Disney and PO.P

From as early as the 1930s Mums loved our basic clothes, but by 1976 their fashion-conscious children were missing an important part – the “label”. It was important to find one that appealed to both parents and children. And Mickey Mouse seemed to fit the bill.

“He was a likeable character and we made the world’s most likeable clothes. We felt it would be a good fit.” And it was. After a hand-written letter to Walt Disney fell into the right hands.

“We got in touch with the Walt Disney representative in Europe, sent him sketches and opened negotiations. Once all the details were ironed out, we began to use Mickey as an emblem and paid 0.25% of the purchase price of each garment in royalties. And we sent a load of samples of every style to their office in Copenhagen. At one time, we seemed to be supplying all the Walt Disney staff there with free clothes for their kids,”.

We didn’t just use Mickey on clothes but in our advertising too. At a time when digital image banks were a long way off in the future, the lack of instant access to suitable Mickey images was a problem.

“We solved this by having our illustrator Torsten Kvarnsmyr practise drawing Mickey till he was blue in the face and then applying for official authorisation from Walt Disney to draw Mickey, which he got – problem solved!”

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A family affair

Not long after KATARINA AF KLINTBERG started working for us, Gunila Axén, our now-legendary first designer, joined us too. The combination of Katarina’s business sense and Gunila’s design was a winning formula. Not many people are aware that they’re also sisters-in-law.

“But 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!”

“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.