putting the johan back into j.lindeberg
The brand’s founder is returning as its creative consultant after nearly 10 years away working with Jay-Z, Justin Timberlake and BLK DNM. How will he fare?
Helmut Lang, Martin Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester and Jil Sander are all designers who have given up their namesake brands. Few return. But Johan Lindeberg, the Swedish designer who founded J.Lindeberg back in 1996, will be going back to his baby in January 2016 as the newly-appointed creative consultant. The company's current co-owner Stefan Engström, said, "Soon, we will be going into 20 years of business, and with this solid foundation we are very excited about having Johan back at the company to contribute to the next step of the brand's growth." The aim is to make J.Lindeberg as relevant as it was in its original heyday, when its mixture of slim tailoring and sportswear made it Sweden's most recognizable brand. Johan is certain he can pull off a spectacular return to form (although profit-wise, they've already doubled their turnover in the last three years) and "bring J.Lindeberg into the next phase, as one strong international voice." We caught up with the adopted New Yorker to see what he has in store for the label.
How long have you been a New Yorker?
I've been in Williamsburg for many years. I moved here in 95 for Diesel, then I was in the UK for six years after 9/11, then I came back, was in LA a bit, and now I've back in New York for five or six years. Altogether I've lived about 15 years in New York. It's very inspiring.
Will you be moving back to Stockholm with the new role?
I'm going to live here. I'll be here forever, but I'll commute to Stockholm six to eight times a year. The headquarters there are about 85 people.
So how did this return to the label come about?
The CEO of the company, Steffan Engström, called me out of the blue in June and I was in my studio and I couldn't really believe it. It never really crossed my mind to go back to J.Lindeberg to be quite honest, because I've always been one of those people who goes forward. It's always hard to go back to old relationships, and I've always been inspired, so I never really thought about the idea of going back at all.
What changed your mind this time round?
I started to talk with the close people around me, including my daughter Blue. She'd passed the building in Stockholm, the photographic museum, one part of which is the office with a big sign. She saw the sign with our name and she said, "You have to do it!" But I didn't want to go back because it was my name: I wanted to go back because I'm passionate about it, you know? The brand has amazing potential, and Steffan said, "I can take the brand to a certain level without you, but I can take it to a different level with you."
What did you do after leaving your own brand in 2007?
After J.Lindeberg, I worked with Justin Timberlake. I helped him to conceptualize his brand, William Rast, and I was his personal stylist. And I did a project with Jay-Z for a year, then I launched and created BLK DNM.
Your brand was all about the fusion of fashion and sport way before that became the trend.
J.Lindeberg was quite unique when it came out. We were very skinny tailoring and sharp silhouettes and really hit that metrosexual man in the mid-nineties. And we were quite innovative with the whole golf and ski thing. I came from Diesel and I wanted to create a new inspiring lifestyle brand.
What will be different when you go back this time round?
I love that the company is three or four times bigger than when I left. It's very well-organized. A lot of great people, so I can focus on my strength, which is creativity, design and innovative ideas. I think that's why they've brought me on.
What kind of people do you think will be the J.Lindeberg man and woman on your return?
Men who are inspiring and creative. It could be a director, a photographer, whatever. There are a lot of great friends that I have who I would love to dress. I try and create great products and attract people to wear them. I will also have a special project in relaunching women. We have womenswer in the Scandinavian market. I love to dress women who want to change the world. Women who are confident, independent women.
Acne is obviously a big Swedish brand…
Acne and J Lindeberg started at the same time and I know Jonny Johansson very well. He also worked for me at Diesel. I was very tight with Stockholm in the first half of the 90s. J.Lindeberg had a very big influence on the Swedish fashion movement and now I feel like I'm really re-connecting again. I feel quite excited actually. I've had some really great love and support from Sweden when we released the news. A very warm energy. People are very excited that I'm going back there. It is a really strong brand in Scandinavia.
What are your thoughts on Stockholm right now?
I really connect with Stockholm. It's always been a very modern city. It has taken itself to one more level - I feel more texture, depth and confidence there. It's quite powerful. Politically we have been quite solid. We're an open society when it comes to immigrants, refugees and taking care of people, which I love. Sweden is a good reference country when it comes to that. I really appreciate that and it fits with my philosophy. But I'll stay in New York, because my daughter is here and it's very inspiring here too. There are no boundaries. No one cares about religion. It's all one great family somehow. The energy is very inspiring. I don't think I could be without this energy too long.
And how quickly will we see the effects of your input into the brand?
I've become a photographer, shooting a lot of pictures, so you will start to see in the pictures and the communications quite quickly. Unfortunately when it comes to a collection, it won't be until fall/winter 17. Meanwhile you will see some collaborations and ideas and an injection of a new energy.
Text Stuart Brumfitt