Rodebjer: A Minimalist, Handmade Brand That Meryl Streep Has Worn

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Photo: Courtesy of Carin

Carin Rodebjer grew up on an island called Gotland in the Baltic Sea. "Where Ingmar Bergman used to live," she specified, while taking a moment out of her vacation to chat with the Cut about her eponymous line. Though the designer didn't necessarily grow up glued to the pages of Vogue (like one famous flame-haired editor who also grew up on an island), she was always interested in clothing. She began designing and making patterns for her own outfits at age 10, and her mother and her stylish circle of friends — "bohemian, artistic types," she says — taught Rodebjer everything she uses in her own line, from appreciating the beauty of the handmade (sewing, knitting, handcrafting) to understanding the importance of fabric quality; her mother would use only natural, non-synthetic materials, like wools, cottons, and silks.

When Rodebjer packed her bags to leave her idyllic surroundings for New York in her mid-twenties, she brought her minimal eye to classes at FIT, and, ultimately, to her own business. She launched her first collection in 2000 to follow her "inner mission," which she describes as "democratic luxury." "I wanted to do something holistic," she explains, "something that’s aesthetic but emotional and intellectual as well." Her fall-winter 2013 collection achieves that with its striking silhouettes, luxe materials from Italy and Paris, handmade knits of wool (shorn right off the backs of her mother's friend's sheep), and splashes of whimsy. Click through the slideshow to see Rodebjer's collection, including curly haired sheepskin jackets; knits with voluminous fringe collars; embossed, elegant sweatsuits; and flouncy pink chiffon tops. Perhaps you'll see why Meryl Streep is a fan. Below, the Cut spoke to the designer about her fashion influences, her appreciation for the handmade, and the ideal Rodebjer woman.

You grew up on a remote island — when would you say you first got interested in fashion?
I think I’ve always been interested, at least in clothing. When I grew up in the countryside, I didn’t know any people being designers. No Swedes [ed. note: Gotland is technically in Sweden] were designers at that time [laughs]. It kind of exploded in Sweden in the last ten years, this fashion scene. I knew I was interested and I was quite obsessed with clothing and sewing and making my own designs. I tried the business in Sweden first, but I didn’t see an opportunity to work with fashion. But when I moved to New York, I realized that that was what I wanted to do. Fashion was everywhere and being a designer was quite a normal profession to have.

What was your inspiration for this collection?
The inspiration was nature. It’s been nature-oriented lately. I think I moved to New York and I started longing for nature [laughs]. I looked back at my childhood, at the isolated environment I lived in, and I looked into nature. But it was really my childhood and the perspective of a child — that’s why we had all those structures and details going on, and there’s a little bit of mysticism.

How would you say your line's aesthetic has evolved over the years?
It’s evolving because we’re getting bigger and the company’s growing so much. It’s still the same kind of core in the collection — classical pieces with the outburst of fun — so it’s quite minimal in one way, but it has explosions of energy in between, and I think that it’s been a core that I’ve been following all the time. It might be a little more sophisticated now because we have more means. It's the first time we have a possibility to show the ambition and balance that we have within the company.

Tell me about knits — was there a reason this collection had an emphasis on the handmade?
Especially with the fall collection, I was super obsessed with the handmade thing because I wanted to create a closer, emotionally engaged garment made by hand. The knits and fringes are all handmade. I like the extra generosity of the handmade. I just realized, I was also obsessed with what’s exclusive today. Money isn’t really exclusive any longer. I wondered, What can be exclusive? It’s what’s in your mind that can be exclusive nowadays. This extra about things being handmade — it adds an extra dimension.

Who would you say is the woman you're designing for?
Rodebjer has always been about openness. I think the kind of women I relate to is a kind of a strong, self-reliant woman who knows what her ideas are and what she’s about to do. There are a lot of New York women who would be perfect for Rodebjer. Women I love, I’d say are like Kate Winslet and Cate Blanchett. I had Meryl Streep wearing Rodebjer once. She’s an amazing woman.

New York boutiques that stock Rodebjer include BirdHoney in the Rough, and Assembly.

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