Creating her own label is just the latest chapter in the Sewn Agency founder’s diverse fashion journey.
Lis Eriksson founded Shoreditch-based menswear and womenswear fashion agency Sewn in 2007, after starting her career in retail before moving into buying and then wholesale. She is credited with launching Scandinavian labels such as Won Hundred and Happy Socks into the UK and in April 2014 set up her own women’s streetwear label, This is Welcome.
You’ve been running sales agency Sewn for seven years now. What changes have you seen in the industry?
With regards to menswear, I thankfully entered the wholesale business just at the tail end of the ‘superbrands’ era [in 2006], when stores could bank on certain denim-heavy brands to stand for most of their turnover. I think the fact that a trade show like Bread & Butter, which at that point was the core of the industry, has lost relevance kind of sums it all up really. So I managed to start Sewn when the consumer was getting bored and becoming more exposed to different things through the internet. There was a renewed interest in more genuine product, not just in heritage brands but also a cleaner Scandinavian look from brands like Acne, which is now pretty much a styling staple both in women’s and men’s wear.
Did you always plan to work in fashion?
I’ve always loved it, but growing up where I did, in a small town called Boden really far up north in Sweden, fashion wasn’t really a priority.
What brought you to London in 1999?
I’d just finished college and was on my way to Paris via London looking for an internship. I got chatting to another Scandinavian girl in a store in Covent Garden for a Japanese brand called Super Lovers. She offered me an interview for a job, which in the end I didn’t get, but by then I’d already decided to stay in London. The same week I got myself another job measuring skinheads and mods up for suits at a shop in Camden.
You started off in retail, working up from the shop floor to management and then buying. What was that like?
Being a store manager wasn’t really varied and creative enough for me, so when I got offered a job to start up a womenswear section in a friend’s store, it seemed like a good idea. I had an interview in a greasy spoon on a Saturday and on the Monday I did my first buying appointment, which I believe was at Carhartt.
What about making the step from buying to running your own agency?
I got itchy feet and wanted to do something different. Making connections with buyers and learning about the business as I went along, Sewn came to life [in 2007]. It was all really organic; I picked up the phone to some key Scandinavian brands and said, “Hello, would you like some representation in the UK?”
Which brands are you working with now?
We have a really good mix of menswear, womenswear, accessories and footwear, including Scandinavian label Libertine-Libertine, denim label Kings of Indigo and women’s footwear label Swedish Hasbeens. I always look for quality and personality when considering anything new.
You’ve also started your own women’s streetwear label, This is Welcome. Why did you want to go into designing as well?
There’s been a casual streetwear revival over the last few years in menswear, but also more luxury women’s brands such as Kenzo, Alexander Wang and Stella McCartney have adopted sportswear. I started thinking about what my friends and I used to wear in the 1990s and early 2000s, the last time streetwear felt cool and interesting.
It’s early days as we only launched in April 2014 but so far we’ve had a really nice reception. [This is Welcome is stocked at the likes of Urban Outfitters and new Shoreditch indie Pam Pam, with wholesale prices from £6 for socks to £54 for a denim jacket.]
Which brands do you wear yourself?
I obviously wear all the brands in the agency; they are my wardrobe staples. Other than that I have a weakness for Givenchy heels - I’ve stopped counting how many I have - and I also buy a lot of sneakers. I actually don’t shop that often for someone who works in fashion, but when I find something I like, I’ll buy it in three colours.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
Teleportation. It would save me a lot of time and, living in London, I can’t say I’m a huge fan of public transport.
What would you eat for your last meal?
My mum makes this really amazing, really simple rainbow trout dish, which I always have when I go home. That with a crisp white wine and anything dark chocolate for dessert.