Last night, folks gathered at the Rizzoli store on Broadway for a conversation between the American artist Elizabeth Peyton and the Dutch designer Sander Lak, former creative director of Sies Marjan, to celebrate the launch of his new book The Colors of Sies Marjan. The tome, which gathers Lak’s color-filled years at Sies Marjan—the label shuttered in 2020 shortly after the pandemic began—features images from the runway and backstage, as well as artworks and other ephemera that served as inspiration for the designer.
Peyton and Lak took the stage in color-coordinated outfits. Peyton wore a “brilliant pale rose silk boiler suit,” as she describes it in the foreword she contributed to the book (It begins, “I met Sander because of color.”) The designer sported a beige suit; a sliver of a pink silk shirt, slightly darker than Peyton’s, peeked out from underneath. Impossible to believe it wasn’t intentional. “I’ve always wanted to make a book. I think I’m one of the very few designers who always loved to do my portfolio—that was always my favorite part of getting fired, of getting a new job,” Lak said to audience laughter. (Later on, when someone in the crowd brought up these alleged firings, Lak revealed he had never in fact been shown the door. “You completely outed me because I never got fired. Sometimes I lie for the sake of making a story better, and this is one of those cases.”)
Lak, who worked at Dries Van Noten before launching Sies Marjan, shared experiences of his life in color. How as a young boy growing up “in Africa, in the rainforest,” his mother used to dress him and his brothers in bright red and bright blue in order to better see them in the “green environment.” “It was a really practical choice she made which my brothers and I didn’t even think about.” How he can’t stand flowers because they are “too colorful.” “In my house it’s all green, it’s all plants, because I like green and they are sort of different shades of one color and I can digest it.”
Now that Lak is no longer a part of the fashion circus, he is able to indulge his passion for color in a different way. “I have these relationships with colors that I really like, and when I was working I would only have a season to really love a color and then I had to move on,” he explained, before adding—with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek—“I’m having this love affair with a certain color right now, and it’s been going on for over year already. What color is that? I’m not saying yet, we are still secret lovers.”
There were poignant moments. “Were you surprised where this book took you by the time you finished it?” Peyton asked. And what seemed like a standard answer at the beginning—“we did this book over Zoom (…) I was traveling a lot (…)”—suddenly exposed real emotions. “I didn’t really think about what that moment would be when I would have the book in my hands,” Lak recalled. “And then when I had it in my hands I realized it was kind of like the closing that I didn’t have before,” he added, his voice breaking. “I was not expecting to cry.”