Matilda Djerf on starting out as a designer and building an inclusive fashion brand | Bot To News


“You will find a time in your life where you feel like you belong.”

In a world where “fast fashion” is the norm, many consumers are looking for brands focused on sustainable practices, timeless fashion and community involvement. Matilda Djerf is a Swedish designer, model and founder of essential fashion brand Djerf Avenue.

The brand was founded in 2019 with the aim of creating a fashion brand that stands the test of time. In just their first year of operation, they have already made waves in the fashion industry with their unique designs and commitment to sustainability.

Djerf Avenue’s collection of wardrobe essentials is made in Portugal, Italy and Sweden and Matilda is involved in every step of the process. Since shipping her debut line from a rented warehouse in Sweden, the brand has grown exponentially. With more than $2 million in revenue in its first year, Djerf Avenue has now multiplied that figure, with offices in both Sweden and the United States.

Authenticity is a high priority at Djerf Avenue, where models and photos are never retouched, and the items you see are the actual pieces you will receive after placing an order. Matilda is the one who designs the pieces and is inspired by her travels, Swedish roots and personal style. The details are carefully considered, from the choice of fabric to the silhouette.

On a new sofa in the Djerf Avenue office in Sweden and surrounded by close colleagues, Matilda took a moment to sit and talk about the brand.

Gustaf Lundberg Thoresson: How did you get started as a creator?

Matilda Djerf: It all started in 2016 when I traveled to the Caribbean with my boyfriend, Rasmus, who is now the general manager of Djerf Avenue. While traveling, I started a blog for my family and friends. On that trip I only brought a small camera and we shot bikini looks and posted them on Instagram. The next thing I knew, I had 3,000 followers. He was older. Lots of followers to have in 2016.

We went back to Sweden for six months after that, and then Bali and Australia for six months. That’s when I reached 100,000 followers and when I came back to Sweden I had to make a decision: I could either go back to my job at a juice bar or try to make a living on Instagram and see what happens. I decided I could always get another job if this didn’t work out, but it did.

Lundberg Thoresson: You went into social media almost full-time immediately. What did you learn from the early days and what mistakes did you make?

Djerf: At first, I posted photos when I was traveling, and then I took on brand partnerships. I did a few modeling jobs just so I could fund the trips. So when I came back to Sweden, I was spending a lot of time on it, but I would say it didn’t feel like a full-time job until 2018.

In the early days, I was learning how to build relationships with brands and make content work well. I also had to learn invoicing and other basic business stuff.

The biggest mistake I ever made was probably taking on too many jobs for free. When I started, brands didn’t really pay micro-influencers. Because it was such a new industry, I think people just didn’t know what to pay or the value of the work. At the end of the day, though, it’s a job, and more people have learned that it should be taken seriously. Even though you’re a micro-influencer, you’re still exposing your followers to their products.

Lundberg Thoresson: Where is your audience?

Djerf: When I started, it was a lot of Australians because I was associated with Australian brands. Now it’s the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. Australia is still up there on the list. Sweden is perhaps number four on the list of Instagram followers.

A lot of people ask me why I have so many followers from the US when I’m from Sweden. I really don’t know. I guess it’s because I speak English on my channel. Partly because I met a lot of new friends while traveling, and many of them don’t understand Swedish. I wanted to update my friends in English, so it became natural.

Lundberg Thoresson: On your channels, you’ve also talked about mental health and your eating disorder. What was your thinking behind that?

Djerf: I think I made that decision when I started gaining followers. At that moment, I realized what I was saying and that it was being heard by tons of people. I wanted to use that to reach out and I thought if my experiences and hardships I’ve been through can help just one person, I think it’s worth it.

I also always wanted to be the person I needed when I went through my eating disorder. It’s something that so many people go through, but it feels so alone when you’re in it. I talked about it and wanted to be a safe space for other people.

Lundberg Thoresson: How did you go from creator to full-time entrepreneur and start Djerf Avenue?

Djerf: I have done some design collaborations with two Australian and one Swedish brands. And during that time, I felt like he brought a lot to the table. I had so much insight and felt like I wasn’t getting that much in return. I wanted to decide where the items were produced, what models to use, and how to shoot the model photos, as well as whether or not to retouch them. But I wasn’t allowed to make that decision.

