H Fredriksson: Sustainable Swedish Fashion in NYC

Goodlifer: H Fredriksson: Sustainable Swedish Fashion in NYC

Stockholm Fashion Week is fully under way, and for those of us who can’t be there, I decided to find out what Swedish design in New York City looks like. I caught up with Helena Fredriksson, an accomplished fashion designer known for her photographic, expressive patterns and modern yet timeless silhouettes. Since starting her line H Fredriksson in 2004, she has worked out of her studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. For years, she showed at every New York Fashion Week, but has now decided to focus her energy on other parts of her craft. Besides two collections per year, she also creates costumes for stage performers, and has even designed uniforms for a Japanese Sweet Shop.

Designer Helena Fredriksson.

Designer Helena Fredriksson.

What brought you to New York?
A curiosity for the intensity and cultural mix of the city and the search for a new perspective.

What is your background?
I went to art school in both Sweden and NYC for a short while. I never studied fashion, instead I studied photography, painting printmaking etc., which I think is why those elements are still a big part of the H Fredriksson aesthetic.

Goodlifer: H Fredriksson F/W 10

H Fredriksson F/W 10

Goodlifer: H Fredriksson F/W 10

H Fredriksson F/W 10

Do you see a difference between European and American design?
Yes and no, I think that European design historically has been more conceptual and darker in its aesthetics, while American fashion was sporty and more conventional in the past. I think the last decade has blurred the line and there is now a spectrum of design identities without a clear connection to place.

You state that your line is “inspired by the dark psychology of Bergman films and contemporary European painting” and that it has “an air of melancholic beauty, drawn from the austere silhouettes of the Nordic landscape.” A great description that I feel is very fitting. Do you think there is something to the “dark Swede” mythology that influences all Swedish design?
I am sure that the climate and the partially constrained culture creates a kind of darkness and edge in the expression, whether it is in design, art, music or film.

Goodlifer: H Fredriksson F/W 10

H Fredriksson F/W 10

Goodlifer: H Fredriksson F/W 10

H Fredriksson F/W 10

A lot of great design that comes out of Scandinavia is simple in both cut as well as color, why do you think that is? Are we just practical?
I think Scandinavian culture and people have a love for simplicity and pared down design, where the form, idea and subtleness speak stronger than something excessive. I think this idea exists in the culture on several different levels.

I agree. Your line is very sustainable minded, when did you first decide that would be an important part of your design?
I grew up in Sweden, which I think brought me awareness about the world at a very early age. That consciousness is part of my being, and I think, as a designer, the choice to work sustainably was only an extension of my view of the world in general.

Goodlifer: H Fredriksson F/W 10

H Fredriksson F/W 10

Goodlifer: H Fredriksson F/W 10

H Fredriksson F/W 10

All your clothing is manufactured in New York City, was that a conscious choice on your part? Why?
I like to know that my garments are made by craftsmen and women that are working under fair conditions and earning what they deserve. I like to know that by producing local I am helping save an industry and craftsmanship that has been an important part of New York for centuries, and is now under threat to not survive the tendency to move all production overseas to save money and lower prices. I think that creating something well made, under fair conditions and without unnecessary shipping emissions is worth paying a few more dollars for. Maybe we buy fewer things to make up the difference? The funny thing is that there are many brands that produce in China while still pricing their garments at more than twice of most sustainable brands. So, the logic is kind of off.

Many designers claim they cannot afford to move their production from overseas, but on the other hand, like you say, most people are willing to pay more for sustainable produced clothing, how can we bridge that divide?
I think that every designer and consumer makes a choice in how we spend our money, not always with the most noble reasons. Unfortunately, this choice is often made by picking the cheapest option, with no thought of who is really paying for our savings. I hope this is changing with a rising awareness and that more designers and consumers realize what that choice entails in the big picture.

Goodlifer: H Fredriksson F/W 10

H Fredriksson F/W 10

Goodlifer: H Fredriksson F/W 10

H Fredriksson F/W 10

Many of your prints are created from your own drawings and photographs, right?
Yes, I Create all my fabric prints from photographs and drawings that I make, I see the prints as the identity and personal story of the collection. Many of the photographs are collected on my journeys around the world and they each have their own story.

You also make custom pieces for performers, tell me about that.
I love to collaborate with other artists and I’ve created costumes for several performers and artists over the past few years, among others: Wangechi Mutu & Imani Uzuri for Performa, Ana Matronic for the Scissor Sisters, Olof Persson for me-everybody, and Nancy Garcia for The Kitchen, just to name a few.

Goodlifer: H Fredriksson F/W 10

H Fredriksson F/W 10

One of Fredriksson's photographs.

One of Fredriksson’s photographs.

What advice do you have for people who want to start their own fashion line?
Make a strategy, be focused in your design concept, find a team that has shares your vision and heart, start small, promote, be patient and get ready to work hard and be poor for a while.

What gives you hope for the future?
An increased awareness about our planet, where sustainable solutions is on the agenda for the world leaders in a whole new way and where the idea to consume less and be thoughtful in our choices is more central in our society than before.

One of Fredriksson's sketches.

One of Fredriksson’s sketches.

What does the Good Life mean to you?
The Good Life means to live with knowledge and pleasure in life, to share your experiences with people you love and to be curious about the world and never stop learning from others. I believe that living in the moment, sharing and not judging is what makes us truly happy.

Ditto that. Find H Fredriksson at select shops in New York, California, Denver, Miami, Tokyo, and online.

About author
A designer by trade, Johanna has always had a passion for storytelling. Born and raised in Sweden, she's lived and worked in Miami, Brooklyn and, currently, Ojai, CA. She started Goodlifer in 2008 to offer a positive outlook for the future and share great stories, discoveries, thoughts, tips and reflections around her idea of the Good Life. Johanna loves kale, wishes she had a greener thumb, and thinks everything is just a tad bit better with champagne (or green juice).
1 comment on this postSubmit yours
  1. We love and partner with H. Fredrikkson for our e-shop, if you want a peak inside her studio take a look: http://desquval.com/home/?interview=video-interview-h-fredriksson

    Hope you like it!

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