For our first collection, we took inspiration from creative districts from around Europe, where local designers and artisans are returning to the use of high-quality materials, traditional techniques and unique processes to make products that last. We travelled from London to Stockholm to learn more about a neighbourhood that’s getting noticed for its flawless design culture – Södermalm. A hub for shopping and craft, Söder is at the forefront of trend and shopping within the capital, and we are now witnessing a welcome increase in the number of products being sourced, made and sold by local designers. Read on to hear more about Douglas Luhanko, indigo enthusiast and founder of Unionville.
59.308907 N, 18.088686 E
At Unionville, the mantra is to take influence from fine artisanal craft and the world’s most quality denim, as they desire to bring a more considered and down to earth shopping experience to the Södermalm community. Douglas Luhanko and Kerstin Neumüller opened the store to provide well crafted and considered outerwear for their visitors.
Within the store, I was greeted welcomely by Douglas Luhanko, who I chatted to about Unionville and denim craft. He thrives on indigo dying, creating and repairing denim garments for local residents and distant fans - which keeps his loom and four vintage sewing machines active. Unionville is part workshop, part store: to awe, entice and educate customers in all things denim – including dying, manipulating and making.
Douglas has also written his own handbook about indigo, alongside fellow enthusiast and tailor Kerstin Neumüller. They experiment with different recipes and techniques to revive vintage colours and styling using natural dyes and cottons. Within the book, images by Fredrik Ottoson show the way in which Japanese techniques (Aizome) of harvesting and extracting indigo are used to create a more natural and ethical product for Douglas to use.
At Unionville, charm and experimentation are at the forefront of the agenda. Douglas dyes his own fabric outside the front of the store and hang drys in the fresh Nordic air. The denim is then kept safe in the drying cupboard until it’s ready to be used for making new garments, or repairing old ones. The increasing demand for selvedge denim and up-cycling creates an exciting development within the industry – where sticking to traditional heritage and quality is at the forefront of the craft itself.
“We found one small factory that has kept their machines and knowledge from the glory days of Swedish textile production”
My kind of souvenir...I walked away with a beautiful pair of jeans by Sarva. Sarva make wind and waterproof garments to protect from the harsh outdoor climate. Their rejuvenation of denim making is inspired by the heritage of the Sami people, the indigenous inhabitants of Northern Sweden. Each product is stitched with thread and label to match the tribal colouring of the Sami, and finished with a branded patch made using locally sourced reindeer leather from food production that would otherwise be thrown away.