By  on October 1, 2008

On a recent walk down Brooklyn’s Atlantic Avenue, two European women, both clad in T-shirts sprayed with pop colors, were stopped and asked if they had made their outfits. Nope. “It’s Burfitt,” one replied. Just a week later, the funny name popped up again, during a conversation with model Erin Wasson about her latest fashion obsession. “Burfitt,” she said, as if it were a secret code word for only the supercool.

Turns out, Burfitt is Lovisa Burfitt, a Swedish designer who started her line of T-shirts, wool and silk jackets, bustiers and skirts after moving to Paris to pursue fashion illustration in 2003. A graduate of Sweden’s Beckmans College of Design, Burfitt was in a Paris nightclub wearing one of her shirts — a scribble of a girl splashed across it — when a buyer bumped into her. “She was like, ‘Where can I get one of those?’” says Burfitt, who had just shuttered her own ready-to-wear line in Stockholm. “I wasn’t planning to start designing again, but I realized it was my passion. I did a lot of drawings of Kate Moss on T-shirts, and I went from there.”

Burfitt wisely went beyond supermodels when it came to evolving her lineup: “Music is really the basis of my collection now,” she says. Indeed, the music influence started early. Growing up in the tiny Swedish village of Strängnäs, “I was so bored, I had to do something to escape reality,” she says. She filled her time playing dress-up, and later, punk rock. Now, she cites as inspirations Cat Power — whose lyrics “I ain’t got no money but I will pay you before I die” Burfitt emblazoned on a series of Ts — and Patti Smith (a “People have the power” T has been a bestseller). The look struck a chord: Linda Evangelista and Swedish singer Robyn are major buyers. In 2005, Fred Segal made the first U.S. order; Opening Ceremony quickly followed. The collection is now sold in 65 stores worldwide.

Of course, the fashion world isn’t exactly pining for another T-shirt company, so Burfitt has steered clear of too-casual separates. For spring there are sailor-inflected pieces like a jaunty wide-collared jacket; for fall 2008, she took cues from Victorian dress codes, crafting dark purple corsets from silk and metal and mixing in some dark-washed denim. As for balancing the lighter fare — there was a black tank with the word “NON!” blaring in white — with the formalwear, Burfitt thinks she is “quite good at doing both. People say that my clothes can be very theatrical, but also very wearable, and maybe that’s my Scandinavian side. We are very practical, so you always have to think, how’s this going to work in real life?”

Some not-so-practical pieces are Burfitt’s black lace masks and headpieces, which have been used in editorial shoots for magazines from Numéro to Vogue Paris (Carine Roitfeld is, not surprisingly, a fan). “I like to go dark with my work,” Burfitt admits, “but then, I steal lines from songs, so maybe I will do some happy shirts sometime soon, too.”

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