It's difficult to argue that women aren't catered for in fashion, yet Ann Ringstrand and Stefan Söderberg found a gap in the market when it came to quality outerwear and tailoring. So the two friends, both attracted to masculine style of dressing, started HOPE in 2001. By reworking vintage uniforms and borrowing elements from men's suiting, they produced womenswear that was fresh and wearable, later going back to their roots and adding menswear to the mix in 2004. Without toeing the line, HOPE creates clothes that make the wearer stand a little taller and sit up a little straighter.
What inspired you to get in to fashion?
I started to experiment with clothing and aesthetics when I was nine years old. I was curious as to what clothes can do for you as a person, and I was interested in wearing clothes that were before their time. I knew from early on that fashion design was my calling.
What have you learned about yourself and the industry since you started HOPE?
Oh, that’s a good and big question! A short answer is that I have learned that being an entrepreneur and running a fashion label is a lifestyle that affects my family. You could say that Hope is actually like a family member, for better or worse. I’m of course very busy and, in a way, obsessed with my work, but at the same time I’ve made sure that my children have the opportunity to be involved. For example, my seven-year-old daughter has designed a t-shirt print for HOPE’s collaboration with the Save the Children charity. Before launching HOPE I already had a great knowledge about the technical side of the industry — I’d been working for more than ten years as a designer for some fairly big companies — but what I have learned about is running a business, building a brand and learning how to teach our HOPE people about the values and culture of the label. These are things I knew nothing about when I started HOPE.
How would you describe the HOPE woman?
What I’ve found out about the HOPE woman is that she dresses to succeed in her everyday life for her own wellbeing, but also to function in her career, or as a mother or friend. She wants to express her personality and be inspiring, and our mission is to support her everyday needs.
Who is your female style icon or who would you most like to dress in HOPE?
I’d like to see Cate Blanchett in HOPE. She is grounded and real in a way that makes her beautiful; I like that about women.
What music do you listen to?
I’m a singer/songwriter fan and love Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Joni Mitchell and James Taylor as well as contemporary artists who have followed in their footsteps like Kleerup and Israel Nash.
HOPE designs are classic and tasteful. Is there anything you secretly wear/eat/watch that might be considered ‘bad taste’?
I’m quite relaxed about taste. I like TV series, hip hop style, and Mexican food and culture. I’m also a football mum who follows [European soccer leagues] La Liga, Serie A and Ligue 1; I even wear a cap and sneakers to games. I don’t consider it bad taste, but I know that people don’t expect it from me!
HOPE womenswear borrows details and cuts from vintage uniforms and traditional tailoring. What affect do you think this has on the way the wearer feels?
Our customers tell us that this make them feel like they have a good posture. I love that because it adds on to what I had in mind when launching the label.
Is there an item in your wardrobe that makes you feel almost bullet-proof?
My black slim coats in techno nylon wool are lovely and always do the job for me.
HOPE was the winner of Cafe Magazine’s Designer of the Year in 2007 and Guldknappen in 2010. What do these awards mean to you personally and to HOPE as a label?
I’m grateful for both of these awards, and Guldknappen especially made our brand awareness much stronger.
How would you define Swedish style?
Swedish style is functional and minimal, which is so obviously rooted in our history and cultural environment. I think that what has actually affected us the most is the fact that we are a small country, which results in us being really open to global tendencies as a way of developing ourselves. For this reason I think that Swedish design is trendier than, for example, French and Italian design. We are neither traditional, classical or protectional. HOPE carries our Scandinavian heritage with pride.
HOPE has a social consciousness project called Stay Warm in Your Heart, whose ambassadors include Alexander Skarsgård, Ethan Hawke, Lykke Li and more. Can you tell us a bit about this project and how it came about?
My vision has always been to share HOPE’s expertise where it is needed, and Stay Warm in Your Heart began the first year that we finally had something left on the bottom line. I’ve always had a passion for designing outerwear; it is, in a way, the ultimate field of fashion, where tailoring and function are united. Every winter I see fellow citizens out on the streets who have no shelter other than layers of clothes to protect themselves from the cold. If the clothes are good quality they last for a long time and this really helps the homeless, so we made the decision to share our knowledge of making durable outerwear to provide for the people who really need it. HOPE donates twenty women’s parkas to young homeless families and part of the profit from our Down Parka goes to the non-profit organisation Stockholms Stadsmission.
What would you be doing if you weren’t in fashion?
I would create art, write books and lecture about Method Designing.