Swedish fashion designer Johan Lindeberg is the founder of J. Lindeberg, Paris68, and BLK DNM. He has previously worked with Hans Brindfors Annonsbyra ad agency, Justin Timberlake, Diesel, William Rast, and Absolut. Johan has a daughter, Blue Lindeberg, who is a model.Source
Tell us a little bit about your background. What was it like to pursue an interest in fashion growing up in Sweden?
I always felt creative and had creative eyes and the asthetic of things have always been very important for me. Both, me and my sister, grew up very fashion conscience in Sweden. We grew up in a university town of Lund in Southern Sweden in a very political era and spirit. I was always very influenced of the 60’s, 70’s, the student revolts. I was also very interested in vintage furniture during my childhood and was always interested in designing them. Then at 18 I fell in love with a girl, first big love, she was a designer and she was the one who inspired my sister to do fashion. Soon later I became interested in Fashion as I started working with my sister in parallel.
It’s quite a CV. So many brands, so many cities… There’s even Justin Timberlake in it.
I started working at Diesel next to Renzo Rosso as his right arm. Became the marketing Director from 1990 until 1996. The CEO of Diesel US from 1994 to 1996. Creating their campaigns, which was a big success ad of which I am extremely proud of. As the International marketing manager I oversaw and mentored at Diesel until 1995 when I left Diesel to create my own line J. Lindeberg. And Diesel was so big in the 90s, known more for its marketing campaigns than the actual clothing. In 2007, me and my wife became the Creative Directors and consultants at Justin Timberlake’s fashion brand William Rast, where we worked until 2009.
Whatever you work on seems to be a rational extension of your lifestyle. What about the eponymous label named J. Lindeberg, which brought fashion to golf back in the day. Were you into golf at some point?
J. Lindberg was all about Slim, Sharp cuts and tailoring and then there was golf. I was really interested in golf and played it . The sport garments from the 50’s, 60’s were inspiring but golf outfits were sloppy, loose and oversized; there were terrible. So I envisioned of having something opposite to that. I wanted to create golf garments that were crisp, sharp and well fitted. Elegant. I launched the golf collection in 1996, first everyone was shocked and it was a massive challenge to change the vision of men but in the amount of 5 years the perception changed completely and a movement started in the golf fashion. Nowadays brands like Nike, Adidas and Puma they all follow the movement, they create colors, patterns, fitted clothes. I was very proud as a designer to have created such a change from Sweden.
You ended J. Lindeberg in 2007. How did you part ways with your namesake brand? It mustn’t be that easy.
It was not easy, I left my name. There were conflicts with investors, there was no more freedom. I felt pain in my body and whenever I feel pain in my body it drives me to “break out and move on.” I don’t like to feel trapped. If it doesn’t feel right than I move on.
You started BLK DNM in 2010. In one of your interviews you mentioned that it happened right after you broke up with your wife for 15 years. Do you always to get out of bad circumstances with something good or was it just coincidence?
When I was working for Justin Timberlake my wife of 15 years left me. I felt trapped and I can’t live under that circumstances, I needed to one more time break out of it and create something new. I feel things and when I need to move on I do whatever the cost is.
That’s when I decided to create BLK DNM. Enter BLK DNM and the search for the perfect pair of jeans, the perfect jean jacket and the perfect denim jacket was suddenly over.
BLK DNM looks like it is a very very personal project rather than just another fashion brand. You not only design but also photograph the collections. It’s not just the clothes you create but also a certain kind of attitude.
How did you discover photography?
I actually picked up a camera 3 years ago in September for the first time. And that was it. It was too expensive to bring in Photographers to shoot for the brand and I was tired to try to explain about what I wanted or envisioned. I just needed to do it myself. I believe in the “do it yourself.” I already shot 50 thousand pictures and will have an exhibition soon, just after 3 years of photography.
With your photographs, you create the brand’s visual story. They are not just campaign or look book images.
