It is almost 40 years since Gudrun's first collection saw the light of day. The company has grown from a small family business into a group of companies with over 200 employees. The exhibition takes a look at how Gudrun Sjödén's characteristic clothing has developed over the years.
A FLOOD OF MEMORIES
The exhibition at Kulturen Museum brings a flood of memories to those of us who have been part of Gudrun Sjödén's world in one way or another. Although the designs were simpler when Gudrun Sjödén launched her first very own collection in the 1970s, it is apparent that the collections share many common features. Over the years, she has accumulated a wealth of knowledge about design, textile manufacturing and dimensioning of a product on a product sheet.
"My two dimensional engineers and I usually compete to see who is best at making visual estimates. It's a really good game," she says with a cheeky smile.
But for many of us, the brilliantly coloured, patterned and comfortable layers of clothing symbolise freedom and artistic expression more than anything else. A woman who wears Gudrun Sjödén fashions is the epitome of an adventurous person who dares to stand out from the crowd.
COLOURFUL AND FUNCTIONAL
The objective of the design has been to express our northern European culture. But it is important that the clothes are functional too. The combination of colour and functionality brings dynamism to the design.
But although the Swedish countryside and folklore have always been a great source of inspiration, she has also delved into many other cultures. India, China, Malaysia, Botswana and Kenya are some of the countries she has visited to find creative influences and to take photographs for catalogues.
After each trip, she produces a detailed, hand-written report of her travels which she shares with her staff. The report conveys her thoughts and ideas about the collection and about the place they have visited. The collections and clothing are usually given a name associated with that region.
"One of my favourites is the Frida Kahlo collection, which was launched in 2006. Another is the collection that was shot in Uzbekistan, with dark, rich colours and a combination of lots of prints and embroidered fabrics."
HIGH RECOGNITION FACTOR
Gudrun Sjödén's idea has been to design clothes for women who love vibrant colours and prints. Her creations have been easily recognisable over the years with their simple cuts and distinctive patterns. She explains the look of her clothes, "I believe that everyone has a specific inner design style which takes a certain expression. It then becomes stronger and stronger after it has been used for some time. You can see how some artists have used the same design style from the beginning and then developed it. Time and cultural influences are also naturally important.
The seeds of Gudrun Sjödén's success story were probably sown on the farm where she grew up. As a middle child of six siblings she quickly learned to take care of herself and, because her father was a farmer, she also had some idea of what it meant to run a business. At the age of 17, she began studying at the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm. Her first job was a DIY page for the magazine "Bildjournalen" and in 1969 she landed her first freelance job. But before this, she was styling pictures for various fashion magazines, one of which was the magazine for women "Femina".
FROM SKETCH TO FINISHED GARMENT
Gudrun Sjödén decided to start her own company because she wanted to be involved in the entire process, from the initial sketch to the finished garment. As a freelance designer, she only saw fragments of what she was creating and she was keen to meet the customers and to sink her teeth into the business aspects too.
Being in control of the figures has allowed her to give greater expression to her creative energies. Her fearless approach and inquisitive disposition have led her to try new ways of moving the company forward. For instance, the company started a mail order business which has now become an online shop. Online sales now account for a significant portion of the company's revenues.
HOME IN THE ARCHIPELAGO
Gudrun retreats to her weekend home out in the archipelago, where she grows flowers and vegetables and finds energy and strength. Gardening takes Gudrun away from her work for a while. But the garden is also reflected in her work. Take, for instance, the summer garden collection with its casual clothing that is ideal for digging about in the soil or when you want a chic everyday look. The nature-based theme will continue this autumn with animals in the spotlight.
"In the past few years, we've noticed that having a theme in the collection is good for the inspiration. It brings the entire design team together around one concept. The animal theme also sets the colour scheme, with elephant grey and tawny forming the basis," she says, arousing our curiosity about the coming seasons.
What will be next?
Text: Helena Kaasik