Last weekend I met the Swedish fashion designer Gudrun Sjödén, whose colourful printed clothes are sold from possibly the most cheerful store in London, it’s almost impossible to be miserable in a Gudrun store, there’s so much uplifting colour and pattern on show to cheer you up. She layers generous shapes in bold prints over contrasting colours and textures for a very creative take on style, it’s not everybody’s cup of tea but those who like it, absolutely adore Gudrun for designing it.
I have interviewed many designers over the years, but I have never had to interview one while fighting off adoring fans as I did with Gudrun, in fact I would make a guess that Gudrun is one of the most beloved fashion designers ever. Her customer base of creative and colour loving women appreciate that she make clothes that do not require a slender, toned or youthful body, instead she positively embraces all sizes and ages, putting a fabulous mix of both in her inspiring catalogues. Throughout my time with her in the Covent Garden store, she was approached by a constant stream of women who were effusive with their praise for her clothes and thankful to her for allowing them to continue to be creative with their style of dressing whatever their age and size.
TWR was able to hold off the love-mob for long enough to ask the following…
TWR Gudrun your ranges seems to embrace all women, whatever their age or size, is this right?
GS All the focus today is on young, thin beautiful women with nothing about what you have in your brain, it’s just all about the body. I think it’s very important to also show and appreciate all aspects of a human being, not just what’s on the surface. The change towards youth and the body has been over the last twenty years and it’s awful , the body has become so important and the young are the most important, for me everyone is important!.
When I was young iin 50s and 60s it was very essential what you had in your brain, everyone wanted to know your intellectual values, but today it’s a big change that has happened.
But also too little has happened with feminism. With my customers, a large group of them are older and there’s also group of younger ones who are below thirty, it’s both these groups who do a lot of feminist thinking. In between there is an age group of women who don’t care and think you need to aspire to be fantastically beautiful and it’s all about the surface, it’s dreadful. There must come a time when everyone realises what you have inside is more important
TWR Is it easier to age in Sweden?
GS No, it’s not nice for older people here either, but Swedish women are strong, and sometimes men don’t like it -or get a little bit frightened- when women are strong!
TWR And your larger sizes are popular too, you go up to XXL…
GS Yes, when we started to sell in the UK one of the reasons women came to us was we had the collection in bigger sizes. It’s the same in France where we sell a lot, there the regular market is for thin young people and the ranges are mostly in black and grey.
TWR Can you give our customers who have never moved far from grey or black, tips on wearing colour?
GS I think I was born with the love of colours…it’s not the same for everyone, but that’s how it is for me. Many people get much happier when they see and start to wear colours, so everyone should try it, maybe start with a small colourful scarf and see how that works.
I would strongly urge brands who crave such adoring and loyal customers as Gudrun has, to listen to this brand philosophy and really give customers what they want. Not everyone craves body-con dressing, a wardrobe of black or to spend their lives dieting themselves into the next dress size down….We meet so many women at TWR who just can’t find the clothes they want in the sizes or the fit they need, there is such a gap in the market for other brands to be creative and come up with ranges that don’t just slavishly follow trends and only go up to size 14.
While we were talking, Gudrun and I were sketched by the talented illustrator MockDuck, these are two of her unfinished sketches of Gudrun and me, which she has in finished form along with many of Gudrun’s customers on her blog, it’s worth checking them out.
And as we head towards the shortest darkest day of the year, If you are looking for anything to brighten yourself up, I’d suggest the striped or plain lambswool sweaters below, which are perfect for chirpy weekend casualness. Gudrun’s outfit above and these seaters come from the current Christmas Collection, on line here