Swedish Fashion Label, House of Dagmar was the winner of the prestigious Elle Designer of the Year Award 2015. The driving force behind this 10 year old label are the coolest sisters in town, Karin Söderlind, Kristina Tjäder and Sofia Wallenstam. Combining their talents in the fields of Economics, Design and Marketing, and adding to that a strong entrepreneurial spirit, these 3 sisters are a powerhouse to be reckoned with. The designs are sophisticated, comfortable and feminine with an edge to them that Swedish designs have, and of course knits, which has always been at the heart of the company. The company was named after their grandmother Dagmar who was a seamstress, little did she know that she would one day have a world class fashion label named after her.
I talk to Karin Söderlind, the CEO and co-founder of the House of Dagmar.
How was the House of Dagmar born?
Through an entrepreneurial father and a humanist mother and a grandmother who was always teaching us how to sew and cut patterns. There was really no other way for us to go but to start our own company. The importance of having our own comapany is that we can do what we want and what we really believe in.
What are the challenges of working so closely with siblings and how is the work divided between the three of you?
It has been very clear from the beginning because we have totally different backgrounds. Kristina is the Head of Design and she studied at ESMOD in Paris to be a designer. She has worked as a designer for a few years before we started our own label. Sofia had exeperience in working as a Sales Manager and Buyer for Fashion Boutiques so she took on the role as Head of Sales. I have my studies in Economy, Marketing and Communication so I took on the role as Marketing Manager and now as the CEO.
Are you designing the collection yourselves, or do you have a team of designers?
Kristina is the head designer, and we have two others helping her. But Sofia and I are also very much involved in the process.
How many collections do you put out in a year?
Four, two main collections and two pre-collections.
Is it difficult for Swedish Designers to break out into the International Fashion Scene?
Yes I do think so, because Sweden is not a big market like the U.K or the U.S. If you are known in the media in those countries you create a greater brand awareness worldwide as English is such an International language. We are very well known in Scandinavia but not so many people outside of Scandinavia understands Swedish! There are of course other aspects that makes it more difficult, established brands owned by big companies are very difficult to compete with.
What was the influence that your grandmother Dagmar had on you?
First of all she was the most amazing woman, always happy loving and caring for us. She saw the positive side of everything, the challenge was how to handle the problems and turn them to your advantage instead of having a negative outlook on everything. And she introduced us to the fashion world through handicrafts, how to knit, sew and make our own patterns.
Who are your favourite designers?
It changes through the years of course, there are many skilled designers. It also depends on how you measure it, the creative part or how the brand has been achieved by the right marketing. Right now I am mostly impressed by those who manage to build a brand and make it last with the same brand identity and awareness from year to year.
You mention on your website that you are influenced by the thirties and the Art Deco era, why that particular era and how do you translate that into fashion?
We love the Architecture and the Interior Design during this period, and we mostly take inspiration in colour settings, patterns and other details, never really full on Art Deco, more an inspiration of this period and we convert that into our own version.
How important is the subject of sustainable design to you in the Fashion World?
Extremely important, the philosophy of the brand has sustainability woven through everything that we do. For example, the factory where we produce has to be close to the raw materials to minimise transportation as much as possible. When it comes to the use of fur, we have animal friendly fur. This means that we don’t kill the animal but to shave the wool and then sew it on a fabric like a wig. It is very beautiful and it feels very modern to wear this type of garment today. We always use mulesing free Merino wool that is certified and that comes from suppliers that don’t perform this horrible act on the animals. We also use lyocell which is biodegradable instead of cotton in t-shirts.
What are your favourite fabrics to work with?
I think we will all have to say the different varieties of wool.
What does receiving one of the highest accolades in the fashion Industry, the Elle Designer of the Year Award, mean to Dagmar?
It is a fantastic award and something that we had wished to win all these years. We are really happy with the recognition and also because the Elle team in Sweden is very skilled in what they do.
Who is the “Dagmar Woman”, how would you describe her?
She is BOTH intellectual and sophisticated at the same time. With a touch of Swedish attitude, which can be a little of “I go my own way and don’t follow the rules'”. She is very aware of what she is doing, very interested in good food, yoga, travelling and Art and Pop Culture.
You mention in your latest collection, that you were influenced by Swedish artist Matthias van Arkel, how does his work
The way his graphic shapes and colours build beautiful patterns and shapes.
What advice would you have for young designers who are contemplating starting their own fashion label?
Start learning at someone else’s label, make all your mistakes somewhere else and don’t rush your own business. It is a lot to learn, the design part is about ten percent out of everything else that you have to know and do. Economy, logistics, production and most importantly someone who sees to the Marketing of the brand.
What are you working on now?
The Autumn/Winter 2016 Collection.