We first discovered A.A. Spectrum at Berg during Paris Fashion Week last season and immediately were taken by their bold colors and oversized coats. In a world of fast fashion, where quite frankly no one really needs to buy more clothes, outerwear is gaining more attention as it serves function over season trends. There has been a lot of flak with the growing popularity of down coats and unethical feather sourcing, but A.A. Spectrum was forward thinking from the start focusing on sustainability on the cross-cultural path from Copenhagen to China. We caught up with the designer Elisabet Stamm behind the breakthrough label and took some time to pick her brain.

Have you always wanted to design clothes?

I wasn’t born with a master plan of becoming a designer but ‘connecting the dots’ in retrospect, I have always had an interest in characters, expressions, and storytelling. I think designing clothes is a tool for me. Art, people, and music are also my interests. I like the cross-over between creativity and functionality that is intrinsic to designing clothes.


Do you draw?

Yes, I do. I have always dreamed of painting but nowadays I tend to engage the whole world in my creations. In my creative process, I do many strange puzzles: fast hand-sketches, colorful illustrations, annoyingly well-done Illustrator drawings with thousands of specifications. I would even say that I draw a lot in my imagination.

I don’t have any colleagues in Copenhagen nor creatively orientated colleagues in Beijing, so I use my sketches and thousands of notes as a way of talking to myself. When I have a table full of ‘conversations’ I can see the meaning and make decisions.

Has your upbringing in Denmark influenced the way you work?

It’s interesting what influences you to go deeper into something – to dig it – and on the other hand what influences you to go against it – to question it. No matter if you go into it or against it, you must know it really well to be able to use it in a new context.

There is a ‘yes we can’ mentality that influences the culture where I come from, perhaps I’ve got some of that in me. I don’t say it out loud much but I keep it in my pocket and live by it.

How did the cross-cultural collaboration between Denmark and China come about?

I have always been interested in getting ‘behind the scene’ of the fashion industry: the people, the production, the collaboration. I got the opportunity to live and work in Beijing with developing manufacturers and design teams during a couple of years.I love fabrics, colors, textures, but I have never been keen on pattern making and I am impatient when it comes to sewing, so for me, it has always been important to get to know the backyard in order to understand and communicate what I wanted to create.

Upon my return to Copenhagen, I reached out to my business partner in China with an idea of a collaboration. I knew her set-up and team from my time in Beijing. I imagined how our professional relationship could benefit from our different skills: their great production and my knowledge of design. To not only produce but to create and embrace the full potential of a cross-cultural collaboration.

Sustainability is at the core of the brand with your billowing puffer jackets filled with ethically-sourced down. I know that in China and the US it is difficult to trace the supply chain. Tell us a bit about the Chinese end.

Sustainability is at the core of our understanding of what we do. We have a responsible down certificate (RDS certificate) since down is at the core of the brand. My business partner has a long history in manufacturing for brands with high standards, running our own production facilities allows us to keep everything as we want it. I can’t speak generally of Chinese supply chains. It’s important for my work that you get what you request. I try to re-think materials and ways of working I try to push and develop my Chinese team to regain a little self-respect and pride in what they are capable of. That might stay mainly as my own vision but still I can’t commit to just producing – there must be value and sense to it all.


Upon closer inspection, you pay close attention to the cut and fit of your clothes while keeping a universal one size fits all feel. What do you have in mind when designing the collections?

I have a lot in mind when designing but when it comes to fitting I want our jackets and coats to be comfortable, with enough room for the fabric and person inside to live.

Confidence is sexy, right. In order to be yourself, you need to feel comfortable. When you wear something comfortable it allows you to feel relaxed. When someone pulls that of, I find that very attractive. That is what I am aiming at and in order to achieve it I need to exaggerate the idea – to drop the shoulders completely instead of just a little.

I come from Seattle, where we LOVE our puffer jackets. I imagine kids from Seattle to Detroit lining up outside techno clubs in the freezing cold wearing your jackets. Who do you imagine wearing your designs and have you been surprised at all?

I like that image of kids lined up outside clubs wearing my collections, that would be great.

I try not to imagine anyone specific. If I would narrow my imagination to specific people then that would be the opposite of the mission behind our symbol “ren” meaning “People/ human being,” and even our brand name “Spectrum” which emphasizes diversity. Still, I do get inspired by courageous people, people who dare to express themselves. I get inspired by observing my surroundings and questioning what I see. Music and arts are also a great source of inspiration. As well as just starring out the window or reading a book. The last part I’m too busy to do at the moment though.

What does a kid in Detroit have in common with a kid in Beijing?

I hope that no matter where you grow up, regardless of the conditions, you have a pocket full of dreams and ambition to fulfill those dreams.


Is there anyone you would like to collaborate with?

I’d like to collaborate with people who are open, who explore their creativity. It can be within photography, literature, music or fashion. I’d like to work with people who are talented and skilled in territories that are unknown to me. That’s not something that comes from a certain person or brand. I generally believe that diverse meetings are the fuel when it comes to re-imagination and meaningful interesting creation.

There is a lot happening in menswear, its more exciting than women’s (many designers still dressing as if women are dolls) and at the moment the two are blurring lines. How important is the new generation for you?

I wish I could address what I do not to a certain generation or market but to people who has their own story and would like to wear my designs as part of their own expression. I fit on a man but what I have in mind is rather an attitude, a feeling or a certain shape.

What about the symbolic things like your models wearing tabi socks in your previous collection and your symbol reference to the character “Ren” meaning human?

I feel inspired by everyday elements and especially those who are often overseen. I don’t strive to create a ‘Chinese-collection’ (whatever that might be), but I believe that when you meet a culture different to your own, you often see it with fresh eyes. Sometimes you see beauty in things which in that culture is long forgotten.

The styling with tabi socks is a subtle note and tribute to ancient Chinese style and in our take a really grounded and comfy styling of the reference. Looking at Chinese style from the Ming Dynasty, for instance, you’ll discover the most beautiful layered styling. There is also a grounded and relaxed look to it that made a balanced we liked combined with the silhouettes and polished fabrics.


Is it important that people understand the story behind the pieces they wear?

It’s not about understanding – that’s a misunderstanding of fashion I believe. When stories and concepts are allowed to dominate it’s often because the emotions are missing. It’s important that the one who gets the ideas feels something and then carry that out by taking it somewhere else than where the idea came from. Then people will hopefully feel something and make their own story and expression of it.

Specializing in down coats and outwear that you can wear a lifetime, do you feel pressured by the season cycle that the industry enforces?

In the future, I’d rather try to put a pressure on that cycle which seems to be outdated and not even following the cycle of seasons.


Your padded and polished jackets look almost spacecraft ready! Where do you see yourself in the future?

Now that you mention space I actually have a fabric on the coming collection that I refer to as ‘Moon’. So the collection is ready for take-off. As for me, I’d like to be amongst strong individuals, a less lonely place than now, as I’m working solo in my studio pretending to be able to know it all and do it all.

What’s your spirit animal?

Well, I always wanted to be a bird, if I was to be an animal. More specific a swallow. I love how swallows are the only birds who actually play. How they fly in loops and go up and down and never just a straight way.