GUDRUN’S SWEDISH SUCCESS: Gudrun Sjödén’s 40th year in business is shaping up to be a memorable one.
A few hundred shoppers and friends are expected today, when the Swedish-born designer signs copies of the newly published “My Portfolio” in her SoHo store. On Saturday she will be off to Philadelphia to accept the American Swedish Historical Museum’s Outstanding Achievement Award. Later in the month a crowd of 500 will be on hand at Stockholm’s City Hall, when the Society of St. Erik honors Sjödén for championing design. Raised in rural Sweden, the designer has maintained a colorful Scandinavian-inspired brand but she hasn’t considered how her homeland may have benefited from her company’s success. “I will think of that when I come home from Sweden, not today.” she said, during an interview Thursday.
Surrounded by painters, who were touching up a wall in her 3,200-square-foot Greene Street store, Sjödén was busy casting models for a Friday morning fashion show there. Three years into her 10-year lease, the designer said that location generates a little less than 20 percent of her total volume with online sales accounting for the bulk of it. Partial to vibrant, patterns, floral designs, zigzags and polka dots, the designer is seeing strong sales for dresses followed by blouses, tunics and T-shirts.
A graduate of Stockholm University of Arts, Crafts and Design, where she studied textiles and fashion design, Sjödén freelanced for an assortment of Swedish, Chinese, British and Finnish companies for 10 years before starting her own business in 1974 and opened a Stockholm store two years later. Throughout her career, she has painted, too. “Painting is my hobby. Other people go for yoga and so on,” said Sjödén, adding that her paintings were one of the reasons a publisher friend, Dorotea Bromberg, wanted her to work on the memoir.
Her fondness for color is celebrated with the biannual Most Colorful Woman of the Year award. Last year, 12 finalists were selected from shoppers’ nominees and the winner was named in the Golden Foyer of the Royal Opera House in Stockholm. Her own color preferences and designs often come from painting, traveling and meeting different customers. But a recent visit to see suppliers in China was particularly inspiring, due partially to advanced digital printing, improved working conditions and cleaner rivers in the area. Sjödén’s eco-conscious practices won her an H&M Sustainability Award in 2012 and she recently added fair trade canvas shoes to the online store. (She was also honored by Sweden’s King Carl Gustaf with the Litteris et Artibus Medal of the Eighth Degree.)
As for this month’s salutations, the designer said, “It’s so easy to say yes, when people ask if you can talk for however many minutes. But it is hard work.”