Johan Lindeberg has slipped on and off fashion’s radar, first as marketing director and then CEO of Diesel USA in the mid ’90s. He started his eponymous menswear label J.Lindeberg in 1997, only to decamp to Los Angeles to act as Justin Timberlake’s stylist and creative director of the pop star’s denim venture William Rast. He’s always been a major player, just not a visible one. Until now.
BLK DNM, the “creative project” he launched in 2010, is, despite its seemingly generic name, his most personal company yet—and for the first time the designer himself is in fashion’s limelight. “This line was created during the most intense moment of my life. I had separated from my wife, and decided to write a whole new chapter. I wanted it to be more personal than anything I’ve done. No compromises.”
This manifesto translates to BLK DNM’s clean-design jeans, impeccably cut blazers and buttery soft leather jackets, all made to take the battering of urban life. Menswear and womenswear are equally androgynous, and almost never venture beyond basics—albeit basics made by a master tailor from the finest fabrics. In fact, Lindeberg has assembled a collection based on his own wardrobe. “I design exactly how I dress. I have my staple pieces: my low-scooped T-shirt, my silk scarf, a blazer, a leather jacket.”
Lindeberg takes his mission seriously. He’s prolific on Instagram—his photos are mostly black and white and each is signed, “Xx..Johan.” His stream is littered with pictures of his 12-year-old daughter, Blue, and intimate portraits of beautiful men and women wearing his clothes. The latter are part of the brand’s online project, BLK DNM Close-Up, a series the designer shoots himself. The photos feature such inimitable women as Karlie Kloss and Caroline de Maigrete in BLK DNM clothing. But unusually for a fashion brand, the outfits are never quite the focus. “I want to portray women in a real way and show their strength,” he says. “I want the models to be no one but themselves. BLK DNM inspires exactly that.”
Although Lindeberg has given BLK DNM a very considered identity, he avoids typical industry tactics, shunning circus-like catwalk shows. “I see a lot of girls dressed in BLK DNM off the runway, and that’s more special for me,” he says, of the many insiders who wear his label as part of their off-duty uniform. These women serve as loyal ambassadors, with only the inherent coolitude of the pieces separating them from the rest of the urban mass. “I want to believe that the line strikes confidence in the wearer,” he says. With its quiet, yet persistent, signature, BLK DNM has become the ultimate anti-it It label. Its success depends on Lindeberg keeping it that way.
URBN ARMR: Uniform of a City-Slicker
Leather jacket, $1,020, leather jacket, $920, wool blazer, $610, jeans, $250, all ssense.com.