Interview with Patrik Fomin & Hugo Bergström – Nitty Gritty, Stockholm

Nitty Gritty started out in 1991 in Stockholm as a counter reaction to mainline clothing department stores dominating the market in the early 90′s. From being one of the first independent stores in Stockholm, its reputation and success has steadily grown both in Sweden and internationally over the past 20 years. Last year, as part of their 20th birthday celebrations, Nitty Gritty commissioned a special anniversary piece in collaboration with Stone Island.  Osti Archive’s RedMagnus decided to find out more….

Obviously, NG recently celebrated its 20th anniversary – can you tell us a little bit of the history of the store and your involvement with it?

PF – Nitty Gritty started as a subculture store for Mods and Skins. There was nothing else like this in Stockholm which made the store much talked about. After a while, more and more street brands, such as Carhartt and Duffer of St George, made it into the store. The store still had the same reputation but maybe appealed to a larger audience. After being closed for a couple of years it reopened again in 2003 in the current location with a new direction but still with its feet firmly in British subculture.

I started in 2006 as a buyer/agent but as Stone Island needed more attention and I was very into the brand I stopped the buying part and concentrated on the agency side of things full-time.

Where did the name ‘Nitty Gritty’ come from?

HB – This story originates all the way back to 1991 when the first store was to be opened. The three founders (all hard core mods) couldn´t come up with a name that they all agreed on so one of the guys took out a album cover from his crate where he kept his vinyls and said to the others, “Whatever the cover says, that’s the name we’ll go with!”

Luckily it was a good one and the meaning of Nitty Gritty suits the concept of today better than ever…to ”Get down to the real Nitty Gritty” means to get down to the core of something, and also to care about the small details in life.

What is your customer base like? What is the split between domestic and international?

HB - We have a good mix between customers that have followed us throughout all of our 20 years and we have new customers discovering the world of Nitty Gritty every day, both online and in the two stores in Stockholm. Age-wise, most of them are between 30-55 and stay true to their style, appreciate quality and spend a lot of money on clothes that will keep them warm, dry and stylish for many years. We still sell more in-store than on the web but the web is increasing rapidly so we´ll see for how long it will be like this. On the web it’s mainly international orders.

NG has an excellent collection of menswear brands from all over the world – what is your buying criteria/philosophy?

HB – We are very product driven. And we like the ‘real deal’, authentic brands that have one foot in their heritage and one foot in the future.

What are your most popular selling brands?

PF – I’d say Stone Island, A.P.C. and Barena are the three best, but as we stock about 80 brands there are good bits and bobs from many brands in different styles. We try to have a versatile variety of fabrics from our sector with the aim not being to buy a brand but to choose a good solid product we like.

What are you looking forward to seeing with the Spring 2012 collections?

PF – I hope there will be something new instead of brands trying not to miss the latest trend. If you are an outdoor brand please do just that, and vice versa. The brands that stay true to what they are will be the ones that will be around for a long time. Authenticity is the key word.

There seems to have been a rise in Swedish menswear brands recently – any reason why?

PF – I don’t know about recently, but I guess there have been some new brands with a new way of thinking. Still, Acne, Filippa K and Tiger are the big ones, and very typically Swedish, all with a base in black and very sober. I believe that the most interesting one is Our Legacy that has always had nice shirts, but are now finding the production and quality to fit the brand.

What are the future plans for the business?

HB – We recently opened our first store dedicated only to women’s clothing so we are excited to see how that will develop during this year. Apart from that we will focus on improving the web store.

What are your personal favourite brands?

PF – Engineered Garments and Garbstore (Ian Paley is a true genius) are some true favourites along with other brands like Albam, Inis Meáin and 12th Man. That said, without stating the obvious regarding Stone Island, I think SI is a state of the art.

Can you tell us about the 20th anniversary collaboration projects? How difficult was it to set these collaborations up?

HB – The collection comprises 6 pieces of menswear, all produced in a limited number of 20 per piece. Together they create a look that reveal the different eras of Nitty Gritty during the past 20 years. You can wear them as an outfit but the thought was that, piece by piece, they should work with every other item already hanging in your wardrobe. All the brands (Stone Island, Carhartt, Levi’s, Fred Perry, Drakes and Lundhags) that we contacted regarding this were really helpful and really tried their best to fulfil our wishes so in the end it became six very strong pieces.

When did NG start stocking Stone Island/C.P. Company?

PF – We started with both back in 2003. We quit CP, for obvious reasons. It’s not the same anymore, sadly, since SPW sold the brand. Stone Island has turned out well for us with a big jump in popularity around 2006. Now it is a solid business for us.

