Wanda Nylon is a Paris-based brand that specializes in fashion-forward rainwear made from eco-friendly materials such as vinyl, PU and PVC. Founded by Antwerp Academy-trained designer Peter Hornstein and stylist Johanna Senyk, who’s worked with everyone from JW Anderson to the Olsens, the label evolved as an answer to the void of sartorial wet-weather options available on the market. What began as a dedicated line has grown to include a selection of ready-to-wear separates and accessories like t-shirts, knits, pencil skirts, shorts, slacks, hats (in collaboration with Borsalino), and gloves (courtesy of Agnelle)—all crafted in the same high-tech plastics. Add to this that each garment is unisex and up to 90% recyclable and you have a collection that’s as ethical as it is impeccable.
But in case you’re not stoked on sustainability, the styling alone is worth the press. Take the sheer matte PVC trench that’s so Zhora from Blade Runner or the iridescent dichroic parka that would be at home on the set of a Missy Elliott video circa 1996. Their Tumblr-luxe aesthetic hits a sweet spot between mod and sci-fi, playing on a dystopian future as seen from the Technicolor past. The focus is on designs that are iconic and a little bit ironic, meaning you won’t want to take them off even when it’s not raining. I spoke to Hornstein about fabrication, inspiration and the importance of details.
Can you tell us a little about how the brand got started?
Johanna and I met a while ago at the International Festival for Fashion and Photography in Hyères, France, where I was a contestant and she was taking care of the show organization. Back then I had a collection under my name that was based on hand-molded PVC. A couple years later, she had the idea to launch a brand specializing in rainwear inspired by the iconic transparent raincoat that everyone knows from the sixties. She approached me and we worked out the concept, but it took us two more years to source the right materials and manufacturers. A year ago, we finally got on the market with out first collection based on classic garments like the trench, the biker, the caban, the fisherman’s hat and so on. The base collection let us develop our brand as something that’s available year-round. We had so many requests for menswear and other products, that we began developing a total line not just limited to rainwear.
So, does the base collection change from season to season?
What changes is the quality and weight of the plastic that we’re using depending on the season, plus the edging. So, for example, for Spring/Summer, we’ll use cotton and for Fall/Winter, wool or velvet.
It was Johanna’s idea. She wanted a sixties-inspired transparent raincoat but couldn’t find anything that had the right look or fit. It would show up from time to time in some designer’s collection, maybe Sonia Rykiel or Marc Jacobs, but there wasn’t a single brand that offered it year-round. From that point forward we started thinking of what kind of other products we could offer. We did a collaboration with Borsalino for hats. We did another one with Agnelle for gloves. We’ve done computer bags. And next year we’re thinking of launching handbags or swimwear.
Where did the name “Wanda Nylon” come from? It has kind of a drag queen ring to it.
It comes a bit from this direction. We wanted it to be personalized, an alias basically. But we also wanted it to have an edge. We chose a name that sounds like an exotic dancer from the Crazy Horse or something. The whole notion was really meant to confuse because, in general, we’re not using nylon, but PU and PVC.
Where do you draw your inspiration?
The sixties are big inspiration for us and, of course, the fetish community. We’re trying to make the materials that we use wearable but also enjoyable, so we focus a lot on the sound and the smell and the fit because we want our designs to be something people wear even when it’s not raining. When we started, we did a lot of research into movies and music. You have references like Charlotte Rampling or Catherine Deneuve or Romy Schneider wearing a black vinyl mackintosh in What’s New Pussycat? Our fascination with the material reflects its functionality and vice versa.
I’ve read that 90% of the materials are recyclable. Is sustainability a goal for you?
Sustainability is a big issue for us, but it’s really difficult to accomplish from a technical standpoint, which is why it took us two years to develop the product. At the moment, we’re working with the manufacturers to engineer new kinds of sustainable fabrics. Our base collection is all done in a type of polyurethane that’s recyclable and much more comfortable to wear than your typical PVC. The idea was to translate the retro trench coat, which was originally a PVC that was very stiff and prone to yellowing, into something contemporary and wearable. The goal is to eventually reach 100%.
Did your decision to manufacture in Europe have anything to do with the issue of sustainability?
It’s really important for us to work as closely as possible with the manufacturers themselves because there are a lot of special requests that come in and having the production far away is always a problem in terms of quality control.
Who’s the typical Wanda Nylon customer?
We have a quite a big range, I’d say, both in terms of age and style. Of course, there are young customers who are looking for fashion-forward pieces but we also have older customers who want something more classic and exclusive.
What’s more important, style or utility?
When it comes to rainwear, I would say style. It really has to be a piece that you want to wear since it’s already a given that all of our fabrics are rain-repellent.
If Wanda Nylon was a movie, which one would it be?
What’s next for you?
We’re currently working on SS14. We want to develop an independent men’s line that’s stronger and more masculine than our base unisex collection.