I was also doing modeling gigs when I first started, and I was blown away by the way this world worked. One brand edited me three sizes smaller. I seriously questioned it, knowing what these companies were showing online was not what the customer was getting when they ordered the parts.

That’s when Rasmus and I decided to try it and do it our way. We just did it without a business plan or anything.

Lundberg Thoresson: How were the first days of starting Djerf Avenue?

Djerf: That first collection came out of a selfish idea as I wanted to produce items that I missed in my wardrobe. We launched our first collection in December 2019 and sold out almost immediately. We had no room for the products, so we found empty warehouses that we could rent for the weekend.

For months, we put all the boxes with extra items that didn’t sell in my mom and dad’s apartment and my old room became storage for boxes. In the beginning, we had one or two orders a day, so my mom and dad could pack those orders. When we needed to restock, we would find a new place to rent for three days and then go back to Mom and Dad’s apartment. Finally, we rented an office and a warehouse here in Stockholm.

Our first hire was my brother’s girlfriend, Agnes. Initially, we bribed ourselves with tea and a cinnamon bun to teach us all about the industry. She would help us for a couple of hours after work and help us sort everything out. She is now our head of production.

That first collection makes up most of our core collection today, which I’m very proud of. I think there are only two items that we only made for the first release, the rest are still part of the main collection.

Lundberg Thoresson: What was it like visiting factories and deciding who to work with when you didn’t have much experience in that part of the industry?

Djerf: In the beginning, I needed to finance our operations, so I was taking all the modeling jobs I could. We were in Portugal when we found a factory in a different Portuguese city that we wanted to work with. We contacted many different factories and agencies, but no one answered, but this one finally did. They were the first to really believe in our idea, and we still work with them today.

I remember when we got our first sample, and I could really only see it from a customer’s point of view. Agnes, though, our head of production, could really look at it from a designer’s point of view and look at the details and the seams. I myself had so many clothes that I knew when they felt good or bad, what kind of color we needed and materials, but she could tell me better if the quality was good or not. we owe a lot to Agnes for helping us.

Lundberg Thoresson: What do you think about building the team at Djerf Avenue?

Djerf: You have to enjoy working, solving problems and taking your own initiatives. I always say that passion is the best personality trait, and you need it to be part of a startup.

It’s a lot of work, and you have to enjoy it. We have a great team of people who share the same passion for the brand and the vision. We all understand where we want to go with Djerf Avenue. So when we’re looking for new people, we always try to find that kind of person who likes to get their hands dirty but also has a lot of passion.

Lundberg Thoresson: What advice do you have for someone starting a business with their partner?

Djerf: I would say make sure you have clear roles within the company. When we started, especially on the influencer side, we didn’t have clear roles, and that made it challenging. Establish clear roles in the company and maintain direct communication. The other thing is to turn off work when you get home. We’re not very good at this yet, but I think it’s important to have space at home where you’re not working.

Lundberg Thoresson: Looking back on your life and what you have achieved, what advice would you give 18-year-old Matilda?

Djerf: I would probably say, “You will find a time in your life where you feel like you belong.” Growing up, especially in my teenage years, I always felt like I didn’t belong. I felt a little out of place. School wasn’t for me and I didn’t fit in – I couldn’t wait to graduate and run away. Going through those feelings in my teenage years probably had something to do with how I approach everything today.

Lundberg Thoresson: What’s the story behind your hair and recent TikTok trends?

Djerf: I really don’t get it, but before TikTok was trending it was Pinterest. It makes me blush and I’m so flattered, but I don’t know why. My hair has always been a fun thing for me. I was never really into makeup, so I always did my friends’ hair. Then I cut my curtain bangs in 2017 and people started posting my photos. It’s been a hot topic ever since.

Lundberg Thoresson: What goes from here to Matilda, Rasmus and Djerf Avenue?

Djerf: Well, Djerf Avenue continues to grow, which we are excited about. We have our new website and are launching our resale pages. That is our own marketplace where customers can sell their items to friends and other customers. It’s a safe space where customers can shop with each other and prices don’t go up much. I’ve seen people resell some of our items online at a very high price, and that’s something I don’t condone, so I wanted to give our customers a place to resell their items. It is currently available in the United States and we are working to make it available worldwide.

The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Questions: g(at)bytangent.com

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