The brief but colourful history of cult New York label Sies Marjan

New book The Colors of Sies Marjan looks inside the world of Sies Marjan, the beloved New York-based label which shuttered in June 2020. Here, designer and founder Sander Lak speaks on the highly personal project

The Colours of Sies Marjan. Left, a woman wearing a shiny gold long sleeve top. Right, a woman wearing a green and pink shiny dress.
The Colours of Sies Marjan.
(Image credit: Courtesy of Rizzoli)

To fully understand the magic of the now-defunct New York fashion label Sies Marjan is to dissect its creative director Sander Lak’s deep appreciation of colour. Unlike typical New Yorkers, who favour wearing black and other darker shades, Sies Marjan’s philosophy of embracing wild and wonderful shades to uplift, surprise and inspire was highly influential, despite its brief duration. Two years since the label was shuttered, in June 2020, due to the global pandemic, Lak has chronicled the bright, but short-lived journey of Sies Marjan in a book, The Colors of Sies Marjan, published by Rizzoli. Featuring a foreword by the artist Elizabeth Peyton, and conversations with architect Rem Koolhaas (who collaborated with Lak on what would be Sies Marjan’s final collection), graphic designer Irma Boom, actress Isabella Rosselini and author Donna Tartt, the photo-filled tome is organised entirely by colour, as seen through Lak’s eyes.

The Colors of Sies Marjan, published by Rizzoli

A woman with blue tinted hair wearing a turquoise jersey.

From The Colors of Sies Marjan.

(Image credit: Courtesy of Rizzoli)

Founded in 2016, Sies Marjan quickly attained cult status for its signature use of jewel-toned hues, exquisite construction and effortless approach to dressing. In his statement for the book, Lak recounts, ‘The collections at Sies Marjan were completely driven by colour. Before using any references, inspiration or vintage garments, we would look at hundreds of colours, discovering what does and doesn’t work together. From the design team to the merchandisers and marketers, we would all look at the carefully selected colours and give our input. Not just what felt right, but also what the colours reminded us of, what we’d never wear and why.’

Rather than think about colour from a chronological or seasonal standpoint, Lak’s complex and analytical approach for the source material, whether its ‘Cookie Monster blue’, ‘Baskin Robbins pink’, ‘Lakers purple’ and ‘Post-it yellow’, draws from both a colour’s cultural and Pantone specificity to magnify each choice’s resonance. ‘It was this search of association and disruption that told us which colours to use on which fabrics,’ he writes. ‘Although scary and extremely hard to plan, it was exciting and dynamic. We never knew how the collection would reveal itself. But it always found a way.’

From The Colors of Sies Marjan. A wall with photographs and different coloured fabrics pinned to it.

From The Colors of Sies Marjan.

(Image credit: Courtesy of Rizzoli)

Speaking ahead of the book’s launch, Lak says, ‘The intention of a lot of books about fashion houses is usually within a marketing or PR-filled context, like an anniversary or store opening, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but this was something very different because [the label] doesn’t exist anymore, and it was really in my own hands for everyone to see, but also for myself to give this chapter a closure. It became so personal’. 

Since the Sies Marjan’s demise, Lak has been highly selective about embarking on new projects, one of which is an evocative textile collection for Maharam in 2021 (see our article on the Sander Lak and Maharam collaboration). ‘We closed the company, I took time off and after several months, I started feeling ready to see what else was out there,’ he recalls. ‘Nothing felt right, not because those things weren’t right, but I realised that the problem was still with me and I hadn’t put a closure on Sies Marjan or given it an ending it deserved. We did it as well as we could but it happened quite abruptly, so I really felt there was unfinished business. 

From The Colors of Sies Marjan. The back of a woman standing in the street wearing a colourful frilly dress.

From The Colors of Sies Marjan.

(Image credit: Courtesy of Rizzoli)

‘I came up with the idea for a book, which was something I always wanted to do in general. I reached out to Rizzoli with the concept of doing it by colour and having it be the last word on this brand that existed for a short period of time. When I had it in my hands for the first time last week, it was quite an intense moment because that’s when I felt I could really let it go. I’ve done everything I could to finish this story and now I’m ready for whatever is next.’ 

Filled with photographs from behind the scenes, editorial spreads and other documentary images, The Colors of Sies Marjan captures the hard work, creativity and artistry that goes into building a label, seen from Lak's unique perspective. Bright, bold and beautiful, it exquisitely captures the raw energy that fuelled the label during its abbreviated lifetime.

The colours of Sies Marjan book cover.

The book cover.

(Image credit: Courtesy of Rizzoli)

INFORMATION

The Colors of Sies Marjan is published by Rizzoli. Available 8 November 2022.

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Pei-Ru Keh is the US Editor at Wallpaper*. Born and raised in Singapore, she has been a New Yorker since 2013. Pei-Ru has held various titles at Wallpaper* since she joined in 2007. She currently reports on design, art, architecture, fashion, beauty and lifestyle happenings in the United States, both in print and digitally. Pei-Ru has taken a key role in championing diversity and representation within Wallpaper's content pillars and actively seeks out stories that reflect a wide range of perspectives. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children, and is currently learning how to drive.