FEATURES

Alumna stories: Elmina Fors, knitwear designer

25 March 2017 by Roger Tredre

Swedish knitwear designer Elmina Fors has built her own small business following her experience at Texprint in 2014. And small can be very beautiful.

She comes from a town where daylight never happens for three weeks in December and temperatures plummet to -30 degrees centigrade. No surprise perhaps that knitwear designer Elmina Fors likes to make what she describes as “warming clothes”.

© Elmina Fors 2017

The Swede, who was a Texprint designer in 2014, grew up in Kiruna, the northernmost town in Sweden. “You wear wool garments most of the year. I do like to use natural fibres and good quality yarns that feel good on the body.”

Elmina Fors Knitwear designs, makes and sells knitted accessories including scarves, hats, socks and wrist warmers, as well as soft throws and cushions. Her teal and orange Artisk scarf, available in teal and orange, or black and white, is a typical example of her work, the pattern inspired by age-old Northern Scandinavian patterns used on jumpers, made in a soft slightly felted Merino lambswool, wide and long to wrap over the shoulders. For the Spring/Summer season, she’s working with some new natural yarns including cotton/lambswool for her oversized Trekant jumpers and a lovely Swedish linen yarn from Vaxbo Lin for linen jumpers and scarves. 

© Elmina Fors 2017

A sense of tradition and connection with the past runs through all her work. “I like the history of patterns. Everyone has a connection to repeated patterns and geometric shapes because people have been doing them for a very long time. There is such a wealth of patterns that have travelled across the world.”

At home in Kiruna, handknitting was a family matter. “My mum taught me how to knit, and her mum taught her. It’s always something that people do there – people make things for themselves or family members. You fix things in your own home. I like that idea of DIY. You don’t have to buy new all the time.”

Saying Scarf: only wear clothes you can dance in  © Elmina Fors 2017

And there was a joyous communal aspect to it too. “Only wear clothes you can dance in” are the words stitched into her Saying Scarf, taking the words from a favourite saying of a friend. (See Fors’ video with the same title, created with R&A Collaborations).

Only Wear Clothes You Can Dance In - Elmina Fors from R&A Collaborations on Vimeo.

She first came to the south coast of England to study knitwear design at Brighton University, expanding her skill sets to machine knitting and developing her own design aesthetic. Then came the breakthrough with Texprint, which gave her the platform to present her work on an international stage in Paris.

© Elmina Fors 2017

Fors made her home in nearby Hove, coincidentally not far from Texprint honorary chairman Barbara Kennington. The designer now plans to relocate back to her home country, where she has identified a studio in Stockholm, ready for occupation in July, but she intends to maintain her strong links with the UK.

She has good memories of Texprint. “It was really useful, all the support and advice, and meeting other designers. I looked at all the big labels and design houses at Première Vision Designs and asked myself whether it was possible to have your own business and keep it very small and local. So it started as a kind of experiment.”

The experiment has worked out well, although it’s hard work, as Fors acknowledges. “I have always wanted to work hard and I’ve learned to make decisions on my own. I think many makers are quite introvert personalities, and we have to be focused and organised. Yes, it’s hard but it can be so rewarding.”

Texprint’s Barbara Kennington says: “I love Elmina’s work and admire her desire to ‘do her own thing’. Setting up on your own is not for every designer. It can be tough as you learn to multi-task all the essentials - from marketing to organising production, finance management to deciding on retail options (pop ups, fairs or selling to buyers).”

She adds: “To run your own business, you need to be willing to work hard, call in friends and family to help, and put up with limited studio space and often working on your own. Participating in the Texprint programme certainly helps young designers to prepare for this.”

www.elminafors.uk

© Elmina Fors 2017


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