s.k. manor hill is a new one addition to Oi Polloi’s proverbial stockade that we’re pretty excited about… and by ‘pretty excited’, we obviously mean close to cardiac arrest every time we catch a glimpse of this stuff.
Slicker-than-slick fabrics... intriguing details... laid-back, sportswear-adjacent flavour aplenty... no wonder we're head over heels for it.
So instead of our excitable bilge, we let the main man himself, Dominic Sondag, chat about his design process, the journey to s.k. manor hill and the best scran in Florence...
First things first, where does the name come from? Sounds like the name of a cult horror TV show from the 90s.
That's exactly what I was going for. Kidding, the ”s” is for my surname – Sondag; the “k” is for kindred representing friends and family, manor is for 'fashion' house; hill is both representative of nature and a journey to the top.
How would you describe your stuff? There’s a bit of a sportswear vibe about it, but the results are a lot classier.
I always try to avoid describing or categorising my stuff, but if pressed for a description it might be something like this: timeless and refined, modern classic clothing embodying casual elegance... sportswear is probably fine though.
How did you start s.k. manor hill?
For a period of time after I graduated, I worked at a few different positions in the fashion industry. In particular, my four years at Engineered Garments and another two at a factory that made EG pieces helped me develop a base of practical knowledge of what goes into creating a clothing line. I decided a year in advance that my first collection would debut for Spring/Summer 2016.
The opportunity was like being a kid in a candy store - hard not to feel that way when your idol is the candy store’s creative director.
You worked at Engineered Garments? Nice. What was that like?
Daiki Suzuki was (and remains) one of my favourite designers, so it was naturally pretty exciting. For me, the opportunity was like being a kid in a candy store - hard not to feel that way when your idol is the candy store’s creative director.
And all your stuff is still made in New York right? What’re the pros and cons of manufacturing in The Big Apple?
Yes, everything is made in NY except for the knitwear.
Pros – I’m able to be in the factories every day so I’m able to keep a close eye on things. By producing locally, I don’t have to contend with delivery issues or pay for overseas transportation (less of a carbon foot print), etc. I’m supporting the local economy and businesses in the historic Garment District (which is constantly shrinking and in threat of disappearing due to real estate developers).
Cons – as you may have heard, New York is one of the most expensive cities in the world so rents are higher and labour costs are higher.
Following on from that, is it important where clothes are made?
Yes it is important where clothes are made: who’s making it? How much are they getting paid? What machines are they using? What are the working conditions like? These are all things I consider important to garment creation.
My research suggests you studied fashion design in Italy? What was that like?
Yes I studied fashion in Florence, Italy. It was amazing to live in the city where Gucci and Ferragamo (to name a few) were founded and to learn from teachers who worked for Vivienne Westwood and Moschino and whatnot. It was truly inspiring. I was elated to go to school every day and learn, which before then was a pretty foreign concept to me.
More importantly, what was the food like in Italy? Any decent eateries to recommend?
I didn’t get to eat really good until my parents visited me during Christmas break. Otherwise, I was a broke college student eating pastries and cooking pasta at home. The eatery I would frequent the most was an amazing pizza shop – Gustapizza. I have to admit though, my culinary awareness in 2009 was pretty limited haha.
I was a broke college student eating pastries and cooking pasta at home. The eatery I would frequent the most was an amazing pizza shop – Gustapizza.
What’s studying design actually like? Seems like one of those things most people can’t get their heads round.
I'm not entirely sure how to describe it, all I know was that I learned more about something I was passionate about. I attended the Florence University of the Arts in my last semester of my senior year of college. I had completed all of my BA degree requirements for my graphic design degree and I had a final semester left where I just needed credits to graduate so I could take all electives. My family encouraged me to study abroad, so I decided on taking all fashion courses in Italy.
That semester provided the catalyst for my epiphany regarding what I wanted to do following my formal schooling – fashion design. The curriculum was very broad, exposing you to the many and varied components of fashion design. I took classes in fashion history, fashion illustration, draping, sewing, pattern making, knitwear etc. After successfully completing the semester that secured my US college degree, I extended my stay for another semester so that I could secure a one year Certification of Fashion Design. In the end, studying fashion design set me on my path to be a designer.
Everything about your gear, from the pockets on the hoodies to the centre seam on the jumpers, seem pretty considered. What’s your design process like?
That's because it is haha - attention to detail is key. My design process often starts with drawing inspiration from vintage garments that I have collected over the years. I like to pull little details from various vintage garments and then do preliminary sketches, go over the designs with my pattern maker, develop prototypes, do fittings, and edit and make adjustments as needed.
Know you’re probably fond of them all, but if you had to choose, what’d be your pick for the best item you’ve produced?
When you’re not hard at work at s.k. manor hill, what does a typical day for you entail?
Probably eating, exercising, meditating, doing yoga, learning Italian on duo lingo, reading a book, or lying in bed watching something funny on tv.
How’s New York at the moment?
It's ok, seems pretty active to me, hoping it stays that way.
Any words of wisdom you’d want to share?
Be thankful for what you have and buy s.k. manor hill from Oi Polloi.