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Josefin Strid

Fusing sharp tailoring and innovative silhouettes with sporty streetwear and unexpected materials, Josefin Strid pushes the gender barriers within fashion. We met with the emerging designer in her Stockholm studio to talk about dropping out of school, raglan sleeves, and why she’s walking with baby steps.

Hailing from a small town in the southwest of Sweden, Josefin Strid moved to Stockholm after she had dropped out of the Master’s programme at Swedish School of Textiles to fully focus on her own brand. Today she shares a studio with friends and design colleagues Elin Eng and Ida Klamborn, dividing her time between developing her own brand and working on various commissions.

– I’ve tried to work from home, but it’s just impossible, Josefin says when showing us around the studio. I need somewhere to go. I like that customers, stylists, and journalists can come here, too. You’re so much closer to everything.

When did you become interested in fashion?
– I think it slowly grew on me. I have memories from being eight, nine years old and very determined when it came to what to wear, saying ‘this autumn I want to have this or that’. I didn’t get that much clothes, but my grandmother made me a lot of things. So I used to tell her that ‘granny, now it’s really popular with this type of clothes, now you have to make me this’.

– I was a real sports girl when I was younger, always going to practices and competitions. I was into cross-country skiing and orienteering, so I spent my weekends running around in the woods, getting dirty. But when I was about fourteen, fifteen and got some money of my own, I became more and more interested in clothes. I bought a lot of things at charity shops; I think I looked kind of wacky all through junior high school. I tried everything.

– At the age of fifteen, I also bought a sewing machine and began to make my own clothes. They had a kind of culture award in the town where I lived, and a friend of mine suggested I have a fashion show, and I thought, ‘why not?’. I ended up winning that award, and I thought it was so much fun that I continued to arrange these shows all through secondary school. I did two shows a year, and called the local newspaper to have them write about it. I come from a really small town, so it wasn’t long until everyone knew who I was. Eventually I began selling clothes in the basement of our house.

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What an entrepreneurial spirit.
– Yes, that came early, she says with a smile. That was all I did when I wasn’t studying. I’ve never even considered doing something else. Directly after my graduation I began to study at the Swedish School of Textiles in Borås, where I would stay for six years. I’ve had my own company since I was about nineteen, but during my Bachelor’s studies I founded a joint-stock company, and then it all became so much more serious. I even did my first show at Stockholm Fashion Week.

How did that happen?
– During my second year in Borås I volunteered at the fashion week in Stockholm, which is mandatory. When I was watching one of the shows I couldn’t help thinking that I could do the same. I remember telling my friend that I would try to put on a show there the following year. I managed to get a sponsor; that’s when I decided to found a joint-stock company. I often do things before thinking them through, so it took me a few years before I really understood what I was doing, business-wise.

– When I began my Master’s studies in Borås it got a bit intense to both run the business while still in school. The study programme in Borås is great, but it’s very focused on artistic processes, which didn’t really go hand in hand with my business. So I decided to drop out. That was a year ago.

– After I had dropped out, I told myself I shouldn’t do any larger collections in a while, as it is so costly. I thought I should get the business running first. But then I couldn’t stop myself, so I did a collection anyway, Josefin says laughing.

Sometimes a man cannot
wear a ladies’ suit jacket,
because it just doesn’t fit.

You have been working with both womenswear and menswear, often against the grain. What would you say is the real difference between womenswear and menswear?
– In one way I think that’s rather obvious, as there are two different sexes with different fits. I mean, sometimes a man cannot wear a ladies’ suit jacket, because it just doesn’t fit.

– I went from making womenswear to making extremely feminine menswear to making menswear more subtly influenced by womenswear. Most of my designs can be worn by both sexes, even though I sometimes make garments exclusively for women. Or rather, garments constructed in a way that mainly suits women, like my skirts or some of the sleeveless shirts. I know a lot of girls who like to wear my menswear, though.

– I work a lot with the raglan sleeve. I’m totally obsessed by it. To me, it’s the most unisex construction there is. It’s often the shoulder point that marks the difference between menswear and womenswear, so if you remove that and work with volumes in other ways, you can create garments that can be worn by both sexes.

Josefin Strid's sketchbook.
Josefin Strid’s sketchbook.

Where does this obsession come from?
– When I was working my collection for AW12, I wanted to make haute couture for women, but I was more into pattern making than bead embroideries and such detailed work. My tutor suggested I look into Balenciaga, and I ended up immersed in this lady-like Balenciaga style of the sixties, where the raglan sleeve is a recurrent element. So I began experimenting with it, and the more I’ve worked with it, the more I’ve realised how well it works as a unisex construction.

Earlier this autumn, Josefin unveiled her SS14 collection, the one she just couldn’t stop her self from making. Entitled Babe, the collection is inspired by showbiz glam, gender stereotypes, sportswear, and hip hop, featuring renewed and reworked versions of well-known garments such as bomber jackets, sweatshirts, and suits.

– It began with this sweater, Josefin says, holding up a sweatshirt with voluminous raglan sleeves, describing how it hangs differently depending on the anatomy of the wearer.

– I had seen this cut somewhere and thought that you could use it to add volume and form to the garment.

That was a phase when I just
wanted to run through the gender
barriers within fashion. Now I think
I rather walk with baby steps

The construction provided a starting point for the collection. The next step in the process turned out to be Sean Banan.

– Elin, who I’m sharing this studio with, was commissioned to make the costumes for Sean Banan’s performance at the Swedish Eurovision Song Contest, and for a few weeks I helped her with the production. It was a pink costume, spangled with glitter and sequins. At first I thought it was tacky, but eventually I found it rather nice, so I began searching for these tacky ESC costumes. I also watched a lot of music videos, especially hip hop ones.

– I remember seeing a video by Tyler the Creator, where his hardcore music was juxtaposed with this cute, quite quirky video. I like to work with that clash; to make a slick suit or some cool street wear, and then just throw in some bright blue fake fur. I have this one look that is a mix of a traditional suit and a tracksuit; a pair of elastic cuff sweatpants with creases and suit pants’ pockets, and a suit jacket with a hood. In black it’s rather cool, but I also made it in pink, which gives it a completely different look. The hip hop elements in the collection can also be seen in the oversized silhouettes and the layered styling that is still rendered with detailed tailoring.

Who is your typical wearer?
– As my design has changed, so have the customers. I used to make much more extravagant clothes, with skirts and dresses for men, which were often bought by exhibitionistic gays. That was a phase when I just wanted to run through the gender barriers within fashion. Now I think I rather walk with baby steps. I mean, if you’re just screaming, no one will listen, right?

See some looks from Josefin Strid’s SS14 collection Babe above. Photos from lookbook by Henrik Bengtsson.