denimbro Homepage
Forum Home Forum Home > Denimbro > Interviews
  New Posts New Posts RSS Feed - PER FREDRIKSSON of C. O. F. Studio
  FAQ FAQ  Forum Search   Events   Register Register  Login Login

PER FREDRIKSSON of C. O. F. Studio

 Post Reply Post Reply
Author
Message
mr randal View Drop Down
retired
retired
Avatar
MDLD

Joined: 12 Jan 2012
Status: Offline
Points: 47664
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (5) Thanks(5)   Quote mr randal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: PER FREDRIKSSON of C. O. F. Studio
    Posted: 11 Jun 2016 at 9:16pm



I first noticed C. O. F. Studio jeans a couple of years ago at AB Fits in San Francisco. AB Fits is the oldest US denim shop west of the Mississippi- they’ve been supplying the bay area with fine denim since 1983 under the tutelage of proprietor Howard Gee. Howard introduced a number of Japanese brands to the US market- Dope + Drakar,  Big John, and Hollywood Ranch Market, and has concurrently championed both large and small US made denim and work wear in his shop- from LVC, Rising Sun and Rogue Territory to artisan makers like Hollows Leather, Michael Masterson, and Matias.
 So when Howard introduced me to C. O. F. I took note.
 C. O. F. Studio, a Swedish concern with global roots, has been making clean, modern fitting jeans in three cuts since 2008. In the last couple of years a growing number of non-denim pants, as well as shirts and jackets have gradually been added to their line.
 Howard told me that Per has been in the denim business for decades- working with some of Europe's largest producers, and had decided to strike out on his own in recent years.
 I sat down with Per recently (with Double0Soul on the line to field EU labor politics questions) and asked him about his past in the denim business and his hopes for the future.




MR: Can you give me some background on yourself? Where are you from and how did your interest in denim come about?

Per: I was born in 1961 and raised in Nyköping, a small town located 100 km South of Stockholm, Sweden. My interest in denim comes from my Mom. In the late ‘60s, she always came home with the latest jeans, denim jackets and shirts from Levis, LEE and Wrangler when these brands had just entered the European market. Then in the early '70s a lot of Swedish-made Jeans brands came into the market-  especially Hollywood Jeans, GUL & BLÅ, which became the must-have jeans for school. I started to follow the denim industry as much it was possible- there was very little information those days from the US Big 3 or the larger Swedish brands. In 1977,  during the Punk rock period, Andy Warhol (through his involvement in Factory Studio & Interview Magazine) and Levis launched Red Tab 501 Shrink to Fit jeans in Sweden. At this point Jeans become a way of life for me. The day after I left High school in 1979 I started to work in one of the most important denim stores in my town, and six month later I decided to move to Stockholm to be closer to the elite players of the Swedish denim market.

MR: Before your move to Stockholm, was your interest in denim wholly fashion, or were you becoming interested in the design and manufacture of denim at that point?

Per: Before the move, primarily fashion and marketing- but when I moved to Stockholm I first started to work as store manager for one year at Impuls (that period’s equivalent to H & M)  and then in 1981 I joined a denim brand from Finland (Beaver Jeans) as sales manager for half of  Sweden. The company had their own factory as well a small laundry which was really unique at that time in Europé. The owner was a guy who was always talking about production of jeans and novelties about washes so my interest for production of jeans started there. Beaver Jeans was the first brand in Europé starting to do simple stone wash process experimenting with wash times to reach the various wash effects as well starting the scraping process to create the wiskers effect.

MR: Could you tell me some more about the very early washing effects that Beaver was experimenting with? Do you recall whether there was any controversy in the industry about distressing (probably then some people thought "ruining") a new pair of jeans? Do you recall what the general public thought of these first washed releases?

Per: There was no controversy at all when Beaver start to experiment with Stone washing, I would say the other way around, everybody from the industry, other brands and retailers, were very impressed. The first process was simply stone washing where we experimented only with various wash times to achieve the used look. Around 1982 we also start to make trials with scraping and bleach treatment to add whiskers. Around 1983-1984 all  the brands had started makings stonewash treatment.

MR: After your move to Stockholm and your stint at Beaver, how did your career in denim progress?

