Christian Larson's newest project just adds to his extensive repertoire of work as he combines his skills in film, fashion, and photography. The Swedish creative has done music videos for Sigur Rós, Seinabo Sey, Kylie Minogue, and Icona Pop, as well as commercials and editorials for Cartier, Pepsi, H&M, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, Beats by Dre, L'Oreal, and Agent Provocateur. Now, he takes his own to the next level. Larson is the co-founder and creative director of CDLP, a premium underwear company set to perfect the male base layer in terms of performance, style, and sustainability. His latest projects seek to bring his CDLP designs to life in a series of film and photography projects set in iconic locations which include Grand Tremezzo Hotel and Hôtel Providence in Paris. We sat down with the creative genius to find out his creative vision for his already highly touted menswear brand.
You’re the co-founder and creative director of CDLP. What launched the initial idea for the brand?
I have a background as a film director and photographer in fashion and advertising and was doing a campaign for the lingerie brand Agent Provocateur. I realized that women consider underwear as something very different from men. Women typically want underwear to make them feel great about themselves, and in most cases match to what outfit they are wearing. Men, on the other hand, typically wear the same underwear for everything—from dressing up in a suit, playing ice hockey, or going on a date. I was literally jealous of women’s options during this project and realized that I too, as a man, wanted to choose an underwear based on the occasion, and I wanted underwear options to make me feel something. That was the spark to starting the design process of the first collection for CDLP: elevating men’s underwear from a necessity into a garment that should be consciously chosen to make you feel great about yourself. In addition, my co-founder Andreas and I felt that men had been portrayed so stereotypically in underwear advertising for years, and felt there was room from something fresh. So I picked up my camera and started to explore.
Before you got into the world of design, you were a video editor for artists like Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Rammstein and J Lo. Why the change?
Yes, I started my film career as a film editor for Jonas Åkerlund, a Swedish film and music video director, who took me on as a protege. Editing was a way for me to learn everything about film making: how to tell stories, but also how to modify footage from one mood into another. Editing is so powerful like that. It’s always something of a magical process: every time I blend ingredients of visuals, audio, sound effects, and stills—and manage to output something that wasn’t my intention—I get goosebumps. It is a craft I will always love, but I extended my craft from editing to directing and photography. After a few years in the editing room, I was eager to create my own ideas and started to direct music videos and creative advertising campaigns for fashion and lifestyle brands. After a few years, I wanted to project what I had learned into something of my own. One day I stood there staring at my luggage with ugly underwear after I had shot a women’s lingerie campaign and thought “I should make something about this".
The branding of CDLP is something that you’ve worked really hard to achieve—a recognizable message of a new form of masculinity. You celebrate “conscious masculinity”. What does the term mean to you?
I don’t know why I always was interested in men’s underwear advertising. I guess in my job it’s easy to get hooked on some areas. Anyways, I always felt that I couldn’t identify with the portrayal of masculinity that I was shown by Calvin Klein or the others in their advertising. It was either super macho, super athletic or super sexual. At the same time, men, in general, went through this whole me-too-thing and I got curious to start to ask the question “what is masculinity supposed to be like for a new generation?” Men, regardless of sexuality, can be confident in themselves however narrow or broad it may be. So, I challenged myself to try to shoot a man in underwear and make it feel natural, personal and honest—and still something that was nice to look at, for any man. Also, I started interviewing men that Andreas and I looked up to ask them about masculinity. These portraits of Jonas Åkerlund; François Dussol, a Rio de Janeiro hotelier; and Sting—all put interesting words to this question. It’s nice to see that the brand has received authentic attention to that. For making an effort to represent good dudes with good intentions. And who can still be sexy and cool.
Many may not know that you also shoot all your own brand collateral. What is the dialogue that you’re creating with your customer?
I think it’s interesting when a brand has a tone of voice, a personal perspective as a brand. And I’ve always respected brands that have a strong founder or designer that communicates about certain themes. For me, I look at CDLP as a film rather than a brand—a film about interesting men, about masculinity, about being a man. There’s a general tonality there in everything I shoot, but it’s supposed to feel like chapters from this endless movie, filled with characters and stories that take the viewer on a journey. I always want to viewer to ask questions like “what’s happening here?”. In addition, of course, I want it to be beautiful and entertaining of some sort.
Tell me a little bit about the “LENSED BY:” platform you launched.
I shoot most of our imagery myself and value the fact that our brand perspective is through the same lens—that we have a voice. But, I also want this perspective to be challenged. The LENSED BY: series is a project I started to invite friends and creatives to shake things up and to open up a conversation about what we do. The theme is simple, I ask creatives to show their take on men and masculinity. The fact that it’s defined as an experimental series, allows us to be bold. It’s really cool to see the awareness that our series has gotten. The most recent installment, by photographer Rasmus Weng-Karlsen, really challenged us and the images he created received a ton of online buzz.
You’ve managed to create a product that mixed impeccable fit with really amazing quality. What’s your process like as you approach each season?
We’re an essentials brand, and we don’t really work with seasons. We really want to make a great product of the highest quality and design, and we’d rather approach each season as a way to develop and improve, always perfecting our core collection. In addition, we look at how to be relevant through colors or collaborations. The inspirations for these usually come from Andreas and me, continuously traveling and discussing the brand development and how to keep challenging the norm of what underwear used to be like for men.
What’s next for the brand?
We are very grateful for the response we get from customers and we are always in close dialogue with them in how we should develop and how we can improve. We started with underwear, then came socks and swimwear, and for winter we are expanding the essentials to “home wear”—blending sleepwear and loungewear into elevated garments that are comfortable to wear when at home. We are using a similar approach to fabrics and design, but adding a touch of subtle yet directional flair. We are also looking forward to opening new concept stores in markets, like London, New York, and Berlin, following the opening of our Stockholm store this season.
Any new categories you want to explore?
No. This is it!