Interview with the Maker of Jackets

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Yesterday saw the opening of Bread & Butter in Berlin, ‘tradeshow for selected brands’ in street and urban contemporary. We met with Daniel Mänd, founder, designer and CEO of Elvine, at the Swedish clothing line’s stall.

The shut down Tempelhof Airport provided an astonishing setting. Visitors picked up brand guides from a luggage conveyor belt in the entrance hall, proceeded past former ‘passport control’ and entered the main hall to find a bustling crowd of brand representatives, press, buyers and other visitors selling, adorning and critiquing collections from the mix of well-known and almost one hundred new brands. The former airfield looked beautiful in its abandoned state in the snow and even showcased two planes, despite its closing for air traffic four years ago. During the summer, the vast outside space provides space to host parties and events as part of the trade show.

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Within the ‘Upper Street’ category of the trade show, Elvine’s spacious stall looked comfortable and stylish with its autumnal feel that matched the beautifully displayed coats. Colourful leaves on grass flooring invited stall visitors to share Elvine’s love of the outdoors. ‘There’s no bad weather, just bad clothing’ — or, if you’re dressed right, any weather is beautiful.

The tall Swede Daniel Mänd was wearing a bright blue woolly hat teamed with a denim shirt. We sat down at the large wooden table that provided a space for impromptu meetings.

Self Service: When did you set up Elvine and what was the idea behind the label?

Daniel Mänd: In the beginning of the brand, in 2001, I was missing good clothing and at the time denim was very popular. I had a job but there was something I was missing. Whenever I wanted to buy something it was almost always denim. My idea was to create the feeling of denim but add another quality. One very big thing was also that I was missing really good spring jackets. At that moment there were not so many spring jackets or brands, so that was one of the things I wanted to do, make it more easy and not so complicated.

SSUK: Easier for the wearer?

DM: Exactly. If you buy a winter jacket you only buy one per season but maybe a spring jacket you can buy two in the same year if you’re lucky. Also to get more of a feeling of denim. You can have it when it rains, have it almost water repellent. It’s always very important when you think about the city factor.

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SSUK: There is a very interesting story behind the name Elvine. Can you tell us how you decided to use this name?

DM: How I started to be a designer was that I asked one of my friends who had a company what I should do to make my own brand. When I came to his company, he took me into his company so I worked there for a couple of years. It was a great school for me. So I got the ideas for everything, then I needed a name, of course, and wanted to have something that is very important to me. I knew the name was going to be Elvine. My grandmother, she’s from Estonia and with my mother and her sisters, she raised my mother and her sisters almost by herself and she’s a very strong woman for me. When I asked my friends, they love the name. So that’s the story of the name. She’s a very strong woman, my grandmother. I have three children and two daughters and one of them is called Elvine.

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SSUK: What are you working on at the moment, what’s in store for the years to come?

DM: We’re working a lot to be the number one jacket brand. We always sell a lot of jackets, but now we focus all the time and we still have a full range collection but that’s the thing we want to focus on more.

SSUK: How has Bread & Butter been for you so far?

DM: It’s very good. It’s nice with this new stand, with the leaves [on the ground at the stall] and everything, the response was very good and yesterday we had the collection meeting and everybody was happy, so very good.

SSUK: Have you got plans to expand your market and reach out beyond Europe?

DM: For us, Europe, that’s the main target. Then we said Canada as well and we’re probably going to stock to China. It’s not so important for us to go in that way but if we have the chance, we cannot say no. As always, it is very important to be professional, not to hurry too much.

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SSUK: Where do you seek the inspiration for your designs?

DM: It’s different from year to year, but the first maybe six years, the inspiration was in the head. Then when you have made a lot of products you need to have some help. In the beginning I think it was a lot of magazines and always my friends have been [supportive]. I’ve been in situations with friends, [and they tell me] what they’re missing, what they want. Sometimes I think that I get really close to the real consumer but sometimes I felt that the buyer is between me and the customer. ‘Now the fashion is this, now it’s that.’ Sometimes you think, ‘For whom?’ I think that was a problem, in fact, not anymore, ‘If you do the brand like this, then it’s not for us.’ In terms of inspiration, it’s more magazines and from travels and it’s everyday life. The most important thing is that you have a correct feeling. When it comes, it comes.

SSUK: You have an incisive tagline, ‘Sophisticated clothes for unsophisticated behaviour’ — can you talk a bit about that?

DM: This tagline is more about my own history. I’m a former graffiti artist and I was a little bit crazy when I was young. Now the brand’s growing. The clothing is pretty sophisticated, the quality is very nice. I still want to bring the history to the brand, so that’s why the message is, ‘You can behave a little bit unsophisticated but still look nice’. It’s very important: the history of where you come from. For me that’s the slogan.

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