Fashion in living color

Designer Gudrun Sjödén conquers a sea of black with fantastical clothes for real people

Gudrun Sjödén

Photo courtesy of Gudrun Sjödén
Above: To walk into Gudrun Sjödén’s store is to be overwhelmed with color—a welcome relief from the sea of black that often constitutes fashion.

Victoria Hofmo
Brooklyn, N.Y.

In a world where fashion influences quickly travel across borders, it’s no wonder that Swedish designer Gudrun Sjödén has taken hold in Norway, with two busy stores in Oslo. This influence has traveled over the Atlantic as well, to New York. Brooklyn native Victoria Hofmo reports of her recent visit to the popular boutique there.

A cacophony of color fills the eyes with delight: a striking juxtaposition in the “sea of black” that dominates a New Yorker’s wardrobe. One wonders how it’s been able to survive in this monochromatic urban environment. But, survive it has, and in a high-end retail area—Soho.

This past April Gudrun Sjödén celebrated its fifth year at 50 Greene Street. Here ground-floor storefronts now display retail rags in the same buildings that once hummed with sewing machines constructing clothing on the upper floors.

The other attributes that comes to mind when viewing Gudrun Sjödén’s fashion is comfy as well as fun—and these, without a doubt, account for their success. There are also elements of traditional Scandinavian folkwear, better known as “boho,” with a whisper of the romantic. And this store does not limit its wares to threads, also offering their own unique home furnishings.

Gudrun Sjödén

Photo courtesy of Gudrun Sjödén
In the Gudrun Sjödén collection, there are also elements of traditional Scandinavian folkwear, better known as “boho,” with a whisper of the romantic.


Photo courtesy of Sjödén
Printed in an artistic pattern with beautiful falling leaves.

Sjödén’s Fall Collection (now available online; the winter and holiday collection will also be available there shortly) defines itself as “Forest Colors, Lustrous Patterns & Compelling Contrasts.” It includes bursts of titian, gold, russet, and spruce. The Singla dress with its Falling Leaves pattern is lovely and is offered in a variety of colors. When you change the hue online, the model and the surrounding background or environment also changes. This small detail articulates the company’s connection and sensitivity to nature, as the colors and textures they choose are inspired by specific environments and elements.    

The recently launched Winter Collection is now available at the store. It uses more subdued colors, dominated by more mellow earth tones with an infusion of plum, red, and teal. “Beautiful materials meet melted colors” is the official description, and the collection lives up to this promise. The Gudrun Sjödén collection embodies mostly organic materials, such as cotton and linen, but synthetic materials are also incorporated, for example, recycled polyester is put into the padding of the Rosetta quilted coat.

Gudrun Sjödén

Photo courtesy of Gudrun Sjödén
The “Wood” pattern of the Gudrun Sjödén Wood pant is inspired by the gently billowing lines of woodgrain.

One unique “Essential” I found on the Gudrun Sjödén website is their Wood pants. The “Wood” pattern is inspired by the gently billowing lines of woodgrain. The pants come in three colors, and there is also a multi-colored dress and a shirt. Everything is made in two different thicknesses in a linen and cotton blend; the dress is in a slightly thinner fabric than the pants and shirt. Versatility is the order of the day, and this also applies to sizing, which ranges from S to XXL, a democratic and much appreciated ideal. Gudrun Sjödén makes clothes for real people.

Currently, the American Swedish Institute has an exhibit celebrating the creativity of Gudrun: Gudrun Sjödén: A colorful universe. The exhibit’s video offers insight into Sjödén’s thoughts: she wants her customers to have choices. This is something to think about. Sometimes we feel so hip in our black urban staples that we may not realize our threads have evolved into a uniform. For those less conformist, the antithesis is individuality and color, and Sjödén’s designs provide this. This exhibit runs through Oct. 28.

Gudrun Sjödén

Photo courtesy of Gudrun Sjödén
A lightheartedness and attention to detail characterize the designer’s work.

Sjödén’s attachment to color is based on her connection to nature. She thinks of color seasonally and leaves black and greys for winter, but with unique layered patterns. This creative dynamo enthused, “The store in Greene Street will be my green oasis!”

When I asked Sjödén what is it like trying to sell clothing in such vibrant colors in a city that is a “sea of black,” she responded, “Colors have always been important for me. Since I started the company in 1976, our customers have been like me—and they love colors—but can also like our graphics in black and white. We are also selling a lot of black and blue.”

Respect and love for nature are also at the core of the company’s values. “We think about the environment in everything we do,” the company website states. This concept is infused in this company’s reality, together with an eye to giving back to those in need. And at times they are even able to provide both, as with their Fair Trade Shoes.   

This commitment to the environment is real. At Christmastime each year, the company chooses a specific charity project. Some have included sustainable cotton production in Uzbekistan and Gujarat, India. Another cause has been the preservation of old-growth forests in Sweden by assisting in their purchase to prevent their demise.

Gudrun Sjödén

Photo courtesy of Gudrun Sjödén
The designer also offers a collection of home furnishings.

At the core of the company is Sjödén herself. “I personally choose to manage the company,” she says. The commitment to ecology applies to every aspect of the business. The company even devotes an entire section on its website labeled Eco Thinking, where you can learn about all their efforts in this direction, big and small.

Gudrun continues, “When I started the company, it was with strong colors and in natural fibers. Since then we have developed the green values in the company. Today, most of the collection is in sustainable materials. We have worked with a U.S.-based project called ‘Nest for one year.’ They help women in different parts of the world to retain their handcraft.”

The philosophy seems to be working: the company has been around for 40+ years and has a large global reach. Besides the store on Greene Street and the two Oslo boutiques, there are six in Sweden, one in Denmark, one in Finland, one in England, and 10 in Germany.

Looking around the boutique on Greene Street, there are no duds in this well-made, environmentally sensitive, socially conscious, beautifully comfy, unique collection. Why not show your true Nordic colors and be caught red-handed in a Gudrun Sjödén design? It is a golden opportunity to add color to your life, and I am sure that you and those around you will be tickled pink.

To learn more about Gudrun Sjödén’s fantastical designs, visit

This article originally appeared in the October 19, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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Victoria Hofmo

Victoria Hofmo was born, raised, and still lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, the historical heart of Norwegian New York. She is 3/4 Scandinavian: 1/2 Norwegian and 1/4 Danish/Swedish. Self-employed, she runs an out-of-school-time program that articulates learning through the arts. Hofmo is an advocate for arts and culture, education, and the preservation of the built and natural environment of her hometown, with a love for most things Scandinavian.