The setting was an airy and colorful oasis with high-ceilings and lots of light, where imported vintage furniture from Sweden decorated the interior and vases filled with monstera plant leaves and pussy willow topped them. Among the decor, were colorful fabrics designed into simple silhouettes and cozy floral home furnishings made by a company that has asked questions of sustainability for over twenty years.
Fifty years as a designer, and almost forty since she founded her eponymous label, Gudrun Sjödén launched her first US store in SoHo on Thursday March 7th, turning Greene Street green. The vibrant store, which Gudrun hand painted herself from floor to walls, is a breath of fresh air and full of treasures, bringing color and sustainability to SoHo.
Photo credit Paul Bruinooge
Gudrun first started using organic cotton in her clothing in 1992. She believes it is her responsibility as a designer to consider the Earth’s resources: “My customers rely on my label, and it is a goal of mine to keep them satisfied,” she said at the opening.
Fifty percent of the Spring collection is organic cotton sourced from India. She finds “there is a passion for organic cotton in India,” the largest producer of organic cotton in the world, and she is proud to support it. She also chooses to use micro-modal made from birch trees. The lumber for the modal is sustainably harvested on the same property as the manufacturing facility, and the production process, from tree to thread, is a closed-loop system, a key to sustainability.
With a large online presence, and customers all over the world she understands shipping overseas is a must, but her company has thought about how to reduce impacts there too. Mail-order packages are sent in bags made of LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene), which biodegrades in two years. All shipments are stored in collapsible, crates that can be reused, replacing cardboard boxes. And products are shipped by boat as much as possible.
The company uses their own Three Leaves label, designed in 2008, which makes it easier for customers to identify the level of sustainability in each garment. The three leaves label indicates the level of sustainability in each garment from one, two, three or no leaves.
On top of all the key fabric, manufacturing and shipping decisions, Gudrun trains all her employees to think sustainably—no one employee is a sustainability specialist in the company. All of her employees are trained through workshops held throughout the year on dying techniques, and fabric. “When you design, you make a choice,” she said. She also chooses employees who want to design for a sustainable company, she simply says because it’s “easier if people want it.”
Each collection begins begins with painting watercolor designs. Most designers today use computer graphics, to create their prints, but Gudrun paints each image that we will become the prints for a new collection. For spring 2013, she began by drawing a leaf on a palm by the Arabian seas, and from there also pulled from embroidered Scandinavian folk-art.
Gudrun founded her label almost forty year ago and she knows her customers well. Twenty diverse women modeled the spring collection— including documentary filmmakers, customers, store staff, journalists and Gudrun herself. “My colorful clothes in natural fabrics attract colorful women all over the world. Women of all ages, shapes and sizes with great value on the inner world and who likes self-expression. The spring campaign will be our biggest ever in our markets. All over the world there are colorful women who like out unique style,“ says Gudrun.
At the opening, as a jazzy duo played 20’s music, the singer intoned, “Who could ask for anything more?” and we were thinking just the same now that Gudrun has brought green to Greene St.
“I have always dreamed of opening a store in New York. There are so many like-minded women here who care deeply about sustainability and green values. My store on Greene Street was simply destined to be GREEN. It will be a green oasis for all the colorful women of New York,” says Gudrun.
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