Is Stone Island very popular in Sweden?

PF – It is getting more and more popular every season, in a good way. People find the magic with the brand and often stick with it. The knowledge of the brand is still growing, but as Stone Island have started releasing videos from their HQ showing what they do and what they are all about it has rapidly picked up. There are not many brands of that kind out there, and as long as Carlo Rivetti is running things I believe they will stick to what they do best.

How did the trip to Istanbul with Stone Island come about?

PF – There have been trips in the past for the people working for Stone Island and this time we went to Istanbul to meet each other in a more relaxed atmosphere. Istanbul is a nice place to stay, with its feet in both Europe and Asia and a lot to see, so it was a nice experience.

What is your personal favourite Stone Island piece?

PF – Ouch, that is a tricky one! There are so many special pieces that are just stunning as a piece, such as the Ice Camo jacket or the Hand Painted Camo field jacket some seasons ago. Then there is the mesh reflective and so on. The most worn piece for me is the Japanese nylon parka that you can just wrap up and take with you when you travel. And, of course, the Nitty Gritty 20th anniversary jacket! Now as we approach the 30th anniversary of Stone Island there will probably be more with that in mind. I know that some collectors say everything was better before but if you compare the new collection to a 10-15 year old one I’d say the new is way better as a collection. Some vintage garments will be very nice but so will some of the new. Styles that are not currently considered a collectors piece might turn out to be just that after 10 – 15 years.

What do you think of the new C.P. Company owners and their plans for the future of the brand?

PF – Well, if you take away the DNA of a brand you take away its soul, so it can never be the same. And it isn’t!

How did the collaboration piece with Stone Island come about?

PF – Well, we turned 20 years old last year and we wanted to do something with some of our brands that have had, or will have, a big impact on us. I asked SPW if this was possible and they said yes, luckily for us. I was happy as a kid when they said yes and I still am.

How long did it take to agree and design the piece with SPW? Were they enthusiastic about the idea immediately or did it take some time to get agreement? Were there some particular criteria you had to meet?

PF - SPW was as enthusiastic as they could be and I got the go-ahead in one or two days. Initially, I thought that we might have to make a bigger quantity, but we decided to keep it to only 20 pieces, as with the rest of our anniversary collection. I told them about what I had in mind and SPW was on the same wavelength as me.

Tell us about the design process – did you design the piece or were SPW involved as well? Did you come up with a number of designs and settle on a particular one or was there only ever one option? Was Carlo Rivetti involved personally in the project?

PF – I shared my ideas with Andrea Moro who –as Director of the Product Development Department- has managed the design process. We had no doubt about the kind of garment we wanted to realize and the result is the wonderful piece that has been produced. I’m very grateful of what the team at SPW did for us. I didn’t talked with Mr Rivetti about this, but as Creative Director of Stone Island – as well as being the President – he was also involved in the project.

What was your inspiration for the design? Did you base it on a particular favourite piece from the past?

PF – I wanted to do something that was new but looked like it could be 20 years old. Maybe not worn for 20 years, but rather made in the ‘90s.

I love the colour beige on jackets and I also like the contrast of orange/brick that is in our Nitty Gritty logo. I think I had been looking for this kind of jacket in my head and it just popped out directly.

What more can you tell us about the ‘Old’ process that was used on the fabric?

PF – I wanted to make something that looked liked some of the older Stone Island garments, and use the trademark of SI which is garment dyeing and washing, as well.

Did you deliberately choose not to stitch the number of the piece into the jacket or was that never an option? It’s interesting that the original Flannels Anniversary Stone Island piece did have this feature but both you and Cruise, who issued SI anniversary editions last year, did not.

PF – It was a simple decision – we wanted the first person who bought the jacket to get the number one. So we decided to have a certificate with the numbers on, so that we could hand it over as the orders came in. Therefore, the first customer got number 1/20.

How well has the piece sold?

PF – Very well, thank you – we have now sold all of them! And I’m very glad it got such good feedback from collectors.

Is there anything you would have done differently in hindsight? Would you do another piece in the future?

PF – Nothing different at all, actually. And yes, I always like to be involved in new things and projects like this are very fulfilling so we would always consider doing another special piece.

OA would like to thank Patrik and Hugo for their time and wish them every success for 2012 and the next 20 years.

Nitty Gritty
Krukmakargatan 26
S-118 51 Stockholm

Tel: +46 (0)8 658 24 40

© A RM66 production in association with Osti Archive, 2012

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