A Swede in Florence

Nordic fashion meets the Tuscan sun

Sara Pizzi
October 25, 2012

There is a thin red line that links a dark and minimal style code with the best Tuscan craftsmanship tradition. It is the Original Total Look of Erïk Bjerkesjö, a talented Swedish designer and this year's winner of the 2012 Who is On Next? Pitti Uomo award and contest dedicated to upcoming talents in the fashion industry, organized by Pitti Immagine, L'Uomo Vogue and Altaroma.


Attention to detail, creativity and careful research are the keywords of Bjerkesjö's own fashion style. A strong personal concept of contemporary masculine elegance. Born in 1982 on an island outside of Stockholm (the same island that gave the world Ingmar Bergman), Bjerkesjö moved to Florence to study Footwear and Accessories Design at Polimoda under the aegis of the visionary Linda Loppa. It was fashion and love at first sight. Love for a city, Florence, and its artisan heritage.

The image of this tall man with big cerulean eyes, glasses and his usual black cap is that of a real gentleman, a man of times past, with his gestures, polite words and timidness. Nevertheless, he is astute and knows exactly what he wants from his career; his hands, always dirtied with color like a real artisan, are evidence of this.


He started creating shoes with an innovative design that was characterized by a special signature: two visible holes in each side of the shoe. Each bespoke collection is manually produced by the designer himself together with skilled Tuscan artisans. Each detail is special: hand bevelling, punching on toe caps, soles enriched with the signature of their creator and three 18-carat gold nails in the heel.


Recently, Bjerkesjö debuted with his first menswear collection, steeped in minimal and post-modern moods. His clothes are revisited through an experimental combination of materials, paying meticulous attention to every work process, like special treatments with shoe polish, to offer an unexpected contemporary effect. Pure and austere as the Nordic clean-cut design tradition, his style is inspired by the melancholy of film, music and literature icons from Swedish culture.


Tell me about yourself. What is your fashion background? Why did you choose to be a fashion designer?

I'm from Sweden and I grew up on an island outside Stockholm, called Gotland. I have a masters in fashion footwear design from Polimoda in Florence and I was working for designers and close to craftsmen when I decided to start my own line, produced in Tuscany. I chose to be a designer because I like to build and piece things together, and because I love it.


What inspires you?

High quality garments and leather. I can imagine something that I want to create when I see and feel nice fabrics and leather. Buildings and interior design also inspire me a lot. When I create a look, I think of an ideal character for my collection. Mine is a bit aristocratic, lonely, ambitious and thoughtful. When I make a collection I picture, for example, what Ian Curtis would wear if he was alive, where he would have gone and lived, what music he would have listened to. The character just grows more in my imagination. I also love going to live concerts with fantastic bands, such as The Soft Moon, Kurt Vile, M83, and my brother's band, Bmob.


What are your plans for the future?

I am doing a collaboration with my friend 'The White Briefs,' called 'The traveling gentleman' and it will be a continuously traveling collaboration. I also have other footwear projects, but it is too soon to speak about them!


What was it like to win the Who is on Next Prize?

What more can a young designer wish for? For me, it was absolutely the greatest feeling to win the prize. It is something I will always appreciate, and will treasure it for the rest of my career.


Why did you choose to live and to work in Italy, and why in Florence?

This is where I feel at home; I go back and forth between Stockholm and Florence, and I like both places. But to live and work in Florence is perfect. You are always close to production and stores. But aside from that, I really like Florence because it is alive, my pulse beats quicker when I am here!


What do you like most about Florence and what would you suggest seeing here?

The countryside around Florence is fantastic and the tradition of craftsmanship and small production studios is something I recommend. Florence is easy to get around, and my friends and I have many spots where we like to meet up, including a small park in Fiesole, where you can relax and have a great view of the city.


I also really like stores such as Luisa Via Roma and A Piedi Nudi Nel Parco, which are amazing. As far as restaurants are concerned, in the summer I love the Ristorante-Bar Acqua Otto at the Canottieri Firenze rowing club.


For more information and photos of Erïk Bjerkesjö's collections, see www.erikbjerkesjo.com

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