Sandqvist - Sebastian Westin (co-founder)

Eleven years after the first Sandqvist bag saw the light of day, Fusion Associates caught up with the Swedish label’s latest developments.Fusion Associates spoke to co-founder Sebastian Westin to talk about the latest developments – which include a new Stockholm store and a technical bag line.

Sebastian Westin - co-Founder

Sebastian Westin - co-Founder

Sandqvist has developed from a marginal name into a global player. At what point did this shift take place and how has it changed the company dynamic?

Things started to really happen in 2010; that’s when the brand awareness reached a turning point and we extended the collection with new lines. The biggest change is that my fellow founders, brother duo Anton and Daniel Sandqvist, and I don’t have to look after every detail ourselves. We’ve now reached a team of 17 employees working across design, product development and sales. The production staff visits the family-run factories in India we work with up to three times a year – something we struggled to manage ourselves when we were in charge of everything. So in that sense we feel more “indie” and on top of things than ever before.

What particular business aspect drives you personally?

To continue developing the brand; I constantly ask myself what we can do next to improve the bags and the collection. We’ve only scratched the surface of the bag universe and its functionality. Everyone carries around iPads and mobiles these days so a bag should really function like a mini workstation. We only ever add details that are relevant – functionality and simplicity is key for us. Small improvements make a big difference; we recently added a key strap to our ladies bags and the feature has been well received. Some of our designs have a reflective strip so that you’re visible when cycling in the dark. People often ask if we might extend the range to incorporate other products but if we are to be the best purveyor of bags, we have to focus on this category.

As part of your developing the brand, you’ve brought out an all-leather women’s range for SS15 as well as a technical line for AW15. Please tell us about these offerings and any other news.

The Mineral line is technical and sporty, but with a high style-quotient. Our initial offering consists of three different styles, all in black. The feedback from buyers has been good so we’re planning to extend the line for SS16. As for the mainline, we introduce one new print every season – for AW15, we went for a swirly, harvest inspired version in earthy colours. Another recent addition is the so-called Icons series has just arrived in-store. It’s inspired by Swedish icons and each style carries the name of a native film star – Greta, Britt, Ingrid… The expression is classic, timeless and quite high-end and the leathers are all semi vegetable dyed.

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You now have over 300 international stockists divided over 25 countries. Which territories are key?

UK and Germany are the two strongest markets outside of Sweden. We’re also doing well in USA, Canada, France, Australia and Japan, while growth is good in Asian spots such as Hong Kong and South Korea.

You added a third store to your small retail stable at the end of February. What defines the shop and Sandqvist’s retail approach in general?

The concept is quite distinctive; a friend of ours from Spain used to call our first Stockholm store “the best cabin in town”; it’s quite fitting since the feel is rather cabin-like in that it’s small and cosy with homely wooden interior and tapestries on the walls. This particular direction ties in with the brand and indeed our own lifestyle– we often spend time in a cabin in Härjedalen in northern Sweden, enjoying the amazing wilderness and the simple way of life. While all three shops – there are two in Stockholm and one in Gothenburg– share a similar aesthetic, the most recent addition is slightly more luxurious in feel, with marble complementing the wood. It’s located on Jakobsbergsgatan in central Stockholm, an interesting street that has become something of a hub for Swedish designers – we count Rodebjer, WESC and Our Legacy to our neighbours. We’re currently looking for a retail space in London, but the location has to be right so we won’t rush into anything.

FashionAlex Pescott