by Cecilia Johansson, SACC-SF www.sacc-usa.org/sf
Filippa K arrives in San Francisco, with style, quality and simplicity

The Swedish Fashion Brand Filippa K recently opened up a concept store in San Francisco (66 Kearney Street). While so far largely unknown in America, most born Swedes are familiar with the brand and its creator. It all started in 1993 when the designer Filippa Knutsson decided to design clothes that she felt were missing from the marketplace. Her stretch jeans became “the thing to wear” in Sweden in 1996 and turned out to be one of Filippa K’s most important milestones. Over the years the brand has grown in popularity among Scandinavian women, and today it is one of Scandinavia’s fastest growing fashion companies. If Sweden’s most famous fashion brand, H&M, has promoted fast fashion and constant change, Filippa K represents the opposite: think perfect cut jackets and timeless tees in the best materials. Located in a former bank, the company highlights that some investments actually do hold their values!
The flagship store in San Francisco is the first one in the US. Founder Filippa Knutsson has been highly involved in the design of the San Francisco store which is inspired by the brand’s core values of artistic minimalism and dedication to architecture. Filippa Knutsson, founder and head designer, talked to me about her design, about San Francisco and how she came up with the idea to open up her own second hand store for Filippa K products.

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Why San Francisco?
It felt like it was one of the major US cities which is closest to our Scandinavian lifestyle and values. San Francisco represents a modern, forward thinking society, where content is heralded over superficiality and there is a strong consciousness of global issues. It also has a relaxed, informal atmosphere and an architectural style that feels rather European. I personally really love the city and it intuitively felt like the right place to launch the Filippa K brand in the US.
What is the philosophy behind the brand?
The Filippa K philosophy is based on the concepts of style, simplicity and quality. We apply these values to everything we do: the look and feel of our fashion, the design and ambience of our stores, the direction of our shows, the artistic photographs of our ads and the way we meet our customers in the store.
What would you say Filippa K represents in fashion?
By combining timeless simplicity with contemporary edge, we make distinct fashion for modern urbanities with personal integrity and an eye for good design.
Great effort is put into giving our clothes an exceptionally flattering fit and making sure they are particularly comfortable to wear. We want to create garments that become people’s favorites: those beloved, well-fitting and comfortable clothes you wear over and over again.
Do you see any differences in American vs. Scandinavian design?
There are quite a few similarities between the two - a love of clean lines, simplicity, comfort and even practicality. Scandinavian design maybe differs a bit in that there is a stronger restraint in the way we design that is very much part of our cultural design heritage; ‘’less is more’’ really applies to our sense of aesthetic.
San Francisco is a city that offers a large variety of clothing and many designers are represented in the city. What gap do you think Filippa K could fill?
We aim for the customer who is interested in fashion and design but also appreciates quality, detailing and a European fit. Clothing that is simple enough to last over several seasons and that won’t break your wallet. The fine balance between these two goals is what gives Filippa K a unique position amid many other brands.
The store opened up in kind of hard times amidst a financial crisis. Are you worried that this will affect sales considering it’s a newly opened store? And how do you handle this?
When we started to plan the San Francisco project the financial market and economical situation in the US was not what it is today. We still believe that there is a strong market for Filippa K in the US. However, it is going to be much tougher than we first anticipated, we need to tread lightly and be as flexible as possible. Hopefully the philosophy of our brand is a welcome breath of fresh air in times like these when overconsumption, logo identification, astronomical fashion prices and a general sense of greed are being replaced by intelligence, dignity and grace – very much portrayed by the new President, Mr. Obama himself.
In Sweden you recently opened up a second hand store for Filippa K clothes. What was the idea behind this? Were you ever worried about losing sales from your regular stores?
We opened up the secondhand store in June. The idea came out of an environmental brainstorming session. Like any company that’s concerned about these things, we’ve spent a lot of energy thinking about how we source, how we produce, how we distribute ... but it struck us that we had given almost no thought to what happens to the Filippa K clothes once they have been sold. Creating our own secondhand market seemed like a good way to do something green. We don’t worry about losing sales in our stores. We believe that the secondhand store reinforces the customer’s relationship with Filippa K and shows that we take our responsibility seriously.

The Filippa K brand was at points in time so trendy that some young girls would feel proud just walking down the street with a paper bag bearing the company logo; in Sweden, this brand has had some of the snob-appeal that the Gucci name has elsewhere in Europe.
Despite the extreme name recognition this label enjoys, Filippa K-the-person (not the brand), doesn’t get mentioned in gossip columns. In fact, she keeps such a low-profile that few people would recognize her if they bumped into her on the street.
“I’m not interested in having people prying into my private life,” she explained in an earlier interview.
“I’m not a product in myself. I prefer to stay low-key.”

Short facts about Filippa K
• Started 1993 by Filippa Knutsson and her colleague Patrik Kihlborg. Karin Segerblom joined the company at an early stage.
• Today the company has a yearly turnover of SEK 390 million (EUR 41 million)
• Filippa K is sold in 20 countries, has 40 brand stores in Europe and the USA, and is represented by more than 750 select retailers worldwide.
• The brand got a lot of attention in June 2008 when it opened up its own second hand store in Stockholm, selling used garments of the brand.
• The store in San Francisco is the first flagship store in the US, with the complete men’s and women’s collections available.