Per: In 1983 I left Beaver to work at Frox jean. This company had their own manufacturing facilities in Sweden, so I split my time between my work as sales manager and spending time at the factory and laundry with the owner and the brand designer. At this brand we worked with denim as well as twills and canvas fabrics. We started an experimental process with garment dyeing. In 1985 I got the chance to be designer and head of collection manager  for the second biggest brand in Scandinavia- Dobber Jeans. Their business model since their start in 1974 was to purchase all their fabrics from Japan and produce their garments in low cost countries like Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore. This gave me the opportunity to spend around 100 days each year in Osaka, Japan, developing all our fabrics together with Dobber's own fabric technician (also a Swede) directly with Japan's best Mills for Denim, twills and light-weight fabrics for shirts. This period become the most important time in my life- working 100% focused on RND and manufacturing development.

MR: I heard a story from a mutual friend about your role in the reintroduction of selvedge denim into jean production, involving a funny (in retrospect) misunderstanding with one of your manufacturers. Could you tell me that story yourself?

Per: Oh, yes! When I was at Dobber Jeans in the mid-‘80s and was on assignment in Osaka, one night over dinner I asked Mr. Kaihara from Kaihara Denim Mill if he knew where all the old shuttle looms where since even the US mills had more or less stopped using them. He just smiled and said he had purchased a few for his museum. I decided to press him to try to make selvedge denim. So at the end of the evening he invited me and my colleagues to come and visit him at his Mill the upcoming weekend to explore this possibility. There we saw the old looms and tested them, and in the next weeks they developed the first sample yardage of new selvedge denim to be present in our next collection. Back in Sweden, I waited like a little child on Christmas Day for the sewn samples to arrive so I could present them to our sales team. The boxes finally arrived, and when I excitedly tore open the boxes and pulled out the sample garments- NO SELVEDGE! We contacted our colleagues in Hong Kong to tell them our factory had use the wrong fabric, one without a selvedge. They replied that they had used the fabric we had sent, but that it had defective edges, which they had to cut off before they could sew the garments!
 This was really a huge disappointment of course, and 7 months later I resigned from Dobber to start my own company. No selvedge denim reached the Swedish-made market from a Japanese mill until at least 2001 or 2002, if I have correct information.

MR: That is a heart-breaker!

Per: Yes, but life goes on.
 After that, during my last year at Dobber Jeans, I started to feel that we needed to take our denim development further, and Italy had become the country for high-end denim fabric production as well as washing facilities.
 Using the best Italian mills those days, together with their skill for high-end washing, brought our jeans, and my self, to a new level.
 At the end of 1989 I decide to start to work by my self and try to move to Italy. I started a freelance company, PF Studio, out of Sweden and moved to Italy 1992. My business model was to develop jeans manufacturing companies by bringing in RND linked with commercial sales expertise. I also consulted for brands who needed support with fabric, construction, washes and fits.
 Starting in 1999 and continuing through the early 2000s, Italian production started to slow down due to cheaper labor costs elsewhere, and retail groups relocated manufacture to Turkey, Asia, Albania, Romania and Tunisia. A  lot of Italian technicians moved to these countries as well in order to be able to keep their jobs.

MR: It's interesting that a lot of Swedish and Italian expertise has been forced to relocate to countries with cheaper labor. In the US there has been some movement lately towards bringing back some forms production that was previously off-shored. Do you see a similar movement happening in Italy or Sweden?

Per: I would say so, The governments in EU Europe don't give any support for our industry to bring back the clothing manufacturing industry, but there are companies like myself with COF Studio who want and try to produce in the EU. However, it's very difficult and expensive if you don't have experience with all of the necessary steps in order to get the price points right to manage production within Europe. At the same time I say this you should know that some companies want to produce unethically within Italy for export. There are quite a lot of factories which are controlled by Chinese nationals from the owner to workers- they often operate in substandard conditions and don’t meet European Union standards.  A lot of so called Italian factories use these illicit subcontractors and laundries, unfortunately.
This kind of set up has been around in Southern Europe for the last 15 years without any intervention from various European Governments, and this has wiped out their own endemic garment manufactures.
 I want to underline I have nothing against the Chinese or other outside non-European people, I just want them to be working in Europe with proper documents and their management should treat them with same standards as European union organizations demand.

02: Would you like to see more government incentives for businesses operating within the EU that meet the existing criteria in regards to tax breaks, training ect. as opposed to the current "punishment" (or lack of it) for those which flout the rules?

