Rue de Tokyo is a brand based in Copenhagen, combining the aesthetics from two worlds. From Japan, we are inspired by an unrivalled attention to detail and quest for perfection. From France, a commitment to craftsmanship and respect for the arts. Founded by David Andersson Sahlin in 2016, Rue de Tokyo features a natural elegance and absolute timelessness. It’s inspired by David’s life in Paris, Florence and Copenhagen. Having the utmost respect for the clients, Rue de Tokyo uses natural, organic materials and some of the world’s finest textiles.
Your designs revolve around simple, day to day pieces which through the use of fabric display an understated refinement. In the context of a currently rather flashy design scene, how did you choose the path of minimalism?
I am coming from Scandinavia and grew up in an environment of antique,minimal and high qualitative furnitures.My mother was an artist and I have since a young age appreciated high qualitative items which will last for a long time. I believe this influence my way of deciding on fabrics, colors and shapes when designing the collections.
From collaborating with important retailers to setting up your own brand, what triggered the shift towards establishing Rue de Tokyo on your own?
I have been working in the fashion industry for a long time. I’ve been working with fabric development for a luxury brand in Paris for many years and also as a production manager for one of the biggest brands in Scandinavia before deciding to start my own. I believe that one of the main triggers to start something on my own was to be able to work from different locations in the world. One week I can work from Portugal, another in Romania, Sweden or Denmark.The only thing I really need is my computer and a DHL driver to deliver the prototypes.
One of the first impressions your designs have left on me was as if wearing the state of peace and quiet itself. Is this intentional, or what exactly do you want your client to feel while wearing your designs?
The most important for me is comfort and a feeling of wearing a very honest product. If I wasn’t working in the fashion industry would my dream be to work with architecture.I believe that my biggest source of inspiration comes from the architecture and the architects them selves when making my collection. I am trying to think about what they would like to wear when working in the ateliers, on the working sites or in the garden of their houses.They are building something that will last for years, and I want to do the same with my clothes.
You talk about feeling good in your clothes both on a holiday as well as at work. Are you pursuing a certain physical comfort in your designs, or do you refer to another type of wellbeing?
For me is the ultimate moment of comfort when I am in the garden of my summer house on an island in Sweden or when I am walking by the seaside.Rue de Tokyo is giving the clients the ultimate comfort in terms of the material and with a siluette they recognise and feel comfortable in.
Nowadays we see a lot of fast fashion, with trends changing at a faster pace than used to be the case. It is a bold decision to focus on basic, timeless pieces with quality fabrics made to last. Do you worry about isolating your brand from this tide of consumerism?
It’s a good question and I am thinking a lot about this.In general I am against fast consumption,I love walking on flea markets buying vintage furniture and objects. On the other hand its also a high competition amongst slow fashion or so called basic brands, but I am trying to find unique materials in Italy, Japan or Portugal which in some way are different to the competitors.
Rue de Tokyo started as a brand with only t-shirts, but will from the next our first collection include a full range of garments such as dresses, pants and jackets with inspiration from Japanese work wear, the wardrobe of Picasso and what I would my girlfriend and myself to wear on a daily basis.
In relation to the former question, how did your sensibility towards fabric develop?
I started working with fabric development for a brand called Damir Doma when I was 22 years old, I was educated as a buyer and had a background in economy. When I started my work I didn’t know what the warp and weft was, I didn’t have a clue about different gauge in knitwear or how different print techniques worked. But I had a manager at the time which sent me right and left to suppliers in Italy and Portugal. I always been humble and curious and I understood that was the best approach when talking to the suppliers. In that way I learned a lot and I have been invited by the Japanese government as a textile expert and been headhunted to both Chanel and Louis vuttion because of my knowledge regarding textile development.
I couldn’t help but notice that your items of choice are all meant to be worn directly on the skin. How do you explain this creative attitude?
Thats true, or at least that is the base of the collection.The organic Japanese cotton which is our signature qaulity in the collection is so soft that you barely can feel when you are wearing it.For me its always important to start touching a garment.When I am walking in stores I always touch a garment before looking if I like the design. I don’t buy a garment where I like the design but not the touch.
Also, I sensed a feeling of androgyny in your clothes. How do you think about gender when designing your collections?
I don’t think so much about androgyny but I believe in a natural beauty of a person, a male of female and how they would look in my clothes.It doesn’t matter if a girl is wearing our mens cashmere sweater or a guy wants to wear our women turtleneck to make it tighter.I let that option to my clients and I just want them to feel good whatever Item they select.
I get the feeling that your designs are subtle in a way in which they do not outshine the wearer’s personality and features, but rather let the wearer speak for himself. This flexibility in style means you are able to reach out to a vast number of characters, professions and interests, but what would be a common trait of those who shop for Rue de Tokyo?
I love personalities.I have been living in Florence, Paris, Oslo, Stockholm and now Copenhagen. I met a lot of interesting and very different people and the most important is to let them shine and be comfortable in what they wear. If they feel comfortable in what they wear, then they will also have the feeling of giving more of themselves.I believe the majority of the clients buying Rue de Tokyo have a strong interested in Architecture, food, wine and in general a well being.In Denmark we have something called “Hygge” which means that we get together and have a good time and I think this word fits in to the description for Rue de Tokyo.
How do you find your creative energy? Do you interiorize and find it in your own solitude, or do people and places inspire you?
I love to travel, going to museums and in general look at people in the streets.Paris is one of my favourite places in the world and a place where I spend five years of my life.This is also a city that inspire me a lot.I can creating a collection after spending a day at Palais de Tokyo, having a walk in Palais Royal and having some wine at le Progres in Marais.
Finally, a personal question: if you would choose one piece of clothing to wear at any time and any occasion, how would you describe it?
I have to say the perfect t-shirt! The name Rue de Tokyo comes from my time in Paris and the inspiration I get when walking down the streets mixed with a friendship to YUI, a Japanese friend in Tokyo who’s developing the best t-shirt qualities for brands like Chanel,Dior and Gucci. I am using his fabrics in the collection in order to give my customers the positivity to buy the very finest fabrics in the world on a piece of clothing so simple as a t-shirt.
But I promise, if you start wearing it then you won’t go back to buy a normal quality t-shirt from H&M or Zara.
TEXT: DAMARIS OTT