New York based Swedish designer Eva Eklöf started her own company Les Few after spending 5 years as head product designer for Zara Home in Spain. Creating a small range of accessories in a very clean, modernist Scandinavian style, her products are all made by craftsmen in Sweden. The focus here is on fine quality and craftmanship, not trends and large volumes of production.
You did not take the traditional route as most designers here do, studying at Konstfack or Beckmans, instead you chose the Parsons School of Design. Why New York?
My interest in art and design started early and I was fortunate, for a while, to attend a boarding school in England. They had an excellent art program where I was allowed to experiment a lot. My interest in studying design and choosing design as an occupation actually started while living in Paris after my graduation in Sweden. My roommate at the time was attending Esmod and after coming back to Sweden I began studying at Stockholms Tillskärarakademi. However I was always drawn to moving abroad again and to continue my studies outside of Sweden. I chose Parsons as it was a good fit for me. I did my first year in Paris and the last three in New York, where I decided to focus on furniture design as I was more intrigued and attracted to three dimensional objects than to fashion.
You managed Zara Home’s product design department for 5 years, what was it like working for such a large retailer.
My experience in Spain and at Zara Home, was interesting in two aspects: I grew a lot, both on a personal and a professional level. I moved to Spain not speaking any Spanish and being about 30 at the time, it was an epiphany not to be able to be as independent as I was used to in New York, where I lived for eight years. The culture within Inditex was also different from what I was used to. It’s an amazing company when it comes to logistics and strategy. It was a great experience for me both in terms of the way they work and the business aspect of the industry.
What made you decide to start your own design company?
I have, since having graduated from Parsons, always dreamt of having my own brand and studio. I believe that creative people often need time to mature and find their own voice and style. When working for a large corporation such as Zara Home, the focus is on following trends and sales, industrial scale production and creating products that will be in the stores for a very short period of time. I discovered that I was more interested in developing relationships with skilled craftsmen, who are getting more and more rare today, and developing long term collaborations with them. I realized that I preferred to create unique items that people value and keep for a very long time. I think working at Zara Home propelled me into being ready to start my own company.
What are the challenges when going out on your own in such a competitive market?
Many. I think the struggle every new brand has to face in the beginning is to establish itself on the market. A large part of the work at the present stage is to cement the philosophy of Les Few on the market, a philosophy which is founded on a long term aesthetic vision.
What do you draw your inspiration from for your designs?
I grew up in a midcentury house by the Baltic sea just outside of Stockholm. My father’s uncle Sven Eklöf was a pioneering architect working for KF arkitektkontor, Sweden’s largest chain of departments and supermarkets whose architecture decisively shaped the Swedish Midcentury aesthetic. I was therefore brought up in an environment with a deep awareness and appreciation of great architecture and design. I draw inspiration from art, architecture and fashion. To mention a few names, Fontana, Brancusi, Loos, Neutra, Mies, Yves Saint Laurent, I think what Phoebe Philo has done at Celine is interesting, Lemaire’s collections for Hermes as well as their new creative director, Nadege Vanhee-Cybulski.
What is Les Few’s design philosophy and who are your target consumers?
Les Few’s design philosophy is to create pieces that are timeless, refined and understated with an easy elegance. Pieces that last and are valued and cherished. The wood and metal products are crafted in Sweden and the glass is blown in Maine in the U.S. Our clients want unique pieces and value the craftsmanship and attention to detail in the pieces, they are connoisseurs in their own right.
What are the future plans for Les Few?
Many… One can never dream too big.
Where can we find Les Few? Do you intend to sell them online?
We are represented in a few stores in the States as well as through our UK agent. The online store will be up by the end of March 2016!