Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Home Tour with Malin Elmlid - Head of Sales/Wood Wood, Apartment, Berlin- Prenzlauer Berg

Where are you from exactly?
I’m from Sweden. I was born in the north and then moved to south of Sweden. I went to school on the countryside, but moved between cities and the peaceful countryside of Sweden. My school education in Sweden was very practical, so I pretty much learned to work independent and in teams from an early age on.

When did you make the move to another country?
During gymnasium in Sweden, when I turned 16. I just had to escape this small town I was living in. So I moved to America and spend a highschool year over there. I always thought about going to another country, so finally I made this move and I loved it over there.

Where at in the USA?
Columbus, Ohio. I loved the East Coast back then and was kind of a Prep kid. I also have family in New York. That was where I really wanted to go but they put me in the most western city on the East coast. It was really conservative American living in Columbus. I was really stuck there and too you to travel to New York, so I enjoyed the Prep lifestyle and all the college partys. We had lots of fun.

When did you move to Berlin?
I came to Berlin after I graduated because I thought it would be a good chance to learn the language. My grades in school for the german class were constantly bad, which really motivated me to come here. I’m still struggling with my German, obviously. Here in Berlin, I first lived in Rosenthalerstrasse, then Sophienstrasse and now over here. After two years in Berlin I went back to Sweden to study there, but I always had a suitcase in Berlin (laughs). After my studies, I met Rike Doepp here and she brought me into Agentur V. That’s how my working life in Berlin started. Then came Wood Wood.

When did Wood Wood open up in Berlin?
We opened the store in Berlin in 2007. One month after I started to work in Sales for them.

What is the most important thing in your Sales job?
I guess I would say it’s my network and the ability to work independently. I’m always on the move and traveling which is great, because I can connect with a variety of interesting people. At the same time it is really exhausting sometimes.

Could you give us a small insight on your happy Swedish nature.
Happy? Well, you have to tell me about my nature (laughs), it’s hard for me to describe myself and the Swedish people. Tough question. I’ll have a try: I wouldn’t say we’re always happy, but the swedish people are laid back and relaxed, but at the same time one has to deal with a certain “norm” in Sweden. You have to learn to live with that “norm”. People in Sweden always check their surrounding, see how other people behave, how they live and what they wear. That’s what I mean by “norm”. I’m way more relaxed in Berlin than in Stockholm, for example. The swedish people really take care about their appearance which can be really stressful when you are young. But there is also a positive aspect to that social pressure, because the swedish people take a lot of strength from it and it really helps me in my job today.

What is the reason for your happiness?
Some recent changes (laughs). I’ve decided to adjust of my time routine a little. In the future there will be more freelancing work and I’ll have more time for myself. Last year was really successful for Wood Wood, we won “Brand of the year 2010” in Scandinavia and it’s just a great point in my career to shoot for new goals. I will not really stop to work for Wood Wood, but it will be a little different now. I really love the brand and can’t leave this abruptly.

A friend calls Malin on the cellphone to pick up some bread from the bread exchange, so we took a short break – had some water with raspberries and freshly baked bread with sage.

Let’s talk a little bit about Wood Wood. How would you describe the brand’s popularity and did it all start?
For me, Wood Wood is a phenomenon, that started in 2002 with the first store in Copenhagen. I think it has a very relaxed brand core. Every aspect of the brand is very open and loose, in a good way. Sometimes, we can’t even explain the success. Anything can happen, but everything still reflects a connected whole. For example, I got a contact in Poland from “Commes des Garcons” and we got together to do a Pop-Up-Store in Warsaw. To have that flexibility and combine it with great fashion and good ideas make a big part of what Wood Wood became today. Wood Wood is a big family with a very strong spirit. It’s not just Karl Olsen and Brian Jensen (and before that Magnus), but there is a team of girls behind the guys that does amazing work. Lotte, for example, who does the women’s design. All in all, the brand is hard to define and I think that’s what makes it popular.

