Pauric Sweeney - Conceptual Purity
“I usually wake early with the sun rising over the hills of Fiesole. I have a terrace on the top floor of my Florence apartment overlooking the hills” – against the context of this 2009 Vogue ‘Day In The Life Of’ account, it’s not hard to see why Pauric Sweeney is serving up the kind of creativity that has won him the London Fashion Week New Generation Award for two consecutive seasons. An idyllic sounding, and slightly nomadic existence that encompasses Ireland, Italy and the UK has birthed eight years worth of visionary handbag design, a flagship store in Mayfair and a presence at the likes of Harrods, Selfridges, Brown Thomas, Net-A-Porter and Cocosa.
Originally hailing from County Donegal, Pauric Sweeney started out with a career in architecture – a background that has formed many a rock solid creative brain, thanks to the similarities between the two disciplines in expressing notions of individual, social and cultural identity. And despite since discovering the fashion accessory was his forte, Sweeney plans to return to his original training with a series of furniture and objects in the very near future.
As a designer of le sac à main, however, Pauric’s attention to detail and focus on quality have generated comparisons to Tom Ford, and there are of course celebrity fans already toting his wares. Work with Raf Simons as Creative Director of Accessories at Jil Sander, and a collaboration with Rei Kawakubo of Comme Des Garcons, have taken Sweeney along a unique path, which started out at Root at the Truman Brewery in the 1990s, and has made him now a creator of the kinds of luxurious leather accessories that appeal to whole new generation of bright young things.
Pauric Sweeney SS13
The Glass Pineapple spoke to Pauric about ‘Conceptual Purity,’ competing with the arm candy heavyweights, and how a bag says a lot about its owner.
Many influential names in fashion and accessories design trained initially as architects yourself included? Why the transition?
There is an unquestionable common denominator that runs through both disciplines: the study of proportion, structure and composition, which successfully applied to spatial boundaries, determines a creative outcome. In my case, I do not see this as having been a transition in any way, as the interest in, and the application of, architectural variables in the various projects I undertake on a daily basis is and will continue to be an effortless eclectic lifestyle choice.
Are there aspects of your architectural training you want to pick up again? We read you want to get in to designing furniture?
That is correct. My foundations lie in architecture and with all the knowledge I have acquired throughout the years while building the brand, I plan to return to my true calling by creating a range of furniture and objects.
You're based in Florence- how does this setting influence your work?
I divide my time between Italy - where our production headquarters have remained - Ireland, where I’ve recently relocated, and the UK, where last year we opened our first flagship in the heart of Mayfair, London. I also travel extensively throughout the year, on business and for inspiration, and seek to draw benefit from all three of my main locations when based there.
You've spoken of 'conceptual purity' how is this reflected in your work? How do you innovate season-to-season with this in mind?
‘Conceptual purityʼ - the cleanliness of lines and proportion, is a mind-set and is always present within the design process, becoming the primary driving engine for the quest of creative and qualitative perfection.
You opened up your first London flagship at the end of 2011 in the sought after location of Burton Place - who is your typical clientele? How did you approach creating a Pauric Sweeney environment?
Fitting out the store was like creating a collection: the process followed the same stages, from the choice of materials, to the striving for the perfect finish, to the hands-on interventions. We had to take into account the audience for the store - our clientele – as well as the retail aspect, being able to capture the public eye and to make the difference in terms of an attractive aesthetic and impeccable service.
The environment we created to convey the brandʼs d.n.a. was sophisticated and eclectic, yet welcoming and far from austere: the idea is that the customer feels he/she has entered a timeless outpost inhabited by beautiful things.
Do you have plans to open more stores? Or any other collaborations in mind?
We currently have many collaborations on the table at the evaluation stage and plan to open more stores worldwide.
Forecasters are saying 2013 will be the year online retail comes in to its own. Luisa via Roma, Net a porter & Avenue 32 have all sold your bags - any more sites planned?
We will soon be trading online directly at www.pauricsweeney.com, which is undergoing the final stages of reconstruction with the newly added e-commerce functionality.
The notion of redefining luxury - seems like the topic of the moment in the world of luxury brands. What's your take on this? What role does craftsmanship play?
Craftsmanship and hand-made product have always been at the base ethos of the brand and probably the defining factor in its success over the years. The demand has never decreased - todayʼs customer is as discerning as ever and knows how choose a product as an investment, rather than a seasonal impulse, and to distinguish between a hand-crafted product and another which is serially produced in quantity and lacks attention to detail. Quality is king for us and itʼs not by chance that we continue to produce exclusively in Italy.
How can you compete in the realm of arm candy heavyweights (Prada, Hermes, Givenchy etc)?
Ever since the brand was founded, it has been the only small, independent, niche luxury brand to be sitting alongside the conglomerate giants. It is a success story built on hard work and driving vision that led to the rise of an internationally renowned quality and hand-crafted product. It has actually been the object of a few MBA case studies.
To what extent is our choice of bag an extension of us and our personality?
Bags, like shoes (a line of which we are planning to launch very soon), are the prime accessories that determine a look and, in some way, empower us by conferring a communicational status to the external world. For example, bags and shoes transform a white t-shirt and jeans into something much more and also communicate a message. Bags however are able to say even more about their owner by carrying his/her daily, and also most intimate, needs.
Finally - Tell us about your SS13 collection
The SS13 collection is, in my eyes, the most mature and concise to date: it is mainly focused on the reinterpretation of our best-selling styles that season after season improve in detail and know-how. SS13 also saw newly added styles, which complete pre-existing families, as well as a Menʼs range that received an excellent response, even from our women’s buyers. The combination of vegetable-tanned cowhide, prestigious calf and sheepskins, and shimmering exotics reaches its highest ground, all in a timeless range of hues belonging to a cross-seasonal palette.
All from Pauric Sweeney SS13