be to do Senyk a disservice, for the designer even went as far as to co-develop a special polyeurathane to ensure that her pieces performed better than the existing products on the market.
Five years later, Senyk's growth has seen Wanda Nylon broaden its horizons — diving into ready-to-wear, marrying the brand's PVC beginnings with a newfound sense of eclecticism, and clinching the 2016 ANDAM Fashion Award. Once unassuming, the label is now anything but quiet; Wanda Nylon being one of the buzziest names on the scene. Here, we speak to the designer before her SS18 runway show at Paris Fashion Week.
What is the story behind the name Wanda Nylon?
I was a fan of stage names at [cabaret club] Crazy Horse, and I love the sound of it. I wanted a short Polish name — which reflects my roots — and I also wanted something technical; a name of a fabric. Hence, Wanda Nylon. It's so much more exciting to create clothes and live freely behind a name that isn't mine. It then becomes a name for all women who want to follow the spirit of the label. I think that from the moment your brand has a strong identity, people don't need to know who is actually behind it.
Six years ago, I was on my scooter in Paris on the way to an appointment with a client and I got drenched by the rain. It was then that the idea of rainwear became obvious to me. At the same time, I had also started to do research on clothes and the technicalities behind them. I like trying audacious combinations of patterns, colours, shapes and improbable fabrics as I have the desire to step out of my comfort zone.
Wanda Nylon does quite a lot of sheer garments. It's very sensual.
I think loving fabrics naturally leads to a form of sensuality. In fact, we often forget that clothing is something that caresses the skin and that sometimes evokes a form of sensorial pleasure — [it can] almost be seen as erotic.
You started out by developing your own material — how sustainable is that for an independent label?
Time is the most problematic obstacle. Things require a lot of testing and sometimes, ideas that do not come about until a few seasons later. Right now, I am focusing more on volume and silhouettes. I am [trying] to work with materials like cashmere or silk, and my challenge is to make these noble materials more modern; to put a twist on them. I always look for a new playground and stimulating challenges to break classic codes.
What are the challenges a designer faces today?
To have the courage to not make compromises and to not be influenced; to remain autonomous and intuitive in your own choices.
Having had a hand in launching Anthony Vaccarello's eponymous label, was the process any easier when it came to Wanda Nylon?
No it wasn't, and if it was it would have been less funny! Starting my label was the hardest thing I've done and it is very difficult to adhere to fixed dates. Today, a designer must have a varied spectrum of skills: He must know how to sew, have knowledge of patternmaking, business sense and know-how to recruit and manage teams. One must also be able to communicate well and be constant and honest in his approach. The skills necessary to build a label really goes beyond creativity, imagination and design. I learned certain things by making mistakes — one must definitely be very passionate and completely crazy to do what I do.
What are your dreams for the brand in the near future?
I want the whole team to stay happy and united; to have a little bubble of joy in the office.