Mia Lisa Spon and Rui Andersen Rodrigues Diogo launched their eponymously named prêt-à-porter fashion label Spon Diogo in August 2008. With Mia Lisa Spon’s background in tailoring & design and Rodrigues Diogo’s experience in fine arts, in addition to graphic and industrial design, the dynamic partnership of Spon Diogo produced a constructional, minimal, graphic and luxurious womenswear brand, creating architectural clothing, tailored to modern urban living.
The Autumn/Winter 12/13 collection entitled Incandescent marks the Danish labels eighth full collection to date. Incandescent amalgamates the labels signature graphic and asymmetrical tailoring with softer elements such as drapery and lamé fabric to produce a softer, more restrained silhouette. Elegantly draped dresses in autumnal beige and mushroom shades looked effortlessly casual, whilst shimmering and lamé fabrics brought restrained femininity to the collection. Monochrome black pieces added depth to the collection with black pencil trousers and boxy tuxedos sitting alongside cropped, asymmetrically tailored jackets. Cutaway vests in buttery black leather and boiled wool coats emphasized the contrast of texture throughout, with splashes of midnight blue and earthen red creating interest and additional vibrancy, producing both a wearable and modern fashion forward collection.
I had the opportunity of asking Rui about the Spon Diogo label and the collection…
1. Firstly congratulations on winning the Max Factor New Talent Award! What did it mean to you to win this award?
Thank you very much. Our hometown (Copenhagen) has been very supportive of our work from the very beginning. The stylists and editors took us in from early on. This award is maybe a recognition on another level – maybe it’s a pointer towards the broader market being ready for us too. If this is the case; we are very happy about this.
2.You were nominated for the same award last year, so did being presented the award during Copenhagen Fashion Week feel like a milestone and coming of age for your brand?
Not really, as you mention, we’re nominated before – also for the DANSK fashion awards (which we didn’t win). For our previous season (SS12) we debuted on the catwalk (Presentation) in Paris; this indeed felt like milestone, and a path we want to pursue. Awards may bring attention in a broader sense, but for us at this stage, trying to establish a sound foundation for our label is far more important – i.e. establishing contact and a good relation to the buyers and press and general awareness of our label.
3.Taking it right back to the birth of SPON DIOGO. How did the label come about and was there a long creative process leading up to the launch in August 2008?
We met in 2004 and worked together on miscellaneous projects, there amongst full collections for both male and female, knit and suiting collections for local Danish companies.
In working together we grew a liking and shared a view on how to approach the various processes; along with the outcome. SPON DIOGO felt like it was bound to come into existence sooner or later.
We decided, on a Paris visit late autumn 2003, that we wanted to work closer, but we’re still both working more than full time. After rounding up the season for our clients, we immediately started working on our own collection, which was in fact two collections; a more or less full Spring / Summer collection along with a capsule Autumn / Winter collection. This work was initiated in March and shown in Copenhagen in August and Paris later that year.
Our work and collections were then quite thematically built back and the process of making the collection was quite short and precise.
4.Can you expound a little upon both your creative backgrounds? Do you think this unique fusion of skills helped give SPON DIOGO an iconic and recognizable aesthetic?
When we started out designing together, and this still applies, we drew on references from various fields of the arts. The first collection we did in our own name, was largely built on architecture or construction. Our shared view on colour vs. shape remains an important factor.
However we as designers and SPON DIOGO as a label are in a constant development; in the very core of the label lies relevance, and to pursue this we do not focus on achieving a certain iconography but rather on reading our times and responding.
5.What would you say is SPON DIOGO’s signature?
Pure and precisely designed modern tailoring.
6.Do you have a muse in mind when designing your collections? What qualities does the SPON DIOGO woman exhibit?
We don’t work with a muse as such, and find this to be uninteresting for us. We are far more interested in body language. However; she is very much an urban character, and the setting is always the city.
Our previous collections were very thematically/conceptually designed. They followed a rigorous recipe from theme to research – drawing - selection and lastly development.
Now development of the collections happen a lot more randomly and are far more mood based. Influences or inspirations tend to creep up on us or are drawn from the historical repertoire we hold.
