The Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce of San Francisco/Silicon Valley enjoyed coffee with busy innovator Ebba von Sydow, the young editor-in-chief of Veckorevyn.com, while she was visiting San Francisco with 18 representatives of the Bonnier Group as part of a leadership program at Bonnier. We talked about lifestyle, trends and shopping in Sweden and the U.S.
Ebba von Sydow is probably the youngest woman in Sweden — since she was 24 —to hold the position of editor-in-chief for a major women’s magazine. She is a trendsetter, but she is not endorsing a consumption-driven lifestyle. She covers lifestyle stories, how we shop and why. She loves to shop. In the midst of the recession, she thinks it is more interesting than ever to observe how Swedish women adjust their consumption. So, we were thrilled to ask her opinion on these matters.
SACC: So how do women adjust their shopping?
EvS: At the moment, I see three major spending patterns: an increased activity to sell and shop for clothes at online auction sites like E-bay, and to shop for vintage and second hand styles instead of for the latest, brand new fashion items. In Sweden I also see a reduced demand for Swedish designer brands, since most of them are priced too high for the average woman.
SACC: What lifestyle trends have you seen in San Francisco?
EvS: San Francisco is a city where I definitely could see myself live; it seems to offer a relaxed and charming lifestyle. I am always fascinated how far ahead you Californians are when it comes to consciousness regarding ecological production and shopping. Especially here in San Francisco it seems to be such a natural part of everyday choices. But also, in the business-related arena, I’ve been struck by how extended the entrepreneurial spirit is here. We are way behind in Sweden. Here, you are encouraged to experiment, try to do things in a different way—your way. And then the friendly attitude towards failing is just startling. It’s definitely something that I will bring back with me.
SACC: You are an excellent example of a fresh entrepreneurial force in Sweden, what’s your recipe for success?
EvS: The key to my success, or any success, is simple: Work with something that you like. In my case this came down to transforming my private interests into my profession. Also as an editor-in-chief I constantly need to develop the business, to be a good leader and to pass on my visions to my co-workers—it all comes down to having a genuine interest and passion for your profession.
SACC: And when the wind blows?
EvS: I’ve been working professionally with media and journalism for almost ten years and been through both ups and downs. I am the kind of person who likes to be seen and heard, something that is not always appreciated in Sweden. I am not afraid of expressing my opinions to the public and being me, even when it is stormy. In Sweden, however, people just sit around, waiting for you to fail so they can sit back and laugh as they munch popcorn. But that only drives me forward to keep doing my thing. Criticism can be good if you take it the right way, I have learned.
SACC: In contrast to objective journalism, you have a distinctly personal reporting style. Why?
EvS: I spent a year in the U.S. in 2002. Returning to Sweden I brought with me this new type of writing where the focus is not only on the content, but also on who is expressing it. Now, in 2009, it is more important than ever to have an apparent persona behind a brand or a magazine. Someone that you as a consumer or reader can get in touch with if you are not happy or just if you want to drop a comment. My blog is a natural part of my work but it also lets me more directly communicate and reach out to my readers. I am surprised that some companies still choose to have an impersonal contact address such as firstname.lastname@example.org. Why hide the one communication tool that personalizes the work? I see a lot of personalized journalism here in San Francisco. The power that the bloggers possess is great, although we are not far behind that in Sweden. Every night before I go to bed I spend some time going over blogs and homepages. I enjoy that time just clicking around, updating myself on what has happened in the world, killing some time. That is what everybody does today. That is also a part of my work.
SACC: Your magazine Veckorevyn.com is the biggest online women’s magazine in Sweden. How about the survival of the paper magazines?
EvS: It not so much about the number of periodicals as it is about the actual information that the magazines and newspapers offer their readers. You can do that online as well as in a paper magazine but it is a matter of cost. Women’s interest for fashion, beauty and glamour has not decreased although the number of paper magazines sold is decreasing. The distribution channels will be different in the future but the need is and will still be the same. I am optimistic when it comes to the magazine industry but, yes, interactive media plays a bigger part today.
SACC: So, what are you bringing back to Sweden?
EvS: Well, first of all, I definitely have to bring myself back here; you cannot do San Francisco in a week! But at the moment I am taking with me the entrepreneurial spirit and the accepting attitude towards failing and trying again. That is so inspiring.
Eva von Sydow was born on February 18, 1981. She is the great-granddaughter of Swedish Prime Minister Oscar von Sydow, and is also related to actor Max von Sydow and politician Björn von Sydow. She is editor-in-chief of the long running Swedish fashion and lifestyle magazine VeckoRevyn.com, for which she also blogs about fashion. Prior to that she worked at the music magazine Groove and for Swedish national radio P3. Sydow studied journalism in Boston before becoming a columnist for the evening Stockholm tabloid Expressen. She was also an editor-in-chief for their popular Friday supplement Fredag.