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Hodakova: The Stockholm brand repurposing garments headed for landfill

Born from the creativity of Ellen Hodakova Larsson, Hodakova is the Swedish brand producing one-of-a-kind pieces created from repurposed materials

Lampoon talks to Ellen Hodakova Larsson

Ellen Hodakova Larsson cultivated Hodakova from her graduate collection in 2019 at the Swedish School of Textiles, after it received press attention. Larsson’s methods of design include the recycling of textile waste and handpicked second hand garments. She emphasises Hodakova’s principle as a brand «rethinking a tradition» and ensures that every collection of hers has a narrative which she illustrates through her lookbooks. Growing up on a countryside farm meant that both her parents were, as Larsson puts it ‘doers’. From sewing to building houses, the designer was born into a family with a sense of creativity and independence. Larsson’s grandmother, who’s surname is Hodakova, serves as her inspiration. She explains that she was a woman who solved her own problems and was courageous, in a generation that was worlds apart from ours. Larsson planned to honor her mother and grandmother’s ideologies and has achieved that with her brand, learning to «trust her gut» when it comes to design. «Fashion needs a clear approach; sustainability needs to be elegant to adapt to the new world». Larsson is keen to develop a sustainable business model for Hodakova and by not looking towards other brands for inspiration, she is using an awareness of what has already been done and analyses how she can make changes in the right direction. She believes that collaboration should be considered by all designers, in terms of their production line. Every garment produced by Hodakova is made from either waste disposed of by other fashion companies or handpicked from second hand stores. As seen in the designs, a lot of the reworked pieces originate from men’s suits, shirts and belts, including the Belt Bag, woven with twenty leather belts. This approach to sourcing materials enables each garment and accessory to vary in color, texture and composition. Larsson’s latest endeavor was the debut of her ecommerce platform and for-sale collection. When asked about who she would be most excited to see wearing her garments she replied, «my neighbors, or maybe the skater kids. But then again, Yoko Ono». This says a lot about Larsson’s plans for the brand, after explaining her dislike for elitist brands and her lack of pretense. The collection boasts oversized yet fitted shirt dresses and still apparent are the ghosts of the previous purpose of the garment. Original buttons, cuffs and collars are intact and pay homage to the sacrifice taken for the purpose of craftsmanship. Larsson looks at the lines of the shirts and suits and creates a parallel with those of the body, working only with her eye. Making a feature is recycled terry cloth toweling in olive green, designed for a two piece with a stark silhouette, currently sold out on their website.

Bag Hodakova

Sweden’s sustainable approach to fashion

Larsson’s approach for her brand is to source all the materials, from the recycled textiles to the second-hand clothes, locally since doing so is the only way to live both cost effectively and ethically and allows her to keep the sustainable approach her brand was founded upon. The fashion industry itself is inherently unsustainable but, as proven by many designers including Larsson, there are ways to avoid contributing to the problem. By sourcing her materials from across Sweden, Larsson evades shipping her materials halfway across the world, cutting out on pollution, money and labor. The country in which she operates itself is, however, known for promoting a sustainable outlook on life, striving for a circular economy with countless brands either choosing to design with upcycled and reworked materials or those made from sustainable components. Sweden’s fashion brands, be they smaller or more known, have been taking steps forward in hopes of catching the industry as it falls, including the cancellation of Stockholm Fashion Week back in 2019 amidst sustainability concerns. Sustainable campaigns, initiatives and movements have emerged from the Scandinavian country over the past few years, all in ode to its heritage ‘clean living’ motif. Larsson’s approach to her brand stems from this mindset adopting with it the idea that before concentrating on new things we must fix what is already there. Hence her use of upcycling as the means to create her clothes: there’s no need for producing from scratch when you can reuse what’s already there. It’s because of her commitment to sustainability as well as for the rapid growth and attention that her brand has been getting that the Swedish Fashion Council selected Larsson to take part in the annual talent program, Swedish Fashion Talents, an initiative recognizing designers for their potential to advance Swedish fashion.

Changing the focus from sales to sustainability

Larsson is certainly not hungry for the money the fashion industry has to offer, after admitting she «does not focus on the sales» but rather her team. «Numbers come when the team works» she explains when discussing the foundations of Hodakova. With a seven-person team, a healthy working environment is key for Larsson, as it is what will allow her brand to grow keeping true to its mission. Sustainability comes in two forms according to the Swedish designer: the sustaining of the environment around her and also the maintaining of her wellbeing. «The focus needs to change from sales to sustainability – numbers provide comfort within everyday life, but we need to sustain the industry». She agrees that the success of her brand will enable her to continue working and living comfortably but to her this is on an even playing field with sustaining the environment and adapting the fashion industry to avoid it collapsing. 

Like any other fashion student fresh from the womb of fashion school, Larsson’s mindset towards her work is not dissimilar to a self-proclaimed ‘naïve’ undergraduate. She doesn’t fail to doubt her work once it has been critiqued by the public eye and will find something she is not pleased with. She explains that this said ‘naivety’ keeps her afloat throughout the design process, until she can look at her work with a critical eye when it is released. The doubt she holds over her own abilities is said to «help her grow», making her want to work harder and smarter for the next collections, making sure she doesn’t see any of this critique as failure. «I don’t see things as failures, I see it as a learning process». Hodakova uses methods of trial and error to achieve the elegance, her one-of-a-kind creations project, this is due to Larsson’s ‘can do’ attitude, passed down to her through generations of hands-on creatives. 

Hodakova fashion brand

Ellen Hodakova Larsson graduated from the Fashion Design course at The Swedish School of Textiles in 2019 and since then has achieved accolades of being a finalist of the Designers Nest award in 2019 and has collaborated with WEEKDAY, donating profits to Civil Rights Defenders. She is accredited for her circular approach to fashion and her inventive methods of sustainable design.

Mollie Marshall

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

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