akenberg meets

Imani Lanier

Growing up in the foothills of Mount Washington in northeast Los Angeles, he had the nature at his backyard. Yet, much of his creative world focuses on the street, whether it’s art, content, photography or style. Power house Imani Lanier has worked for major companies like Levi’s, Supreme and Nike for 10+ years. Today, it’s all about innovation and brand building in the men’s active market for this multi-faceted creative director, and his process always involves immersion into the lifestyle the product revolves around.

– I knew from a very early age I wanted to be a designer. I still remember when a representative from a fashion school came to my junior high school to talk about their programs and how exciting it all seemed to me. Creating something that is consumer facing has always been a part of what my career path has been. I got started in the apparel industry at the young age of 19. I was heavy into photography and wanted to make a company that revolved around putting my photos on tees. I was really driven to create this company but new that I needed some apparel experience. So, I got a job as an assistant to the designer at a women’s denim brand in Los Angeles. And it really just snowballed from there. I eventually was able to take that experience and focus on working with brands that spoke to me as an individual, and then to start my own brands, but by this time it changed from tees to full cut and sew collections.

Which part of the fashion industry do you like the most?

– I love the process of creating the direction of a brand or collection. I like to get into the mind of the target customer and take a deep dive into the lifestyle and culture of that consumer. The journey and the discovery of that process is so much fun – and also the most important part. People buy brands because they believe the brand is a representation or extension of how they want to be seen in the world. People use clothing to identify with certain groups, and fashion is like a uniform for different social groups. I think what makes a designer good is the ability to see outside of themselves and do a total brand and customer immersion. And then of course putting that into action in the design process is so gratifying.

You have worked for some of the most recognized design houses in the world. The highlight of your career so far?

– I think working for Nike as a senior men’s wear designer at Nike Sportswear was a great experience. It gave me the opportunity to really get global brand experience as well as learn a way of designing and presenting collections in a way that address design from 360 degree lens.

What projects are you involved in right now?

– At the moment I’m working on a few projects. After 28 years my role these days really involves creative direction and a lot of content creation. I currently am working on building a golf inspired brand while at the same time am working full time as the creative director of a liquor brand. This year the focus is getting the golf brand launched.

As a creative director and brand builder, what would you say is the most important change in fashion today?

– I think social media has created a huge shift in how brands are built, positive or negative. It has really changed how things get done in the industry. I also think that with the technology we have today it has saturated the fashion industry. Because we all have access to the same inspiration online there is not a lot of difference in the product out there in the market, which is why brand building today relies so much on content and how they push the lifestyle. The brands’ affiliations sometimes are the only thing that makes brand A different from brand B. It’s kind of sad. Back in the day there was so much creativity and everyone had their own signature which made the markets so exciting. Now not so much.

You are very productive, where do you get your energy?

– I have started doing a lot of work with breathing and meditation. I’ve found that the amount of energy you have is mental. Our minds get tiered faster than our bodies. So, we have to keep our minds clear. But I also try to keep active with Jiu jitsu, Thai boxing and hikes.

Which is usually the best moment of the day?

– The best moment of the day for me is night when I can relax and let my mind go wild with ideas.

And the most boring?

– Meetings, meetings, meetings!

If you didn’t live in Los Angeles, in what city would you live?

– One of my favourite places I’ve visited was Argentina. But I think somewhere in South America. I think the culture is really gaining global respect in this moment.

Where are you in five years?

– Just making things for the love of it.

How would you describe you own style?

– My style has been pretty consistent for 30 years. I’m a skateboarder and an artist. My style has encompassed that lifestyle since I was a teenager. But as a designer I put my own little flair on everything I wear to make it me.

The last item of clothing you added to your wardrobe?

– I bought a kimono from BestMade Company, and then I pulled the poly fill out of it and chain stitch embroidered the entire back panel. It’s perfect.

Favourite fashion designer?

– Alexander McQueen of course.

Who are the style icons that inspires you?

– Everyday people. I’m inspired by people plain and simple. I love to people watch and dissect people on the street. Who are they, what do they do, are they nice or not?

Your favourite look?

– A mix of technical outerwear and military.

Your personal style signifiers?

– Tailored trousers and some kind of headwear.

What does the Swedish nature mean to you, and are you familiar with Lapland?

– When I think of Swedish nature the first thing that comes to mind is harmony. A culture that dances with nature instead of fighting it or destroying it. My relationship to Lapland really is my friendship with you. I heard of Lapland for the first time when we met in the early 90’s.

Spontaneously, what do you know about acetate?

– I know it’s a natural synthetic woven with wood pulp and maybe blend of something else for texture and hand feel.

Your favourite frame from akenberg?

– I like Kallax in Midnight black. The simplicity and vintage inspired shape that reminds me of Porsche design back when I was in high school.