“I get a lot from collaboration. I want the fashion industry to be more collaborative,” muses Ingrid Berg, the CEO and founder of Iggy Jeans, an upcycled jeans brand based in Stockholm. “I have strong opinions about what I do, but I’m always open to collaborating and hearing from other people. I want to build each other stronger and to build the fashion industry stronger, to make it a safe community where we can hear each other out and not be judgmental.”
The 18-year-old designer (yes, you read that correctly) has put her money where her mouth is, as she recently teamed up with Rodebjer to create an up-cycled collection using their old designs. The limited-run was a celebration of the contribution of creativity and youth towards a more sustainable future, a core aspect of the Iggy Jean brand.
We spoke with the young CEO earlier this year about Iggy Jeans, sustainability and her plans for the future.
Launched when she was just 14 years old, Iggy Jeans was born from Berg’s restless spirit and ambition: “I’ve always been interested in art and shapes and color and fashion, and I always wanted to create and start working,” she explains. “I started working when I was 12 or 13. I worked in a restaurant first.”
Iggy Jeans came a year or so later, after Berg started playing around with fabric paint.
“I started painting on jeans for fun, but at some point, I went into orjanandersson [a denim brand owned by one of the Cheap Monday founders] and started speaking with Andersson himself. I was showing him my jeans and he was telling me about the jeans he would make when he was young. We were swapping ideas and at the end of the conversation he was like ‘do you want to paint jeans for the store?’ Of course, of course I want to paint jeans!”
This 10-pair collection, sold in 2017, went on to launch Iggy Jeans and saw the brand join the official schedule for Stockholm Fashion Week 2018.
“I decided I wanted to do Iggy Jeans a bit more seriously. I told my parents and they said ok, do what you want. I got hyped about the idea of doing a show and doing it as best as possible. I ended up calling PR and production agencies and pitching myself like ‘I’m 15, I have this concept, and I really want to do this show. Oh and I don’t have any money. Do you want to help me?’”
Miraculously, they all said yes. “They were all really kind and helped me out a lot,” Berg says. “I thought it was going to be a show for a few of my friends, I thought I’d be happy if just one fashion person turns up.”
But Iggy Jeans caught the eye of more than just a few friends, as Vogue ended up covering the show. Berg recalls the moment she found out:
“I was with my friend, going shopping, just doing whatever you do when you’re 15, I think I’d just been at school? Then I got a text from a PR agency. ‘Check this link, Vogue wrote about you!’”
Definitely not the usual 15-year-old activity.
The look of Iggy Jeans is one that’s sourced from multiple reference points. Berg herself describes the brand as “punk with a sense of lighthearted fun.” The designs are bold, bright, and decidedly playful, but the choice of vintage, sometimes ripped, Levi’s give it an edge.
“I get why people see it as punk. I listen to a lot of Swedish punk from the 60s,” she explains.
But Berg finds inspiration from all sorts of places, when we talk she’s particularly interested in Sylvia Plath, feminist literature, and the Instagram feeds of art students in Stockholm. Teasingly diverse, perhaps, but she responds more to her reaction to these interests. “It’s often the feeling that I get from reading a book or listening to music or seeing art that inspires me. A lot of my designs come from music, or rather, how I feel when I’m listening to it. For the fashion week collection, I was listening to a lot of hard techno.”
A constant source of inspiration, however, comes from Berg’s grandmother, who was a founding member of 10-gruppen, or 10 Swedish Designers, a collective formed in 1970 in response to the mass production of design at the time. “Her style has really impacted me,” says Berg of her grandmother’s influence. “I’ve grown up with her, I spent so much time with her in her atelier when I was a child.” Punk seems to be an inherited trait in the Berg family, as arguably Iggy Jeans picks up the mantle of 10-gruppen.
So what does the future look like for a designer who’s still at high school, navigating brand partnerships alongside final exams?
“It’s my last year in high school, so I will be creating my portfolio and applying to schools around the world. I’m interested in studying fashion design or fashion print. I’m trying to explore everything within textile manipulation and print so I don’t know if it will be denim forever. I’m still exploring.”
Even if Iggy Jeans drops the jeans, Berg’s creativity and commitment to change will stay the same: “I’ll definitely stay within sustainability and upcycling. It’s what the world needs right now – we can’t live in a world where we’re not thinking about our resources. I want to create things in a sustainable way, but I want to create things that are still beautiful.”
Find out more about Iggy Jeans.