We talk to the Swedish designer about his melancholy mission
When it comes to the genesis of his namesake rainwear brand, Swedish designer Alexander Stutterheim remembers it quite simply. "It was raining really heavily on the way to a big meeting with Saab and I was early so I stopped in a cafe for a coffee," he explains. "I noticed that there weren't really many people dressed for the rain at all—a couple of people in mackintoshes, but mainly just flimsy umbrellas or papers over the head," he continues. Stutterheim had never paid much attention to what people were wearing to protect themselves from the elements, but he suddenly realized that nobody was making anything rain-specific with contemporary fashion in mind.
Adopting the fitting tagline, "Swedish Melancholy at its Driest", Stutterheim brought his brand to life upon discovering a jacket his grandfather wore fishing off the small island of Arholma in Stockholm's archipelago. "He was a big man in every way, defying the elements as he journeyed out to sea in all weathers," he says. Indeed, the jacket was far too big for Stutterheim, himself a fairly tall fellow, and he vowed to buy one when he returned to the city. "I looked everywhere and there was nothing even close to my grandfather's jacket—everything was Gore Tex and kind of tech-y. I even went to a couple of fishing shops, but theirs were too industrial and had lost the details of my found jacket," he remembers.
Upon his return, Stutterheim conferred with a few sartorially minded friends only to find they too noticed a lack of gear with country-wear functionality and city-worthy style. He created his own toiles from a tablecloth he waxed for extra stiffness, and called in some favors from a pattern-cutter at V Ave Shoe Repair, well on his way to solving the shortage.
With a refined pattern in hand, Stutterheim set out to source details—no easy feat for a copywriter with no formal fashion training. "It was important to keep the whole process as 'light' and fun as possible. Also, to try and keep the heritage of the original garment, fabric and finishing—combining that with as much 'Swedishness' as possible," he says. Stutterheim wanted to keep it local, settling on Sweden's last remaining factory producing garments on a large scale, located in Borås, the country's fashion center.
Working out of his flat, Stutterheim sold out of the initial run of 250 black jackets, each accompanied by a hand-typed note sealed in a pocket for the new owner to find. Now, coats come numbered and labeled with the signature of the seamstress who created that particular one.
"While, yes, it is more expensive, I can keep an eye on every stage of the process," says Stutterheim. "Eventually I decided to give it my name rather than some brand name. But to me melancholy is deeply connected with 'Swedishness' and how we look at things. A rainy day is a wasted day so I wanted to see if I could change people's attitude to the weather."
Since the initial desire to create something durable and fashion-conscious at the same time, Stutterheim has mastered a progressive cut with high arm openings and a boxy, narrow fit. The sophisticated matte-finish oilskin is lined for breathability and branded (literally) with a small Sutterheim logo at the hem. Seams are not vulcanized, but sewed by hand before being hand-taped for waterproofing.
Having stumbled upon a few dozen pairs of deadstock classic rubber boots from the Swedish army, Stutterheim is currently sourcing potential manufacturers to release a new run. A pair of new pieces is also in the works—a Swedish mackintosh for men called the Arvid, and the Lydia, a women's rain cape—named for two lovers who meet in the rain in the classic Swedish novel, "The Serious Game".
Stutterheim sells online from the brand's e-shop.