Born in Tel-Aviv, Israel, Daniel Blechman and his family moved to Berlin in his early childhood. He studied at Richmond University in London and set up his own label Sopopular in 2008 after returning to Germany.
Sopopular is the realisation of Daniel’s own style, which was influenced by his two main life stages: London and Berlin. Classic cuts and slender silhouettes spiced up with edgy streetwear elements and futuristic design details. High-quality materials, workmanship and fit – this is the mixture that makes Sopopular a perfect match for men with traditional values and a unique style. Our Editor-in-Chief NoéMie Schwaller sat down with the designer to find out what the label is offering this season.
NoéMie: Your colour scheme is quite subtle – wouldn’t you rather see men wearing more colourful items?
Daniel: I don’t mind them wearing more colourful clothes, but it’s not my thing. The Sopopular collection is influenced by the two cities I grew up in. I lived in London for 6 years and I grew up in Berlin, so these two cities represent the collection. Berlin stands for the roughness, industrial, military, the grey, and London for me is the hippest city. Our colour scheme is always grey and black – grey is my favourite colour, the entire palette, from light shades to darker ones. We also do a little bit of white and one colour always comes through. This season, for example, it’s green. This collection is called ‘The Wild One’, my inspiration were all those old gang movies like ‘The Warrior’, ‘The Wild One’, ‘The Outsiders’, combined with music.
N: You say grey is your favourite colour – have you read ‘50 Shades of Grey’?
D: ‘50 Shades of Grey? No, I haven’t, but everybody’s talking about it, so I’ll have to read it. I’m really into literature, but good literature.
N: Where does the name Sopopular come from?
D: Four years ago I was watching VH1 Masters about Nirvana and in one of his last interviews, Kurt Cobain said, “It’s tough to be so popular,” and when I heard that, it stuck in my head. I knew when I was doing the brand that it had to be this name. And the slogan ‘so popular’ is also used a lot. We get really nice feedback for the name.
N: You’re above all designing for yourself and your friends. In what way do you think that could be a winner with the masses?
D: My own taste is not a guarantee that it will appeal to the masses; you have to make a compromise between your own style and the masses. This is a process I’ve had to learn. In the beginning, I was strictly focusing on my own thing, but after a couple of seasons you realise what works and what doesn’t. It’s not like we do an entirely new collection every season, we do about 60-70% new items but we also try to perfect some of our highlights from one season to the next – a better fit, better materials, etc. For us, the fit and quality are very important.
N: Your collection ‘Light Into Darkness’ featured a lot of natural materials. Is this something you continue to do and believe in?
D: Yes, we try to use mostly natural fabrics, such as wool and also try to mix materials. For example, we use really nice tweed from England and combine it with leather. We try to use as few chemical materials as possible.
N: Mostly from Europe?
D: Yes, the materials are all from Europe. We don’t buy them from anywhere else. All the materials come from England, Germany, France or Austria. It’s a bit more expensive, but for me that’s very important. I hate it when I have a wool coat or a jacket and it’s itchy – it has to be very comfortable to wear. First of all, we’re not cheap and if men are able and willing to pay a good amount of money, they need – and deserve – to get good quality.
N: How do you like your eggs?
D: My favourite thing is English breakfast, since I used to live in London. I love it, with beans and sausage and crispy bacon. I’m getting hungry now.
N: Your last AW12 look book with Sebastian Sauve, photographed by Sabrina Theissen, had quite a different aesthetic than the ones before. Are you changing your direction?
D: To be honest, we lost track. The look book with Sebastian Sauve looked a bit gentleman-like because we always do two look books; one image look book that doesn’t show the whole collection and one for the press to get them interested in our brand. The thing is we have a more edgy vibe. This collection, ‘The Wild One’, is 100% on point how we want to develop ourselves.
N: You worked as a stylist for international agencies such as Gimme 5 from London, House of Orange from Amsterdam or M4 from Berlin. Do you miss that job?
D: Sometimes; it has taught me a lot, for example how to combine outfits as that’s what I’m always thinking about when I design, what the complete look should look like. Down to the shoes and everything. We are sponsored by Dr. Martens, which is nice. When I was studying in London, I did Interior Design and started to work at Gimme 5, which was very much focused on Japanese clubwear, where I learned a lot about details. Our buttons feature our logo and we even have special packaging for our trousers. We’re really keen on small details from zippers to inlay – everything.
N: You’ve lived in Berlin and London – what are the pros and cons of the two metropolises?
D: London, for me, only has pros. I love London, it’s my favourite city in the world. I love the way people play with fashion. I love everything in London, from the music to the designers and the street vibe, everything.
N: Why did you move away then?
D: Firstly, London is ten times more expensive. We couldn’t survive there. While Berlin might not be the fashion capital yet, for us designers it’s cheap and affordable to live here. The cons are that we don’t get the recognition. If you’ve got a good degree from Central Saint Martins, you’ve made it – you will definitely find a job somewhere. Menswear is also really good in London. It’s growing right now and getting a lot of recognition. I keep saying that it’s stupid to try and turn Berlin into other cities like Paris because the structures are different. We have to try and create our own stamp, and that’s what I’m doing here.
N: What’s coming up in your AW13 collection?
D: This year is going to be really big; we’re trying to have little details of all these movements and we have a lot of tweed and leather. We have jackets, trousers, shirts with studs and a lot of leather accessories.
N: What’s next for your brand?
D: It’s step by step. Selling is very difficult, especially if you come from Berlin. You first have to be successful outside of Germany so that the Germans recognise you. In the UK or Scandinavia, for example, any shop would first buy their own young designers to support them. We try to be internationally recognised and grow, but to do so the right way – we won’t compromise on quality.
N: Which shop would you like to be in but aren’t yet?
D: There are many, of course, but we’d really like to be in Soto.
Interview: NoéMie Schwaller