Danish-born, New York City-based designer Camilla Stærk makes the sort of attenuated, shadowy attire that equally suggests a gothic interpretation of Coco Chanel's Black Swan-like elegance, the silhouettes of moody 40s cinema, and the razor-sharp heroines French New Wave music. As a whole, her work epitomizes a powerful, continually evolving expression of modern noir: her designs are clean, minimal, sharp and glamorous.
Her collections are delivered with intricate narratives. Stærk holds a strong interest in literary and art tropes, symbolic media her aesthetic accomodates well. Some of her strongest work references poetry (the Edgar Allen Poe parallels are hard to miss), as well as obscure Danish works, particularly its canon of ghost stories. Of course, Stærk's gloomy design qualities translate well to equally spectral music: fellow noir-obsessed Danes the Raveonettes are a mainstay in the designer's audio arsenal, both as friends and as collaborators. Her most recent collection, the haunting VANITAS, was scored entirely by the Raveonettes' Sune Rose Wagner.
As Stærk prepared to spend a relaxing holiday abroad – first in Denmark, then the South of France – she spoke with Rolling Stone about her favorite Christmas traditions, her well-received new mini-collection for Anthropologie, and dramatic holiday songs that fill her with dark, seasonal joy.
Even as your sensibilities continue to evolve and refine over time, what would you say is always at the core of the Stærk aesthetic?
A dark, sensual universe centered around my work in leather and fluid jerseys, and always inspired by a strong muse.
Congratulations on the Edith 11 collection for Anthropologie. Do you consider it a distillation of Stærk's design values for a mass customer or another project entirely?
Thank you. With Edith 11, my aim was to channel what I do into what I feel would be an ideal, easy capsule wardrobe of layered pieces for women of all body types, inspired by both modern and vintage lingerie wear.
What is specifically Danish about your clothing?
My personal sensibility is rooted in Denmark, as it is where I grew up and where I developed my appreciation and passion for art, design and craftsmanship. I come from a family working with modern Danish furniture design, which has always been a great inspiration to me and my own work.
Is winter or summer for ideal for the Stærk essence?
My collection is not that season-based in general.
How does the season of darkness this time of year in Denmark affect creativity?
I have lived abroad since starting out as a design student then designer, first in London from 1996 to 2006, then NYC from 2006 to present, so the season of darkness is, for me, maybe rather something I always carry with me in some way!
What is your favorite thing to wear for Christmas?
A black gown and my grandmother's mink fur cape with her initials inside – one of my favorite pieces for both its beauty and for the memories it carries for me.
What do you love most about the Christmas season?
'"Hygge!" A word exclusive to the Danes, which can't really be translated but sort of means cozy in the way of candles, gløgg, [a] fireplace, being with friends and family.
What is unique about a Danish Christmas (aside from celebrating a day early)? Your favorite traditions?
Lighting the Christmas tree, which is decorated partly with lots of small, live candles. It is so beautiful. Then dancing around the tree holding hands and singing traditional Christmas carols. I love coming to Copenhagen just before Christmas, meeting friends for gløgg and for fun, long traditional Christmas lunches of herring and snaps.
What was a particularly memorable Christmas for you in your youth?
All my Christmases as a child at my grandparents' house. Such special memories.
You're kind of famous in NYC for your epic seasonal parties. Can you tell us about the Christmas party you just threw?
It is always one of my favorite things –[associates] Hanuk, Victor and I gathering friends for our dance party and just dancing all night long, exactly how it should be!
How are you spending New Year's Eve this year?
I will be in the South of France, and the only thing I know for certain is that I will be enjoying a good martini somewhere.
You have a special relationship with the Raveonettes. Can you discuss how you discovered each other's work?
Quite a few years back, and when I was still based in London, we "discovered" each other in ways of both work and friendship. I have dressed both Sharin and Sune since; they are the perfect muses. And recently Barnaby [Roper] and I collaborated with Sune on the music for our VANITAS film (Stærk S/S 2012).
How did you and Sune collaborate specifically on the VANITAS film?
Collaborating felt very natural. We talked about a dramatic, dark and haunting soundtrack for the VANITAS film, and of course Sune immediately composed and created the most amazing piece.
What other musicians do you admire?
Some of the other artists I admire are Nick Cave, Tori Amos, PJ Harvey, Tom Waits, Portishead, and more.
Camilla's favorite Christmas songs (listen on Spotify):
The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl - "A Fairytale in New York"
The Raveonettes - "The Christmas Song"
Gasolin - "Dejlig Er Jorden"
Bing Crosby & David Bowie - "Little Drummer Boy"
John Lennon & Yoko Ono - "Happy Christmas/War is Over"
Dolly Parton & Rod Stewart - "Baby, It's Cold Outside"
Elvis - "Merry Christmas Baby"
Nick Cave - "I Do Dear I Do"