Memories of glam, the Great Depression, and smarter consumption converge in Whyred's spring collection. By Loryn Hatch
Any proper introduction of Sweden's indie super label, Whyred, should include the following anecdote: In the 1950s artist Sven X:et Erixon, a painter known for his bold and lively hues, was asked during a radio interview to reveal his favorite color. "Red," he replied. "Why red?" responded the host. "Well, blue then," he countered.
Fast forward to 1998 when Erixon's grandson, Roland Hjort, joined up with former H&M colleagues Lena Patriksson and Jonas Clason to launch Whyred, a label with both familial and conceptual ties to the world of art, including an unofficial motto that exemplifies the brand's artistic philosophy and roots: "As in art, fashion should never be one dimensional."
Taking a minimal, modernist approach to design, the label's men's, women's, and footwear lines have consistently produced unconventional staples lauded for their provocative details and quality. Recently, we spoke with Roland Hjort, about Whyred's history, influences, and the ominously titled spring '08 collection, Doomsday Luxury—a subtle and effortlessly dignified ensemble that hearkens back to a time when excess wasn't an option and style was built to last.
First, tell us a little history about Whyred's beginnings…
Lena, Jonas, and I worked together at H&M. I was the head designer for the contemporary menswear range and Lena and Jonas were head buyers for the young design ranges. I left H&M in 1994 and moved to London where I started as a designer for an Italian brand in northern Italy. Soon after I was approached by J. Lindeberg and designed their first collection in 1996. In 1998 the three of us got together again and decided to do our own label together.
What did you learn from your experience in corporate fashion?
I have always designed with wearability in mind as that was the key focus in a more corporate fashion company. This is something I've taken with me into our own brand. Another thing is that I've learned to think big from the start. I design with a large market in mind without compromising the quality of design. Working with a large corporation gives you a lot of suppliers contacts that can be quite difficult to get only working in smaller organizations.
Anything you vowed not to do?
We vowed to never copy.
Describe the personality of Whyred. How has it changed and matured over the years?
In the beginning, we had a sportier, younger look. Over the years we've evolved into a more mature label, where we focus on the tailoring in every piece, even in the sportier items we design. We put a lot of effort in designing the insides of garments, often adding suit linings and covered seams.
The spring '08 collection is a great example of a more mature, naturally sophisticated look. What led to this collection and its foreboding name?
Inspiration for the fall '07 collection was drawn from Man Ray and for spring, we went even further into the Depression years of the early '30s. We read about Hollywood and how it experienced a crazy glam period, that was very extravagant. Yet, because resources were few, you kept your garments for years because there was no certainty that tomorrow you could just buy more. Hence, Doomsday Luxury.
What about that era resonates today?
Well, first we thought about now and how much we consume here in Sweden and everywhere. Conservation of material items isn't a strong consideration. We wanted to make people aware of the quality level we impose and to show them a time when thinking was different.
What grounds the key pieces in the collection?
The clothing focuses on the waist with a frequent hourglass shape. The silhouette is straight, hard, slim, and very geometric. For women the collarbone plays a major role, as well as taped insides, buttons, and gold details.
And for men?
We have big trousers that we tuck shirts into to create a similar hourglass effect. There's actually quite a bit of the men's that is inspired by Bowie and the music scene of 1979, like my favorite piece, a kimono-shaped coat with a slanting shoulder, straight shape, and a folded-up blazer collar. That period and the 1960s mod years are always in the back of my mind when I design each season. It is an era that is very close to my heart.
For more information and availability, go to www.whyred.com.
Memories of glam, the Great Depression, and smarter consumption converge in Whyred's spring collection.