To celebrate Gudrun Sjödén's new Spring 2018 collection, we dug into our archives to revisit Selvedge issue 59, when we spoke to the designer to find out what powers her designs more and more with each new season...
Gudrun Sjödén has been creating sustainable design for more than 40 years. Her company is Sweden’s second largest exporter after IKEA, and has built an international reputation throughout the years. Many might think that this is reason enough to celebrate the company and its founder: but Anna Sanfridsson, who has curated an exhibition of Sjödén’s work in the past, believes there are many more. Her designs ‘highlight issues of identity through fashion, the environment, the design tradition and entrepreneurship,’ she explains.
Sjödén grew up among strong women skilled in crafts – and independence was always a key part of her economic approach. ‘To avoid being steered by other people’s opinions you ought to have money of your own. Capital gives power over the company and the brand,’ she advises. Her designs seem to have attracted similarly liberated customers, as Sjödén realized who her typical customer was when she noticed that many of the visitors to a book fair in the mid 1990s were wearing her clothes. ‘My typical customer is about fifty, likes the arts and travelling, and has a job in the sphere of the humanities, such as teacher or librarian.’
And to many, this type of educated, discerning customer base would be a source of envy but Sanfridsson points out that that’s not necessarily the case in Sweden. ‘In the rest of the world the women who wear Sjödén’s clothes are regarded as free, artistic, adventurous women; women who live bohemian lives in New York or have their photograph taken on a horseback tour of Mongolia. But in Sweden the women who wear Sjödén’s designs are summed up in the slightly disparaging word ‘kulturtant’, a woman of culture.’
Gudrun herself seems unfazed by the criticism but has admitted that being a woman in the business world has brought challenges. And she has risen to them, helped by a love of new things – no one was quicker to adopt and adapt to social media. Sjödén follows her own design path, undaunted, undeterred and leading by a colourful and carefree example. You have to try hard to knock the confidence of a woman that founded a company with an annual turnover of half a billion dollars – she can wear what the hell she likes and, thanks to her, ‘Women of Culture’ can too.
You can dig deeper into Selvedge issue 59 here.