Having helmed Stockholm Fashion Week for half a decade, and currently building buzz for Stockholm Fashion District, Gunilla Grubb is a bonafide veteran of the Swedish fashion scene. We talk to her about her career trajectory, role models and what it takes to be successful in a cutthroat industry like fashion.
Tell us a little bit about your story and what you are doing?
My career path has been somewhat eclectic, but I would say my fashion career began when I started working with Ulrika Nilsson at JUS, which is a very well known shop that carried both international and Swedish high end clothing and accessories. As Ulrika was also an agent and distributor for many independent Swedish brands, like Rodebjer (my first love), Lovisa Burfitt, Ida Sjöstedt, Diana Orving, P O U R, The Local Firm and others, I got the chance to work as a PR-agent for the brands she was carrying in her showroom. Working with Ulrika was invaluable, she taught me a lot about sales.
During this time, the Swedish fashion scene was just starting to develop, and I was extremely passionate about being a part of the burgeoning industry. So, when ASFB was founded in 2009, I knew that I wanted to work with them. In 2011, I started working with ASFB as the Event and Communications Director, with my main responsibilities including organizing Stockholm Fashion Week, as well as providing support and guidance for our members.
In August 2016, I took on the role of Head of Public Relations for Stockholm Fashion District, which is an affiliate of Trade Partners Sweden. We have 650 members and about 400 employees within fashion. Stockholm Fashion District is located in Nacka strand where 900 brands are situated in 20,000 square meters of space, used for both showrooms and fairs throughout the year. We have about 22 big events every year, and on average, an event every third week takes place.
Why do you love working in fashion?
A genuine curiosity about the design process as well as the business side.
What are your goals in life? Have they evolved over time?
To work with something I like, that makes me happy and content.
Are you a realist or do you get caught up in your dreams a lot?
I would say both. I am a realist but also a visionary that ideates through imagery.
What motivates you?
Challenges; to work outside my comfort zone and do things that are hard and a bit scary. Also beautiful things, creativity and craftsmanship.
You moved from ASFB to Stockholm Fashion District in Nacka. What is the biggest difference?
The variety of work. I would say that the roof is a bit higher here.
Do you have a role model? A source of inspiration?
I have many role models. But I would have to say Grace Coddington; not only for her creativity and beautiful styling work, but also for her contributions at Vogue. In my opinion, she really helped Anna Wintour make Vogue what it is today. I would also say my grandmother. She gave me the eye for fashion and craftsmanship, and also my two daughters, who inspire, and teach me new things every day.
From an outside perspective looking in, people find the fashion industry to be shallow and a tough business where people constantly step on each other to reach their goals. Have you ever experienced this personally?
I believe in karma. The person you step on, to climb your way up, might be the same person who will step on you one day, when you are on the way down. I believe in being nice.
Do you think your career path to get to where you are now would have been different if you were a man? Or do you think the fashion business is unbiased when it comes to gender?
That is a hard question to answer. There are mostly women working in the fashion industry in Sweden, but there are more men in higher positions of power. I think that women tend to recruit men to ensure diversity in the work place, but it seems men don’t have the concern, and are fine working with all males in a company. But in terms of my career, I would say probably.
If you could give advice to 20-year-old Gunilla, what would it be?
Don´t rush things. There will always be a new opportunity around the corner, and believe in yourself.