Have you ever had a casual conversation that proved to come with unexpected consequences? I have. Sometimes the outcome is important but not very spectacular, on other occasions it changes a lot. What I´m about to tell you definitely falls into the second category.
One afternoon in 2010, I sat at our kitchen table with my good friend Maja Carlgren. We came to talk about the need for nice casual clothes for women who (like us) are less than thin. 🙂
Maja wanted to wear casual clothes in happy colors and fresh, environmentally wise materials, so we bounced ideas for color palettes, function and models. When Maja had gone, I started sketching. In general, many ideas were rejected, but in the end the sketches looked like this:
Maja decided that she would invest in the production and sell the clothes in her health company, so we started looking for financial and practical solutions to make it happen.
The process begins
First on the list was searching for suitable fabrics. We wanted to work as environmentally wise and locally as possible, so when we found Trikåby as the then only Swedish knitting factory we were very happy. I sent for various samples, and we fell for their hemp jersey, with a little elastane.
Hemp is, like linen, a plant fiber that has many good qualities. It “breathes” so the fabric never feels dense and suffocating, and it transports moisture in a fantastic way. Perfect fabric for the features we wanted.
We went to Trikåby to take a tour of the knitting factory and sit down with their representative to choose the colors and quantities we wanted. When the fabrics were ready and approved, the clothes would be made in a sewingfactory in Estonia that Trikåby had worked with before, that was the most local and morally defensible production we could find at that time.
When the sampel fabric came, I quickly sewed the sample garments and began to develop the patterns that where to be used. I had never collaborated with a sewing factory before, so it took a while to get all the specifications they needed for their production on site. Eventually, however, we could send off patterns and fabrics for the first sample sewing in the factory, 1 1/2 years after our kitchen table talk. 🙂
XL4U becomes reality
Both Maja and I felt like little kids on Christmas Eve when we got the cardboard box with the very first factory-made garments. To me personally, it was a very special feeling to see patterns that I had designed made up by others – usually I sew everything myself. Some minor corrections where of course necessary, but basically they looked and worked just as we had thought
When the sample collection was approved, it took a few more months before we could start selling the finished collection. Maja had registered the brand XL4U, and we built a website, searched online store solutions and wondered a lot about pricing. Eventually, the clothes were delivered and they were photographed by Annika Winhagen, who also handled website and marketing in the next two years.
In the fall of 2012, the clothes were sold finally ready to be sold. The collection came only in larger sizes, from L to XXXL, and they sold well, both locally and via the webshop. To sell clothes, however, requires a lot of time and (even economical) strength. We knew that, but I think we might have underestimated the amount just a little bit. 🙂 When Maja eventually began to study to become a KBT: therapist, she decided to stop selling the clothes due to lack of time. At that time, I was engaged in other things, so neither of us had the time and energy to really engage in clothing sales, but now I feel it is time to get back to it.
How do the clothes last over time then?
In my wardrobe, after five years, linen, tunic, jacket and pants are still in use, both in the garden and in other contexts. They have been washed several times and keep both shape and color beyond expectation, so I can say with a very good conscience that the quality is excellent. Having long lasting clothes is good for both your private economy and the environment, and it feels good to know that what we did is sustainable.
The clothes we made are classic in model and color, and hemp jersey is still one of my favorite materials, so I’ve decided to sell the remaining part of our collection. There is still some fabric left, so I might make a few new models as well.
You can buy the clothes in my online store or locally at the House of Yvonne at Gånsviksvägen 4 in Härnösand.