7.Has being based in Berlin influenced your design inspirations, the fabrics you use, your colour palette?
Berlin is a quite tough city – the cityscape is concrete on more concrete – we call it ‘United Colours Of Beton’ (concrete) ha-ha. The first season working from Berlin had an almost opposite effect, as the overall expression became a bit softer, but as of recent we’ve taken a lot of inspiration from the diversity in expression found here. However our choices in fabrics and colours remain within our known vocabulary.
8.Turning to your RTW F/W 12/13 collection, what inspired you?
It’s about the ethereal vs. something concrete, and grew out a wish to make a modern soft statement.
As in previous collections, for the Autumn / Winter 2012/13 we have worked with juxtaposition of graphic / constructed vs. a softer more draped theme.Materials are very tactile and structured.
9.You have used a wonderfully diverse autumnal colour palette ranging from soft beige and mushroom shades, white and earthy browns through to more vivid interjections of midnight blue and rust red, and underlined with crisp swathes of black. How did these shades appeal to you, and how did you marry them together so well throughout your collection?
Thank you. The colour scheme was inspired from colour work of Caravaggio, known as the school of Tenebrism. It’s about a marriage of the deep earthly colours with strong popping colours.
10.You have also used many textures throughout your collection, from iridescent fabrics to leather to boiled wool. Why did these material appeal to you?
The inherent constructional qualities of the felted wool, the draping qualities along the with raw edge finish, makes a perfect balance of graphic vs. soft.
11.Structurally the collection is superb. How have you created the perfect balance between sharp tailoring and soft drapery?
The idea was to make a very clad collection; to talk generally about dress. Often we find that to focus on a suited look can render too much to a traditionally male universe.
In the collection we softened the overall look by using pleats, peplums and flares. A lot of couture references and techniques were applied.
We have, with this collection, moved a bit further away from the sort of industrial minimalism, we’ve made in the past.
12.You often play with the proportions of the female frame through tailoring, can you tell us some of the methods you have used?
Our work has and is still to some extent centered on the body and movement. We like to make a very precise but comfortable tailoring, and the process involves a lot fittings.
In working with very constructed pieces i.e. tube dresses, we do not apply usage of bones for construction but rather focus on comfort.
We wish to make the wearer the focal point, not the dress.
13.How do you navigate the line between innovation and commercialism of your pieces?
It’s a quite complex matter. On one side, some buyers look for the unique and often what one would describe as difficult pieces, and the other side, some buyers look for good ‘clothes’.
We find we have to experiment a bit with the range – some seasons the collections were quite small but highly innovative, other season were more extensive in size.
Even though we find that only a few pieces go into production, it remains a question of as to which sort of label you want to be perceived. For us, it’s always been important to design a full wardrobe for the SD woman - the navigation ends up being a sort of ‘getting to know our woman better and better’.
Also; the concept of commercialism is very different from the US to central Europe; for eg. in the US a deep décolleté is often perceived as to service a totally different market than for eg. in France, as we in Europe have a far freer attitude towards our bodies.
Even though the international market is of a complex nature; we think one has to go for what one feels lies in the core of one’s label.
14.Can you tell us a little about how you source your materials such as leather and fur (which you have used in previous collections,)
Generally all our materials and production comes from Europe I.E. Silks from Italy and France, Wools from Austria, Germany and Italy etc., except for the most part of our leather which we source via our manufacturers in Turkey.
For our A/W 2011 collection, we had a lovely cooperation with SAGA® Furs from Denmark, who supplied the fantastic SAGA® Fox.
15.Turning to the minimal accessories you have designed, will these be available alongside the clothing?
Yes, we intend to integrate more and more pieces into the collection such as shoes, bags, jewellery etc.
16. You are stocked both in online boutiques, in Europe and in China which demonstrates worldwide demand for your collections. Do you think the SPON DIOGO aesthetic transcends cultural boundaries?
17.What’s next for SPON DIOGO? What is inspiring you for next season, can you give us any clues?
Air, lightness and freedom in movement.
Images from SPON DIOGO FW12/13