The Global Fashion Closet: Swede Style with Johanna Hofring of Ekovaruhuset


While homegrown brands such as Acne and Cheap Monday have introduced an edgier style in recent times, Swedish design has long been recognized for its crisp, uncontrived aesthetic. Perhaps there’s something about living in darkness for most of the year that makes Swedes appreciate light-hued and uncluttered fashion and interiors.

Until its recent closure, one of the highlights of a shopping trip to NYC was enjoying a soothing visit to Stockholm native Johanna Hofring’s store, Ekovaruhuset (House of Organic). Proving there is so much more to Swede style than IKEA and H&M, Johanna offered under-the-radar organic and fair trade brands along with those created by her design collective, EKO-Lab. Reassuring us an online store was coming soon; Johanna shared her eco fashion journey.

How did you get started in Eco-fashion?

Just by hearing about the effects of conventional fashion – I got emotionally involved right away. I ordered my first organic fabrics in 2003, switched out my whole collection and opened Ekovaruhuset in Stockholm in 2004.

How did Ekovaruhuset (House of Organic) get started?

I opened the first store in Stockholm because I felt the world was missing such a store. And it was a bit of a coincidence that I came upon a very amazing space right away.

Please tells us a little about the designers who make up Eko-lab collection? And the line’s aesthetic?

Eko-Lab is a separate entity consisting of myself and two designers named Xing-Zhen Chung and Melissa Kirgan. We work a lot together also and occasionally collaborate with more designers. We are all friends and have worked closely for many years. We’re all influenced a lot by nature and handicraft, so our work looks good together.

Any plans to open any more stores?

At the moment I am downscaling. I have closed the store in New York. I’m having another baby in a couple of months and I am starting to like the idea of just having an online store so I can live in the countryside in Sweden.

Sustainable fashion is gaining more media exposure – what do you think the movements biggest challenge is right now?

To actually reach the customers to sell enough to be sustainable on a financial level. We’re working on combining good business practices and professionalism with our passion for ethical fashion.

What are your thoughts on how to attract a more mainstream consumer?

I guess to be more mainstream, although for me that doesn’t feel very inspiring…

What’s your go-to eco-outfit this season? What are you looking forward to wearing this Fall/Winter?

Oh, I’ll be wearing whatever is comfortable and soft, since I am having a baby soon. I guess I will look for things easy to open up in the chest area – not a big fashion season for me! But as a designer I feel very inspired by wildlife and nature’s beauty. Clothes that can be as functional and wearable in a forest as on the street. Like moccasins and things with good pockets and smart little bags and pouches attached. I’d call it eclectic warrior style.

In an ongoing series, Rowena Ritchie explores how the sustainable clothing movement is changing the global fashion scene today with interviews with the international fashion community and a glance at each region’s unique sense of style.

Rowena Ritchie

Rowena is EcoSalon’s West Coast Fashion Editor and currently resides in San Francisco, CA.