GUNILA AXEN - THE DESIGNER OF THE STRIPE.
“It seems like it’s always existed. And I have always loved it.”
These are the words of Gunila Axén, the creator of our classic stripe, which is now known as our PO.P ORIGINALS collection. She began her career in design as a student at Beckmans College of Design. Over the years, she’s been a trendsetter, not only with her PO.P designs, but also thanks to her membership of the classic Swedish 10-gruppen design group. She’s also been an influential figure for generations of designers for many years as Professor of Textile design at the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design.
Narrow stripes became her signature instead, with the now-classic formula as a pattern unit. “But this isn’t actually the original stripe. My first collection was for older children. It had a different pattern unit and we discovered it wasn’t suitable for smaller garments. Because I wanted stripes for younger children too, we adapted the pattern unit to the one used to this day.”
“These things go in waves, like everything else. I remember when my son was in his 20s and stripes were back in fashion – he got a bit of extra street cred because his mum was responsible,” smiles Gunila.
“I’ve always started with the fabric in some way,” says Gunila, the creator of our famous stripes. “It’s obvious to me that clothes should be stylish and practical, not either/or. That’s why I’ve always loved jersey fabric, which has become something of a signature fabric for Polarn O. Pyret.
“But each fabric choice is about striking a balance. Different people have different tastes. And the fabric also needs to be right for the garment’s purpose. Babies don’t really have preferences as such, but it seems obvious they should have easy-care natural fibres.”
The basic garments, now known as PO.P ORIGINALS, came in basic colours: red, blue and brown. This was a deliberate choice. “Children should be children, not boys or girls,” she says emphatically.
KATARINA af KLINTBERG - THE BUSINESS LEADER
Katarina was the business brain behind what is now POLARN O. PYRET, who also happens to be Gunila’s sister in Law! The combination of Katarina’s business sense and Gunila’s design was a winning formula.
“There was truly no nepotism involved. When we took the decision to develop in-house designs, I knew that Gunila would be the perfect choice, but I didn’t dare suggest her myself because I was afraid of how it might look. But I attended a meeting and her name was put forward by someone else and I shouted ‘YES, she’s great!’ And the rest is history.
“It soon started to feel like a family business anyway. When I leaf through catalogues from those days, half of the models are our own children or their cousins, with our own homes as backdrops. Sometimes it feels like looking through family albums. But actually there were sound financial reasons – it was a whole lot cheaper!”
“We never hesitated to test all the clothes on our own children. My son was 13 when the first collection was released and it made him squirm with embarrassment. He later confessed to lying to his friends by telling them he got paid to wear striped clothes,” recalls Katarina.
“And when my son’s first child was born, my son dressed him in stripes before he’d even left the maternity ward, and I remember thinking that now he’d found his way home,” laughs Katarina. “That little boy is 19 now and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he turned up one day wearing stripes of his own free will.”
40 years after it all started, it feels as if the stripe has an eternal life. It runs back into the past and on into the future. Generation after generation. Our stripes will never fade.