Every piece seems to become a classic.
Yes, the fashion and designs are very timeless and we create our own trends (laughs). Most of the pieces become better when they grow older, because the material is so good. Lotte (Karl’s wife) has a great sense for long lasting material with great quality. Quality fabrics were essential from the beginning.

Describe the brand’s homebase in Copenhagen.
Oh, it is very nice and very Danish. The team works in an old factory building where some people from the company also live (in the front part of the building). Design, sales, finance and the people for our webshop are all in the back part. I am there quiet often and love every visit.

What do you like better, Stockholm or Copenhagen?
Stockholm. It used to be Copenhagen, but the older I get the more I love Stockholm.

What are the things you don’t like about the fashion industry?
The superficiality becomes annoying after a while. I don’t have problems communicating in this industry, but I dislike when people forget themselves over fashion. And people are always very judging. But looking back, I think I found my people that are authentic and stay true to themselves.

Did the industry change you?
I guess it made me stronger and gave me a better sense of when people try to take advantage of me. I think I’ve probably become more cautious over the years.

You love good food and you bake your own bread. How did the bread exchange start?
I always loved good food, that was the basis I guess. When you travel you eat a lot of garbage and the worst bread on the planet. I realized that and felt really bad about the stuff I eat and was scared to become fat and unhealthy (laughs) and so I literally stopped eating bread. After a while, I started to research about sourdough and baking. I started to bake by myself, but it took a while until it tasted fairly acceptable. Looking for a way to improve my skills, I found these amazing swedish bakers in Höje, Sweden, Lars Gustafsson and Manfred Enockson.
I was very curious about the whole baking process, so I took an internship at their bakery. He basically taught me everything I needed to know. Then I returned with my new learned skills and started baking. I had all this bread at home and didn’t know what to do with it. That was when I began to distribute the bread to my friends in exchange of other goods. Everyone has something that someone else could us. It can be a product or knowledge. That’s how the idea evolved.

Is there any parallel between baking and fashion?
In fact, I am of the opinion that there really are some similarities. I treat my bread like a piece of fashion and people should sometimes spend more time and money on what they eat, rather than what they wear.

You have a fascination for fresh natural ingredients. Any hot tipps in Berlin?
Hmm, not really. I got to the markets a lot, either in Mitte or Prenzlauer Berg (Kollwitzplatz). It sounds kind of boring, but I usually buy all my basic ingredients and herbs at the LPG Market. When I travel different countries, I always try to bring some good ingredients and food from the countries I traveled to. Usually, coming back, half of my luggage is packed with foreign specialities. I would love to grow my own vegetables but I’m traveling too much to raise my own garden.

Are you always about healthy food?
I don’t really set rules or have plans on what I’m going to eat the next day. I love a good Burger at “The Bird” (laughs). Actually, I just eat what I like.

I know we’ve talked about the “history” of a product. Why is that history so important to you?
Generally, I think any product that tells a story is appealing to me. I always loved history and it’s not just based on food. Looking nice is not enough for me, there has to be something more. There is so much new stuff around all the time and I think history is one of the biggest human treasures that needs to be honoured.

Is there a “culinary capital”?
I love Italian food and Antwerp, Belgium, is one of my recent favourites.

What do you think about virtuality?
People that can’t separate their virtual from their real life, are to be pitied. Still, virtual networks help me to stay in contact with people abroad and remind me of birthdays (laughs).

What do you enjoy most?
Breaks. It’s these moments, when you can really “feel” and let go.

What’s up next for Malin?
I’m traveling to Copenhagen, Antwerp and also Brussels. A combination of work and holidays.

Anyone who can identify with Malin’s thoughts and beliefs should be joining her Bread Exchange program, which is just as unique as the person behind it. You can also check out Malin’s website for further information and some nice images from her recent adventures and cooking experiences.

Interview: Tim Seifert
Text: Mirna Funk and Olivia Murphy
Photography: Ailine Liefeld

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