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SchoolBoyCouture Interview: Oskar Sommarlund from Denim Demon Jeans

There are plenty of denim brands out there, each known for their own special reason. But among the sea of denim there's a brand that seems to be making its own mark. That brand is Denim Demon. I came across them for the first time at the menswear trade-show Jacket Required. A huge fan of the brand I thought it would be a great idea to put together an exclusive interview for SchoolBoyCouture. And here it is.. An interview with Oskar Sommarlund, one of the founders of the brand. In this interview Oskar talks about the brands origins, inspirations, their upcoming range of beer and what the future holds. So here we go..

Q) Tell us a bit about yourself Oskar. My name is Oskar Sommarlund, I am 34 years old and live in Stockholm, Sweden. I am married and have a son 16 months of age. Before starting Denim Demon I've worked at adidas Originals and WeSC to mention a few.

Q) What inspired you and your family to start the Denim Demon range of apparel? At the time when the thought was born, back in 1999, both me and my brother Anton worked as sales staff at a shop called Solo. Back then this was the number one destination for denim in Stockholm, and we sold loads of jeans. By the year 2000 jeans really boomed in Sweden, of course every brand wanted to cash in on this and brands that never developed denim before started making it. This resulted in jeans all looking the same, no identity, no stitching on back pockets etc. We really thought that it was sad selling just jeans, without any real purpose. The only reason for these brands was the cash. So we started talking about making something on our own, something that celebrates the long history of denim and something with a story. Back then we really appreciated LVC and Lee Originals, which both obviously have a long history and something to tell.

The issue we had was that we didn't. It took us around 5 years to figure out exactly what we wanted to do, find production and get started. Our heritage comes from the Sami people, an indigenous people that's been living up north for ages, and that's where we get the inspiration. We wanted to offer our customers something more than just a pair of jeans...
Q) Did you expect the response to be that phenomenal?
 We didn't no. As it took us so long to get it together we had friends and people around us saying that this will never happen, you won't pull it off and so on. So when we finally had a product out in the shops we where so happy and proud so we hadn't planned on how to follow up on it. We sold out 286 pairs of jeans in 10 days, and when the shops called us for more we had to tell them we didn't have any products to deliver... I mean, we knew we had a brilliant story and product, but we couldn't expect what was coming.
Q) What are your favourite pieces from the Denim Demon range? If there was someone who has never bought a Denim Demon pair of jeans what would you recommend?
  That is a really tricky question, as you're always in-between three different collections: One that you're packing and shipping the same time as you're selling the second and planning the third. I tend to always look ahead and see what's coming, always try to ask my brother (who handles design and production) to order samples in my size, as I don't fit sample size. That never seems to happen though, so I have to wear the stuff we already produced. But to mention a few timeless pieces I am especially fund of our style Aajja Raw Selvedge, a classic jean with a cut from mid 50's, our jacket Njakka - especially this AW11 one with British Millerain fabric mixed with herringbone wool and the knitted sweater Maalle.
Q) What input does your father and brothers have in the brand? Do they all focus on different things?
Yep, we have quite straight forward job descriptions. Our dad is the Chairman of the board, looking at the big picture. Big brother Patric handles all financials, little brother Anton is in charge of design and production and myself handling marketing and sales. At this point we have a new CEO as well, Pelle, and a co-owner in Pierre Darnton with loads of experience in this business. We're growing rapidly but we're still quite small, so we all end up helping each other out though.
Q) I believe you are going to launch your own brand of beer soon. Tell us a bit more about that.
That is correct, even though at this point we haven't decided 100% on how the set-up will be. It started out as a pr thing with creating our own schnapps (which you tend to drink a lot here in Sweden), it's a spiced alcoholic drink. This turned out so good that we developed our own beer as well. Due to really strict laws and restrictions in Sweden its really tough to distribute alcoholic beverages though, so I am not sure about the outcome of it yet. We had the premier some weeks ago at our opening of our shop, and it was a big success. Guess its easier to wholesale outside of Sweden though so perhaps UK could potentially be a market?
Q) Who is the ideal Denim Demon customer?
Oh, tough question. I want everyone to wear out stuff! But looking at an ideal I would say that he's into what's going on in the market, but appreciate good quality more than only "the latest". He likes products that is more than just that, add a little story to it and its worth so much more. One of my proudest moments though, is when I saw my grandfather in a pair of our jeans. He's 92 years old and had to ask a friend to remove the button fly and replace it with a zip instead.
Q) Are there other brands that you could see yourself collaborating with in the future? Designers even?
 Yes of course, there's plenty. What's important though is that its thought thru and also makes a purpose. I am sick and tired of brands collaborating only for the sake of collaboration. I mean, what's interesting about just adding a new color to something existing? It needs to be something more to it than just that. We have some exciting things coming up in the future, that's for sure.
Q) Tell us a bit more about the Sami culture.
Where shall I begin? As said earlier its one of the indigenous people in the world, with a history dating back some 2000 years. The common denominator for indigenous people are that they have always lived in the same place, they have their own culture, language and customs that differs from the rest of the society. Sami's live across Russia, FInland, Sweden and Norway, although their country is called Sapmí. So it doesn't matter what "country" your from, as they're all a part of their own. The total population in Sapmí is 70 000, of which 10% works in the reindeer husbandry. Traditional Sami trades are also handicrafts, hunting and fishing, together with more recent trades such as tourism, art, music and denim. There's plenty to tell, but it would take ages. There's an excellent page for you who want to learn more about the Sami culture: www.eng.samer.se
Q) You are a global brand now. What would you say is the next step for the brand?
  The next step will be Japan and USA. These two markets are potentially huge for us. We have just recently started our way into Japan, and the reaction so far has been good. We're getting ready...
Q) The apparel market is so competitive, what advice would you give to up and coming designers or someone thinking about starting their own brand?
Make sure to have a proper business plan ready, before that's done, wait. I got the same recommendation from a lot of people myself but only listened on one ear. Its done now, but it would have been so much easier to have it made before we started. And make sure you have a good network, if not, team up with someone who does. Last thing: Be ready to work day and night, 365 days a year without any salary...
Q) What's a good day for you?
A good day for me is waking up around 6:30 together with my son, play a little before breakfast when we wake his mother/my wife up. We have a long breakfast before heading out to the park to play even more. It is really inspiring to see him grow up... Work wise I prefer to have a full schedule, a little too much to do, that's when I get the most out of the day. And hopefully get back home before the little one falls asleep...