Sigrid Schiøtz Olsen graduated as a fashion designer from Textilhögskolan in Borås, Sweden, in June 2020 in the midst of the pandemic, and is now working as a design coordinator for Peak Performance in Stockholm.
Why did you choose to study a BFA in Sweden?
University of Textiles in Borås, Sweden, have one of the most impressive “machine parks” in Europe. I wanted to keep my possibilities of learning as open as I could, I wanted to be able to use all the machines and techniques I could dream of. I also heard that the school had an open mindset regarding creating your own path. I knew I wouldn’t fit into a normal fashion school, since fashion isn’t something that I am particularly good at, I needed a space where I was appreciated for my functional mindset. Borås was it.
I spent one semester at RMIT in Melbourne. I studied three courses that focused on sustainability, identity and drawing. That was such a valuable add to my education, and these courses were not something that was part of the curriculum in Borås. It was during the sustainability course I found my voice in this industry, combined with an active lifestyle.
I don’t think there was necessarily just one course that stood out. It was the combination of everything. We got dive into different machines, techniques and design methods. We went through everything from knitting to printing. And we were able to make almost anything at our school with our own hands.
The most surprising thing I learnt was probably to trust myself. But it took me almost 2.5 years to do this.
Tell us about your semester at RMIT, in Melbourne? What did you focus on?
I spent one semester at RMIT in Melbourne. I studied three courses that focused on sustainability, identity and drawing. That was such a valuable add to my education, and these courses were not a part of the curriculum in Borås. It was during the sustainability course I found my voice in this industry, combined with an active lifestyle.
Tell us about your time as an intern with Norrøna and your job with Peak Performance as a Design Co-ordinator?
Norrøna in Oslo was the milestone that set the standard for what I wanted to achieve in my career and what I wanted to do for a living. Their narrow focus on function fit perfectly with how I also looked at sportswear. I shadowed every designer I could – and I was welcomed to – on top of that I got to make my own Norrøna jacket from scratch. I learnt everything from business to workmanship at my time in Oslo. I don’t know where I would be without that experience.
Peak Performance was like a warm unexpected hug in the middle of a storm
Peak Performance was like a warm unexpected hug in the middle of a storm. I was hired during the pandemic and moved to Stockholm two weeks after I was hired. It was a perfect fit, my colleagues are incredibly warm and also very talented. It’s a high speed environment with lots to do, which have made my learning curve exponential. I’ve learned more than I could have imagined in under a year. I have stepped up a bit, so I’ve started designing and developing styles myself, as well as being the design representative in the new second hand take-back initiative WearAgains that Peak Performance launched this summer.
What do you think students need to consider while studying? Anything you wish you had known before starting out on your journey?
Trust yourself and be humble. You have so much to learn, so take in all the feedback you can as a sponge. Experiment as much as you can. Because it is in the experiments and the weird accidental projects that you find yourself and realize what you love and hate.
What was the main inspiration for your graduate collection?
I started working on the graduate collection directly after returning from my internship at Norrøna. While I was at Norrøna my brain was working overload to find a sport or topic or just something no one was designing for yet. Which I found. Some of the freeride athletes at Norrøna were actually biking from their homes or train stations to get to the mountains to ski and avoid using the car for environmental reasons and that’s where the idea of “Bike to Ski” started.
How easy did you find it to source everything for your designs/ final collection
I was very lucky to have made such a great connection with the team at Norrøna. When I called them and asked if they had some left-over fabricthey told me to come over as they were cleaning out their old fabric samples. And that concept just fit right in with my sustainability idea for the collection. It was actually in this sourcing that I found the reflective panels that are highlighting my pieces. Happy coincidence!
What are your favourite parts about being a designer?
I get to create and think outside the box, solve problems and challenge myself in new ways every single day.
What is your least favourite part about being a designer?
Deadlines. There are so many of them and they just never stop.
What software did you use to create your portfolio, designs?
Pretty simple; Illustrator and InDesign. We never really had courses of how to use them in school, but all of us learned by doing and tried our best.
Were there any other limitations you found not having access to the studio?
Well, my collection was all about wind- and waterproofness, so not having access to the tape machine and heat transfer machine was a bummer. I broke my mother’s iron in the process… Other than that, machine wise, I was pretty lucky that my design method could be adapted to a very simple construction.
But the most challenging part was not being together with my classmates. I can’t remember how many times I’ve said this, but not having the mental and emotional support from your classmates, not being able to receive that hug, was hard. And that is an understatement. You more or less live together in the school for three years; eat, nap, cry, drink and dance together. You become a family. And then when the hardest project of them all arrives, that can make or break you, the circumstances take your little family away from you. That is hard.
Has sustainability influenced any of your designs and why?
Since I’ve worked with left-over fabrics I hadn’t had the chance to really decide on my own textures and fabrics, fabric quality in detail or colour. I’d have to say that sustainability more or less decided the whole material- and colour scheme of my final collection.
Today, working as a designer, I try every day to actively let it sustainability affect my designs. Whether it be materials or colours. Shape is something that I would like to dive into. It is a bit harder when it comes to functions and fit in sportswear, but comes time comes knowledge.
What strengths and skills do you think it takes to become a successful fashion designer?
Strong opinions and clear communication. Belief in oneself and the ability to discuss your designs with different eyes other than your own. Be able to see everything from different angles and accept that you are sometimes very much wrong in your opinions. At least when it comes to functional wear.
Your collections intend to create a dialogue. What conversation did you want to park here?
With the sustainability angle in bottom, I mostly wanted to make these very sports specific clothes for women first, because so often they are not. Most of the time they are developed for the male body first, and then converted, in the sense of scaling, to the female body. But they don´t even take the needs of the female body into consideration. They just “pink it and shrink it”, as some themselves so famously says. The designer role of functional clothes has been male heavy since the beginning, and even though it is starting to shift, we still need to change our perspectives and start designing from the bottom again, with the full focus on the female body. The future is female.
Now that you’ve done your final collection, what are your next plans?
I am currently enjoying my job at Peak Performance and appreciating the freedom I get to grow in the company and all the responsibility they trust me with. The Ung Svensk Form exhibition are still ongoing, so there will be a few more events with them that I am looking forward to before the exhibition is over. But growth. That is my main focus right now.
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