BLK DNM is a brand with a voice, it inspires different generations and adds depth, textures. It represents a culture and “our” values. My photography represents just that and women strength with a fashion twist to it as well. I want the images to look timeless, such as the powerful women in them.
There is also the BLK DNM Close-Up, a journal of the brand which is frequently updated with your photography. Where do you find the time to do all of that?
BLK DNM Close-up is the next step we are working on it and will take it further. It is all a lot of work and stress but you work with great people, you are constantly trying to free your head and that’s a challenge. I know very well my head and mind. I need to get some peace of mind and generate my thoughts. It’s though. At least I am not doing fashion shows, that is a big benefit for BLK DNM, fashion shows are too much work. Although without it is harder to communicate the brand we focus on other things. We communicate through campaigns, instagram, new projects etc.
There is a certain doze of darkness in your images. I suppose this has something to do with your Swedish roots.
I suppose it does. The minimalist and the dark touch are influenced from Sweden, its dark winters. I also love Ingmar Bergman I think it’s the best thing that ever to happened to Sweden, like many I am very influenced by him.
BLK DNM is your uniform. Do you ever wear other brands?
BLK Denim is not an uniform it is a way of life, your own expression. I only wear BLK DNM. If I don’t like something and have to wear something else instead than there is a problem. If I don’t have it that I do it.
You use numbers while naming garments. Is there a specific formula to that?
Not really, I think that numbers are really strong. I got tired of names I worked so long in this business that my list of names were done.
Do you ever consider working for other fashion brands? What would be the dream label to work for?
Maybe doing something with a fashion house in Paris but if not BLK DNM, photography films and to travel.
For Vogue Italia’s 50th Anniversary, you photographed 50 inspiring women from 50 different countries. Tell us about the project. When did you start working on it? What was the process like?
It is a project I started working with Franca Sozzani. I was and am always inspired by women, with their strenght. Women are taking over. They are leaders, I remember even in the student revolts, they were the ones who took upon the leadership. I love Angela Davis, big inspiration. I think it was also coming from my father who was a journalist, he always protagonized woman and fought for their rights. Men and women were very much equal in Sweden.
With my photography I portray them in a powerful way, always with strength. I really like to connect with them and talk with them, listen to their stories.
Who has the most inspiring story to tell?
They were all extremely inspiring, I don’t think any of the photoshoots went flat or boring. I have been very lucky to have met such women. I really think all women are inspiring, from Optelia Mediva who is a hard core communist to Giselle who is such a fun women to a Russian dancer I met in Paris. “ Parts of photography is to connect” Its al about “how I can connect with them and read them.”
What is the most important thing in work?
You have to live it. I have to live it, experience everything that I am doing. When I designed golf garments I went to all the tournaments, when I was designing for Justin Timberlake I also became his personal stylist. Right now I put my whole life into BLK DNM. I can only do that. I need to breath it, feel it and feel passionate about it. If I don’t than I have to break it and let it go.
You travel a lot. What was the last place that fascinated you?
Jordan fascinated me. I found something there. I met this man who took me to the Bedouins. It was a profound experience for me.
Here are some words, what do they mean to you?
Material – Leather.
Black – Depth, Power, Reflective, Sensuousness.
Tailoring – It means power, sharpness, anxiety. I die if I have to wear a tie and a suit. That’s why establishments and roots make me sick. Tailoring reminds me of that. I have a paradox relationship with tailoring.
Freedom – It is hard because of the rules of the society. Freedom for me is to open up your heart to your intuitions and to follow them without listening to anybody, to open up and to be free. Freedom is to free your soul, to be yourself. It is the hardest thing. You are born pure and then come layers, pressures, rules, family, and you spend your life trying to get out of those layers and go back to staying pure.
NYC – Where you can be and express who you are. I left it and came back 4 times to stay forever. Keeps me creative and strong. I don’t want to live in the future and New York makes me stay in the present.
Blue – My daughter, trust, strong relationship, fatherhood. We talk about everything, we communicate even with just eyes, sometimes we don’t even need words.