Unestablished is the consultancy of creative director Anton Wikner. The company cultivates a small scale philosophy and operates at the intersection of visual culture, design and fashion with a network of people from different horizons, embracing cultural differences.
AN INTERVIEW WITH ANTON WIKNER
Born in Sweden in the late seventies, Anton Wikner became interested in art and design at an early age. While his parents ran the family art gallery, Anton initially focused his creative efforts on music. After finishing his studies at Stockholm’s renowned Beckmans College of Design, he moved to London to pursue a career in design and art direction. “At the time, anything that I found interesting, whether in art, music or fashion, came from London. I needed to be there, to be a part of it,” Anton says. This lead him to work with leading names such as Mario Testino, fashion clients Tommy Hilfiger, Burberry and Levi’s as well as institutions like London’s Design Museum and Barbican Centre. After forming Unestablished in 2010, Anton has collaborated with some of the industry’s most influential icons, including Lotta Volkova, Mats Gustafson and Christiaan Houtenbos. His work has won numerous awards and has been published in books and magazines, as well as exhibited internationally.
You set up Unestablished in 2010. Do you feel established yet?
—The name originally came from an idea of working with very established clients, but from an underdog perspective. There’s a certain energy in that. So in that sense, I don’t think I ever want to feel established. Much later, the name also became a commitment for the consultancy to collaborate with unestablished photographers, stylists and artists, to give them a platform.
London to Stockholm, Burberry to Ikea, fashion to architecture – your resumé has some width, to say the least.
—I wouldn’t say that it’s as wide as it may seem. The process and the aesthetics of the projects have tended to be pretty stringent, although they have resulted in different kinds of output for different kinds of brands. For me, it’s usually not the projects themselves – the brand, the media or the output – I enjoy the most. It’s the people. The exchange between people is at the core of any creative process, and I have been lucky to find many rewarding such exchanges.
What are the main challenges for today’s brands?
—Staying not only relevant, but interesting. And that goes for me a consultant as well, you have to keep asking: why are we doing this, what are we bringing to the table? Another major challenge is creating a company culture that not only reflects today’s society in terms of diversity, but which also nurtures a drive for change. Change as in real, progressive, new ideas that can shift the cultural landscape is essential to business growth. This perspective is, at least for most companies, a big step from the best practice mentality that is so common today. But I believe such a shift is necessary.
How does that point of view fit with for example fashion retail clients?
—It’s not an oxymoron, quite the opposite. Fashion retail is in desperate need of change, not only for the benefit of the environment, but for its own survival. And it’s not an easy fix. To succeed we would need changing consumer behaviours and sustainable communication that reflect society, as well as long-term investments in both people and environment. It may seem like a hard sell for quarter capitalism. Still, the alternative is not to go on as before, but to not go on at all.
What’s next for Unestablished?
—Maybe it’s because of the turbulent times in which we live, but as Unestablished continues to expand its services my interest has shifted towards more long term commitment, working as creative director for a brand with full responsibility for all brand expressions, including strategy. It would be a brand that has the ambition to be disruptive, regardless of industry. A brand whose owners do not shy away from the rapid change we see in the world, but who want to embrace it. The kind of brand I believe is not only tomorrow’s winner, but tomorrow’s new normal.
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