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Tell us about Habitex!
“For 26 years, Habitex has represented high-quality textile products, mostly from Europe, in Sweden and Norway. Today we work together with Re:down which is a circular supplier of recycled down for fashion and other textile products. We also represent Italian Eurojersey SPA, Greek Fieratex SA and knitted garments from HongKong-based Primax where we have collaborated with the people behind the company since 1996. In the spring of 2012 we brought in some other products, such as decorative ribbons and candles produced in Italy and Germany. Eric Firmann, founder of Re:down, and I have worked together since 1996. For the first 18 years, Eric was export manager at two other companies that I represented. It has been a fun and interesting journey with Re:down since the start a few years ago. Among the first customers in Sweden was Gudrun Sjödén, followed by Arket who, like several other customers, have visited the production in Hungary with their own film team. Other departments at H&M were also inspired and are now buying down and feathers from us for certain parts of their collections. Since we supply different qualities of down and feather blends, there is something for everyone, and we have a wide range of customers, including Lexington, Rodebjer, Acne, Totême, Bergans and others. We work with both fashion and outdoor as well as the interior design segment. Well-known international customers include Patagonia, Burberry, Tommy Hilfiger and Mammut.”
What do you think the development in the fashion industry looks like going forward?
“Right now I think there is far too much focus on recycled yarns, says I who sells recycled products! But we must also ensure longer life and higher quality. The consumer must be taught to take care of their garments. I think we need to air, mend, patch and take care of garments. At the moment, I am curious about the Boro exhibition (boro is carefully patched and repaired textiles from Japan) which is currently on display at the East Asian Museum in Stockholm. At the same time, we are fighting to promote economic interests. That’s a difficult equation! I hope people stop greenwashing and redeeming their bad conscience, that’s so stupid. If we really want to make a difference, we must also refrain from some consumption.”
How has it been over the past year with the pandemic for you and Habitex?
“At the end of March, when we were told not to move around in the community, we came to a full stop. It was not only that the orders did not arrive, but customers cross-braked, canceled orders and a lot of work was put into reducing orders. Just before, with perfect timing, I had made a decision to shift the business more towards outdoor and sports and this year we all have dressed in loungewear and leisure. After the summer, there was a little more confidence looking towards the future and a more open society, before it turned around again. I have also noted how fast the development has gone for online sales. The development that is happening right now is unique, I have never seen anything like it. Many of our sports customers who are at the forefront with good online sales platforms have thus done well.”
What do you think about the agent’s role in the future?
“A dream scenario is to use digital tools in the future as well, and I believe that the trend lean towards becoming more of an ambassador for producers than a travelling salesperson. Travelling around and unpacking a bag full of collections for all interested customers feels outdated and is also uneconomical from many points of view. It feels extremely important to use the expertise and resources to focus on the right customers for each collection. Fairs are definitely needed for inspiration as well as for touching and feeling. Meetings face to face and conversations IRL have really been missed during the pandemic. It is more important than ever to have a genuine interest in the products you represent and to be knowledgeable and up to date in your field. I recently arranged a lecture for the students of the School of Textiles, where the founder of Re:down presented the whole concept, which was fun and very appreciated. Sometimes you have to try some new ways to reach out.”
Photo: Håkan Dahl and Ingela Dahl, Habitex, with Eric Firmann, Re: down.