Back in 2002, Silas Adler decided to start Soulland. The clothing company, where he today, is the creative director but which back then was more about creating t-shirts with prints, and just trying it out. Four years later, Jacob Kampp Berliner joined as co-owner and CEO. “Then we were two, who didn’t know a thing about creating clothes, who created clothes. Then we have used a lot of years finding our way of doing it,” Adler explains. Today, almost two decades later, Soulland has grown into a large fashion profile both at home and abroad with countless collections, shows and collaborations behind it. But the essence of the brand remains the same; creating a platform from which the two founders can let their own opinions shine through. “We both think it’s important that we have an opinion and that we stand by it, whether it gives us customers or not,” Kampp Berliner says.
In the Summer last year, Soulland returned to Copenhagen Fashion Week after a few years of adventures abroad. The show, which took place at Sankt Thomas Plads on Frederiksberg, was a tribute to pedestrians. “SS20 is the first of a trilogy about movement, which is called Commuters Trilogy,” Adler explains. The collection carries the title Power Pedestrian and portrays the idea of a pavement as a place where all layers of society meet under the same conditions. Having to get from A to B. “A pavement is the ultimate democracy” Adler argues. Every look and walk on the runway therefore represented the diversity of democracy. Besides being the brand’s homecoming, SS20 was also the first time Soulland presented a collection directed at women. “We have finally stepped into womenswear, and have hired a design director to help us create a language for that,” Adler says. The expansion to womenswear has been in the pipeline for a while but for the team behind Soulland it was important to do correctly from the beginning. They don’t want to be a menswear brand creating something for women. In fact, as both founder unanimously express, they know nothing worse than that. “We tried making womenswear a few years back where we afterwards through it simply wasn’t good enough. Vi had to wait till we had the headspace for it, and we felt that time was now,” Kampp Berliner says. The men’s and women’s collections are therefore equal. They have to speak together, but still be their own. And that has given some challenges, as all of the sudden the two experienced fashion entrepreneurs were back at square one, knowing nothing about designing for the opposite gender. “When I express myself I do so to people exactly like me. But how can I express some of the same things to people who are like me, but then again not. That’s a learning process,” Adler explains.
But luckily, challenges aren’t something Soulland is scared to meet. The brand is well-known for pushing the boundaries. “In some way it has become Soulland’s DNA that the only rule we actually have is, that rules can be broken all the time,” Kampp Berliner says. As he explains, Soulland has tried to push the agenda for what menswear can be as well as who can create it. And that approach is largely attributed to the culture of hip hop and skateboard, which they both grew up with. A culture where it’s all about challenging the existing, and if you feel something is missing then you create it yourself. “When you come from a culture where it’s always about creating then there are some barriers you are kind of taught to ignore,” Adler explains. This has also contributed to the company not being afraid of something they can’t do. As a niche brand, the two Soulland guys don’t have to cater for anyone but themselves, which is also why they continue to create clothes that challenges and pushes the norms to create more freedom for expression.
The fashion industry has changed markedly, both good and bad, since Soulland sold its first t-shirt almost 20 years ago. Especially the internet has contributed to the rising interest as well as speed within fashion. “The amount of people interested in fashion has completely exploded. Especially within high-end men’s fashion, which used to be for a small, very specific group of people but which now is a metropolitan phenomenon,” Adler says. But even though the world around them have changed, the Soulland guys have managed to maintain the same DNA as when they first started. They still sell to a clientele they’re primarily connected with through the urban environment even though, today, that reaches across global borders. And even with the increasing pace, fast-fashion and overconsumption isn’t a trap the brand has fallen into. “In that way a lot of what we do is exactly as how the fashion industry was 20 years ago. We still create collections we use extremely much time on,” Kampp Berliner explains. For them it’s not about the – at times unnecessary – need for what’s new, which the internet has created. “We always do what we think is right from how the world appears. And maybe less from what this season’s color is or a smart way to gain more followers,” Kampp Berliner says. Soulland isn’t based on one single style or purpose, but on the two founders and what they have to say. And as they both acknowledge, that’s what keeps them committed.