I often note the parallels between a designer and her work, but I’ve never been as struck by the congruence of a designer and her collections as with Carin Rodebjer. It’s almost uncanny. The descriptions I used in my review of her Spring 2007 collection are (perhaps if given a clean slate) the exact words I would choose in describing Carin herself. Carin is indeed “highbrow, but not stiff— [one of the] women who have come into their own,” speaking with thoughtfulness and vision for her work in a way that lends credence to her artistic process without sanctifying it. She leaves the same impression as her clothes, a strong presence derived “hints of intellectualism—and playful genius.”
How many shows have you done in Sweden?
I’ve done 12 collections and from that I’ve done about 5 catwalk shows. In Sweden, we have the Elle designer of the year awards and we’ve won the award twice. Then, Elle does these catwalk shows during the awards and we’ve done the catwalk shows there as well.
You’ve studied in New York at FIT correct?
Yes, I’m actually a dropout (laughs). I started my label while I was in school. I sold to a few stores downtown (New York) and to a couple of stores in Sweden. Then everything started going so well, and so I dropped out.the last semester.
What are your thoughts on starting internationally as a designer and then coming to New York and working in this space?
I think it’s good to be in your home country when you start your business because you have all these connections and you start on a solid ground. For me that was more so the case because Sweden is a small country, the only thing you can do is work and focus on what it is you’re doing. But on the other hand, since it’s so far away and so small, you have to go to places that are urban and that are bigger.
Who would you say should wear Rodebjer?
I don’t want to be narrow minded with my collection. I want all kinds of people buying my clothes. Women between 25 and 65 are buying my clothes. It’s quite a wide age spectrum, which is fun, I love that. I don’t think it should be about age or social standing or location. It’s all about state of mind.
What would you say is most “Swedish” about your designs?
I think it’s that there is still some function to it. I mean, I like design, but it has to be wearable. I want to use fabrics that are comfortable.
Was there one defining moment in designing when you realized that this is what you definitely wanted to do?
I think it has gone step by step actually; because when I was a child, I always expressed myself in clothing. I think coming to New York actually did a lot for my confidence. That was really a turning point for me because when you come from a small country like I did, it seems as if people are always trying to put you down, but when you come to New York, people are saying you can do anything if you set your mind to it. They’re like why not do it, go for it. I have always been very into to reading biographies and reading about Chanel, the old Balenciaga and Poiret. So there was plenty of influence there. I was also inspired by Norman Norell. While still in school I saw a FIT exhibit on his designs, and I found that I could easily relate to him and his work.
At New York fashion week you had Diane Von Furstenburg, Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors and then Carin Rodebjer in the same space. How did it feel being mentioned in the same breath with these great designers?
I am so focused with what I am going to do; with my presentation. I wouldn’t try to compare myself with other designers. I just try to do the best that I can. I don’t compare myself with other designers. It doesn’t make a difference for my work.
Are you ever worried that what you sketch out won’t come out as planned?
Yes, sometimes since it is always a struggle with time. But by now I feel quite confident that I know what I am up to. I know what kind of fabrics and garments my factories can handle and that makes it a lot easier.
Without giving away too much, what’s the story you want to tell with your next collection?
Without giving away too much (laughs). I know the silhouette is a lot about rectangles. Rectangles one by one or on top of eachother. I always have a strong vision about what silhouette I want to work with.
What role does emotion play in your design?
I am an emotional person, of course, it is important. For spring, I wanted to have an easy going relaxed way of looking at things. I wanted to encourage people to feel more free and not be afraid of what they want to wear. For fall it it is more about structure again.
What’s in your IPOD?
I’m listening to Bright Eyes, Magic Numbers, a swedish band called The Concretes. Lately I have also been listening to Salomon Burke, Guy Clarke an old American folk singer.
When you walk down the street in Manhattan what do you like to see on women?
Well that’s the good thing about New York, you can leave your house and see so many different things. I can’t really choose what I like. I go uptown and see these old ladies dressing in wonderful pieces, really high quality. You go downtown and you see women wearing street styles and I think it’s inspiring, all of it, and I wouldn’t push people in one particular direction. My collection is a lot about balance too. You can dress it up or take it down. It’s all about your personal preference.
In terms of fashion, compare walking down the street in Stockholm to walking down the street in New York.
What you see in stockholm is that people are very concerned with trends. People are very trendy. It’s less about the individual and more about the style of the moment. You basically see the same type of thing. In New York there’s not just one convention. It’s all very different.
As a European designer, why is it that you never showed your collection at one of the major fashion weeks there before New York?
For me it was easy, I love New York and I feel it is modern in some ways; and in Europe I find that it is all about convention and doing things in one way. In New York it is all about expressing yourself in different ways and finding your own way to express yourself. I wanted to do things my way and not follow in the steps of others. I love Paris and I love going to the Paris weeks there it’s just different in New York so I love showing there.
What do you say to people who say that fashion can’t be intellectual?
I think that fashion can be intellectual. I mean some people call fashion art, but I call fashion, fashion. It is what it is. It’s an expression and when you express something, there is a thought about it and it has deeper values. For me it is definitely intellectual.
Where do you see the line 5 to 10 years from now?
Well, I wish that I could still live in New York by then and that we have our own stores. We´re actually planning on opening a flagship store in Stockholm, where we started. That’s going to be really fun to show a full collection and keep working and be more clear with what I want to do, Then possibly opening other stores. I want to build a solid fashion house, to the best of my memory I don’t think we’ve ever really had a Swedish fashion house so I want to be able to offer perfume, accessories in addition to the traditional fashion items. I want to tell the whole story.