When you delve into the Gudrun Sjödén story – a tale of commercial success beyond the dreams of most designers and legions of fans across the globe – that phrase about “walking to the beat of your own drum” springs to mind. A little digging reveals the full line comes from the philosopher, Henry David Thoreau, who said, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.”
Gudrun strode ahead of her competition not by playing safe, not with careful market research or by appealing to the widest possible audience: no, Sweden’s largest fashion exporter – with 17 international stores and a turnover above half a billion Swedish kronor – forged her own path, all the time stepping (to paraphrase Thoreau) to music that she alone heard. Colourful clothes aside, Gudrun Sjödén proves that confidence in your own vision, however unconventional, is key.
Gudrun’s music is probably the sound of the 60s and 70s, the era in which she created her business from scratch. Having grown up on a farm, handicrafts were a part of Gudrun's childhood and continue to inspire her. As an adult, she learnt the ropes at design houses such as Ivar Wahl; in the latter, she launched her own brand of clothing, opened the first of her boutiques in 1976 and two years later became a mail order pioneer. Today the figures, particularly that £54 million bottom line, speak for themselves.
With simplicity at its core, season after season Gudrun offers her calling card of uncomplicated shapes and lavish colour. Prints, often botanical, bloom on tunics and flowing skirts – though breathing space in the form of stripes or geometries is usually added to the mix. These clothes (and the popular homeware) speak to thousands of women and what they say is seductive, “have fun, feel comfortable, be confident.”
This summer, Gudrun is collaborating with the American Swedish Institute, an arts and culture organisation that promotes the sharing of experience and art. In a visually striking exhibition, Gudrun shares her original watercolours, samples of her clothing and textiles and archival constructed catalogues.
The First Look preview party opening is 26 July, 6:30 - 10 pm. Sip sparkling wine and taste festive bites, while mingling with Gudrun on ASI’s lovely outdoor terrace, complete with gorgeous views of the Turnblad Mansion. Enjoy special access to the new exhibition, even before the general public enters.
We have beautiful linen tablecloths by Gudrun Sjödén to give away to the first one hundred three-year subscribers who subscribe or renew between 15th June and 15th August. Subscribe at: www.selvedge.org/collections/subscriptions