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Exclusive Interview: Roland Hjort

Whyred has been dressing stylish Swedes for 15 years and is now enjoying international success. Sally McIlhone meets the label’s founder, Roland Hjort

Sally McIlhone,

With a raft of Swedish brands now dominating the international fashion scene, it’s safe to say that Stockholm rivals London, Paris and Milan as a centre for cutting-edge clothing design. Following in the footsteps of fellow Swedish labels H&M and Acne, Stockholm-based Whyred is already a name to know in its native country and is rapidly gaining an international following.

Whyred’s founder and designer Roland Hjort established the label in 1999, starting with outerwear for men. When creating the brand Hjort played to his strength – designing jackets – and used these as Whyred’s base. ‘I’ve always been a fan of jackets and always been good at doing them,’ he says.

Hjort spotted a gap in the outerwear market and combined his admiration of mod clothing (which started in the UK in the 1960s) with his fondness for the aesthetics of uniforms, to create garments which were new to Sweden. These pieces, such as a parka-type jacket, were instant successes and ensured that Whyred was noticed.

After this initial ingenuity, rather than stray from the tailored look that helped him build the brand, Hjort developed a range of hero pieces that crop up time and again in his collections. ‘I’m a fan of classics, and classic garments have been in my head since I started. These are my icons. I always have them in my mind, even if they’re not exactly the same.’

Hjort’s ‘icons’ are often coats developed for the men’s collection that later find their way into the women’s line, which was introduced in 2000. These items give another nod to mod culture and to the androgynous trend that’s increasingly popular on the catwalks and on the streets of the most fashionable cities worldwide. According to Hjort, he sees the typical Whyred woman in trousers, a peacoat and loafers. ‘That kind of look is perfect. I really like to see the same aesthetic, the tailored look, on the men’s side as on the women’s side.’

Whyred has clearly found a formula that works, and Hjort is prepared to build on it. ‘This is what I see for Whyred in the future. The parka and the peacoat will be classics because they have been working for so long.’ Hjort credits these classic pieces, and his reluctance to relegate them to the back of the wardrobe, as one of the reasons the brand is celebrating its 15th anniversary. ‘There’s a jacket that we started selling in 1999 that is still a bestseller today. That’s something I don’t think any of our competitors have.’ Hjort’s advice to other budding Swedish labels is simple. ‘Find something that you are very good at, and push for that.’

The designer balances his passion for British aesthetics – Burberry is a label he admires – with a fondness for Scandinavian simplicity. ‘Swedish minimalism and the clean look are very strong at Whyred, but you need something to contrast it with,’ Hjort explains. ‘I found a very nice phrase today that I think defines Whyred: destroy minimalism. It’s the contrast of the suit and the parka – you destroy the nice, clean thing with something of the opposite. That’s very much the DNA of Whyred. I’ve been brought up to be minimalist in a Scandinavian way but it’s nice to destroy it with something else.’

In addition to timeless garments, this season visitors to the brand’s Stockholm store can find a capsule collection to mark the label’s 15th anniversary. ‘We will play around with the X and the V, the Roman numerals for 15. We will make a vinyl record to sell in the shop and we are also planning to do a record player,’ Hjort reveals.

Souvenirs from Sweden don’t get much more chic than this.



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