The collaboration between hot newcomer Richard Chai and classic household name Original Penguin has been eagerly anticipated on both sides of the atlantic. SI talked to Chai about the creative spirit of the project, and what defines the look of the initial collection that will hit stores this fall. By Emma Holmqvist

Please explain how the collaboration between yourself and Original Penguin arose, and what makes the two of you a good match.
A mutual acquaintance suggested the idea to us. Original Penguin is a really interesting brand with a lot of heritage, which is an important aspect to me. The brand is iconic and its history is remarkable – many Hollywood people in the 50's and 60's wore it, including Bob Hope, Clint Eastwood and the members of the The Rat Pack. But there’s also something witty and anti-establishment about the brand, which is something I think works well together with my own sensibility.

When rummaging through the Original Penguin archive, what pieces in particular did you fall for, and how did you go about the challenge to rework them?
The polo shirts caught me right away, as they embody the idea of the ”50's' man of leisure” and the general sporting culture of that time.  It felt like the best place to start, and to take something so traditional and put a darker, somewhat more deconstructed feel to the style seemed very ironic.

What was the biggest challenge in creating the collection?
Perhaps not so much of a challenge, but rather an interesting part of this project, was to re-imagining the classic, happy brand that Original Penguin is, and finding a higher level of sophistication that lends itself to my aesthetic, but successfully marries the Penguin DNA at the same time. Both the essence of my own line and that of Original Penguin winks at tradition with a twist of humor and color. It is just that we address these elements from different points of view.

How did you find the balance leaving your own distinctive mark but without tampering too much with the Original Penguin signature?
It is a collaborative effort for sure.  I work with the Original Penguin team on a regular basis to discuss potential ideas and we evaluate what makes sense for this project in terms of the tone of the product.

Apart from your collaboration with Original Penguin, that is set to continue for s/s 2011, what’s in the pipeline in the world of Richard Chai?
I’m progressing one day at a time. I couldn’t be more thrilled with the collaboration between Original Penguin and myself, and I’m equally excited about the development of my eponymous label for both men and women.