The world of Erik Bjerkesjö and DRKN
by Stefano Guerrini
Swedish-born Erik Bjerkesjö, while still very young and having just graduated from the prestigious Polimoda school in Florence, became of the one of the winners of the men’s edition of the contest "Who's on Next?" sponsored by Vogue and Pitti Immagine. Erik had won everyone over with the quality of his workmanship and the sophisticated style of a complete collection in which accessories play an important role, especially shoes, the world in which the Swedish designer had been trained. Having returned to this latest edition of Pitti with a new project, we contacted him to ask him what he has been doing in recent years and to learn all his latest news. Here is our interview with Erik Bjerkesjö.
Can you tell us what you have been up to recently, and most of all about your latest adventures? What happened after you won the prestigious WION contest?
I am from an Island named Gotland (the same island that Ingmar Bergman comes from) and I have my own shoe label, which is hand-made in Tuscany. I am co-founder and Creative Director of DRKN, a Swedish streetwear brand inspired by gaming culture. I studied under Patrick de Myunck and Linda Loppa (at the Polimoda school in Florence, editor’s note). Linda has a very special place in everything I create, I see her as my mentor.
I started school in 2005 and divided my time between studying and part-time work, but also learned a lot as an apprentice at Dior. I gained a Master in footwear design in 2009 and founded my own shoe label, produced in Tuscany, Italy. A year after leaving Polimoda, I won the ’Future Talents’ title with my brand new label and presented my collection at Pitti Uomo. A year later, I won the ’Who is on Next?’ award, presented by Vogue and Pitti Immagine Uomo. I then returned to the 83rd edition of the exhibition for my first runway show as ’New Performer’ together with Linda Loppa and Polimoda, with show director Etienne Russo and Villa Eugénie.
A year after that, I accepted a position in the tailoring programme at Acne Studios, and did my first runway show in Stockholm. Two years later, I partnered Greger Hagelin, co-founding a brand named DRKN. DRKN explores the world of gaming culture and contemporary innovation. It is a movement influenced by survival and Sci-Fi games. I believe that the future will engage innovation in the way that we use clothes, and in the type of life we live online.
Which are the greatest difficulties you have encountered as a young designer?
Finding the strength to never give up.
What has been your most gratifying moment to date, not counting your victory at WION?
I think that my childhood, during which I grew up on an isolated island, was most of all about what I could explore. My mother had a textile studio in the house I grew up in, so I was introduced to the world of fabrics and pattern design at an early age. My friends were amateur hackers and gamers, so I spent my whole youth at amusement arcades playing video games, and this led me to understand how adventures that are already coded, pre-established, can make you feel. Linda Loppa and Patrick de Myunck instantly understood the background I came from and opened the door to me and to my creativity in my very first week at Polimoda. I remember feeling complete. I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and I had the feeling that I no longer needed to do any more exploring, I had found my way.
What are the biggest differences between designing your own brand and acting as a consultant for other brands?
I spend a lot of time in the Stockholm studio, DRKN has a three floor space with a games arcade, sampling room, design room, library and skateboard ramp. So for me that pretty much sums up each day of mine: working in a stimulating environment that fosters creativity, in an environment that is as welcoming as a home. Home for me is Stockholm and Florence, so I try not to travel much other than to these two cities because both have a very interesting scene that I never want to leave. I feel very blessed to be able to be involved in my own label and create shoes, and at the same time work with my team at DRKN Industries.
Dreams and plans for the future?
I believe in respecting the traditions and craftsmanship we were brought up with, but at the same time I feel that we should not be afraid to open our minds and experiment with new technologies.
I and the team of DRKN believe that it is a positive thing to use more robotic innovations, such as tracking and prediction of movements with the help of algorithms.
We aspire to create a symbiosis between human beings and technologies. The future is unpredictable, indeed there is nothing that anyone can predict with certainty, but I believe that emphasizing what society will have to tackle in a scenario where technology becomes more powerful raises an important issue.