Behind the Brand – Jemma Swatek of Lykke Wullf

One of ANOMIE’s newest in-store brands is Lykke Wullf, a California-made line with a modern take on Western workwear classics, heavy on overalls and major butt appreciation, and thus, just our style. Designer Jemma Swatek is Denmark-born, Bay Area-raised, and L.A.-based, which makes for quite the laidback-chic combination. We chatted with Jemma last week from her new studio in DTLA.

As told to Jennifer Bastien.


fullsizerender-6You started Lykke Wulff four years ago. What’s the growth been like?

It’s funny, it happened super organically. I was never like, I’m going to come up with a business plan, and get loans. I just needed to make stuff. I was done with school–I had gone to school for knitwear design. And I’ve always just been making stuff. When I was little I would make hats for myself, and other things. But, I wasn’t the kid who said I was going to grow up to be a fashion designer. I thought I was going to be a scientist. Haha. In reality, I had just found some amazing fabric that I wanted to do something with, and I had some clothing items I really wanted and couldn’t find, and so I just decided, I’ll make it myself. And it kind of grew from there. It’s been a really slow but steady growth. I got addicted and I’m just constantly making new stuff and having new ideas and I just love it.

And there’s been a lot of great momentum lately–for one thing, you just moved into a separate studio, and launched your new website, congrats on that! 

Yeah, we just had a really old site for too long, so it was time. I had been saving all of the Fall collection for the site launch, plus a lot of new colors for the Forever pieces. I feel really strongly about all the new pieces because I’ve just been like learning as I go, and everything we have right now is really awesome. It always takes our customers a little while to get into the new stuff, but one awesome thing with the new site is that we do international shipping now, and we’ve had a bunch of orders going to Japan and London, so that’s exciting.

That must be so fun to think about. Do you have a favorite piece you’ve created?  unspecified-3_4-49-05_pm_1024x1024

My all time favorite is the Anita overalls, which is pretty  much my uniform–I never take them off–and also the Dusty overalls, which we just did in a bunch of new colors. Basically everything in the Forever collection are tried-and-true favorites or newer stuff that we really feel strongly about. Today I’m wearing the Joan jumpsuit which is kind of my new favorite thing. My new Anita overalls. And then I love our pants. I think we make pants that really fit well. The Fonda pants do really well because I think they’re just really flattering (NOTE: Chelsea (28) AND her mom (53) both rock pairs of the Fonda!) I started doing more jeans after I went jean shopping and everything I tried on sucked and was very expensive and made me look terrible. Made my butt look bad. So I took a bunch of my vintage denim and looked at my favorite parts of each, and made my own. They’re really all the pants you need. I’ve been getting rid of the rest of my whole wardrobe because my fits are better. 

And you’ve really got the butt covered.

I know. I’m all about the butt. Whether you’ve got a big butt or a small butt or whatever kind of but you have, why would you not want it to look good?

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Do you have the same vision for Lykke Wullf as when you started?

Definitely. Yeah, I think I have always known what the brand is. It’s basically basics, like weird basics that you can’t necessarily find elsewhere, and kind of a uniform. Personally, I love fashion but I’m not going to spend 6 hours putting together an outfit. It’s more about clothing being functional and wearable and chic and cool. Easy style. A little western, utilitarian influence.

Speaking of, you’re from the Bay Area, live in LA, and your family is from Denmark. What place inspires you the most?

Yeah, I think they all come into play. The Danish influence comes in the minimalism, neutral colors. Occasionally I like to play with colors and patterns but it’s usually solids and neutrals. And that’s definitely my Danish influence. Also I remember growing up in Denmark and looking at what the cooler older girls were wearing. The Carhartt, workwear style–it was a fishing village, and then we’d go to Copenhagen. So I think that really influenced me. We also lived in Germany, we watched a lot of Westerns, so I think I was always a little obsessed with cowboys and the Wild West so that really plays into it too. And then colors of California–the desert and the beach.

The Western influence makes sense now! Haha. Are there other clothing brands that inspire you too?

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I’m the worst, actually, I barely ever go shopping or look at fashion sites, or other collections. I probably should. I’m more interested in little boutiques and local brands, and mostly I just shop for shoes and bags and glasses, I don’t really shop for clothes, I just wear Lykke Wullf. One designer I do admire is Rachel Comey; about ten years ago I got to visit her studio and meet her and that really affected me. I think she’s really cool, and she kind of did it the same way I’m doing it. She started making stuff and doing it all on her own. I always love everything she does.

I can see the similarities! What’s the most satisfying part of your job?

My favorite part is probably when I come up with a new design idea and I get to pick it up from my seamstress, see it in real life, and try it on. And also when I finish a collection and we get to shoot a lookbook. Getting to see it on the models is so fun. Plus of course, anytime I get a comment from a customer saying that they love something, that’s definitely what keeps me going.

The hardest?

The hardest part is managing myself, and dealing with so many different things that go into running a business. Getting everything done and prioritizing, and backburner-ing things is frustrating. It’s just not humanly possible sometimes. So that’s the hardest part. Making things is what I want to do, but I have to stop myself sometimes and look at it from the business side, like, is this color selling? I can’t always just make whatever I want to make. Even though I still kind of do. Haha.

Thank you so much, Jemma!

You can shop ANOMIE’s selection of Lykke Wullf here.

All images via Lykke Wullf.

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