Per:  I am not a big supporter of incentives because from what I have seen they are often misused and don’t accomplish the goals they are set to. 
To get more people back in work, especially in the south of Europe, it may be wise to give some incentives through reductions in Social Security tax paid on employees for companies, so that its attractive to hire more people instead of paying out money for unemployment.  This is not an easy proposition, and the EU should definitely fight to regulate Social Security payments and benefits for the groups who really need them, but in my opinion there is a big group of unemployed people from our industry in the south of Europe that we could get back to work with that strategy.

MR: How did this labor shift affect your own work?

 Per: I moved around a bit during this transformational period-  I joined the most premium fully vertical denim group in Pakistan- Legler Nafees Ltd (50/50 owned by Legler Spa (Italian) and Nafees Spinning Ltd (Pakistani) as Director for RND and Global commercial activities, and left the company at the end of 2007.
 In 2008 I started Modern Basic 08 AB in Sweden and moved back there from Italy, through MB08 I am business partners with one of the premium jeans manufactures of Bangladesh, the Armana Group Ltd, working with clients like GAP, Old Navy, GANT, H&M, Levis and ZARA Women Basic etc. My responsibility here is primarily RND and commercial development.  I also stepped into Shasha Denim Mills Ltd- Bangladesh's oldest Denim mill, as business partner in 2008.
 During my frequent visits to the USA, I was interested to notice the many new heritage denim brands promoting Made in USA products with mainly Cone Denim or Japanese Selvedge, and in 2011 I was inspired to register the trade mark "Circle of Friends", to finally realize my dream to develop a premium denim brand on my own from concept and design through construction and marketing.

 In 2012 I started my new company- called C.O.F. Apparel (for Circle of Friends) and decided to manufacture mainly in Italy.








Inside and out of Feder Sewing Laboratory in Matino Village, Salento, Italy.


 Per: The first step was to fly down to Salento in Southern Italy and see if there was anything left of Feder Studio- the sew shop in Matino Village which I had worked with from 1989 to 2002. I would say nothing was left accept a small studio making only sample collections for prestige brands, with only 6 operators. Feder studio used to be a factory with 40 operators in the old days, and the town of Matino today has today around 900 operators with 15 – 20 years experience of making jeans, 99% of them now without a job.
 I convinced the owner to join my project and produce small production runs and hopefully from this platform we can grow C. O. F. Studio step by step and hopefully bring back some operators to work and slowly become a small factory again.
 The main reason why I have decided to produce in Salento Italy area is because in this area I can feel secure in insuring that my work force are experienced people with proper working permission to work in Europe and that they are treated well and not exploited in any way.
 For me I see Made in Salento as a long term project for C. O. F  Studio. As of now, it is where all of our garments are produced.

02:
In regards to your Italian sew shop, when the business grows how will you address an aging workforce? After such a downturn in productivity do you envisage difficulty finding young skilled machine operators locally who want a secure future? With pay being limited how will you make working in a sewing factory sound appealing to the next generation?

Per: Good question! This is the catch, so far if we increase our volumes we can easily find workforce because there is a lot of people between age of 45 to 60 with already 14-20 years of experience, but currently without work.  I am convinced this group of workers would be willing to come back to our industry. But for the younger generation I think it will be more or less impossible to attract them to go into our industry if we can’t rebuild the industry with my own generation of workers first. Who knows- I just read one article earlier this week about Adidas who is building up a new factory in Germany where they should produce some of their new shoes with robots and around 150 people. Sounds bad on first read, but in fact such a factory gives the local population 150 jobs, which is certainly better then nothing. Understood from the article that Nike and Under Armour will also work on the same type of project to be produced in the USA.
 Maybe the next generation will develop similar factories for textile and garments in Europe and the USA to bring back jobs and make our industry more attractive for them. Personally, I would prefer to protect man-made goods, but if robot manufacturing in Europe is the future, with reduced workforces  but some local jobs that wouldn't have otherwise existed, then I suppose that is something that my generation will just have to accept.

 MR: Back to the setting up your C. O. F. Studio line, after investigating your old manufacturing source in Salento, what was next?

Per: The second step was to recruit the owner of Candiani denim, Mr. Alberto Canadian. This was a crucial step as Candiani Mills has a lot of the special shuttle looms needed to make narrow width selvedge denim. Additionally, I consider their mill  to be Europe's best quality denim mill and they have been at this since I stared to appreciate quality in denim back in the 80’s.








Images from Candiani Mills, near Milano, Italy.


 Per: His response was, “Why does a Swedish Guy want to develop such a project making jeans in Italy? ” It took a lot of convincing, but I was finally able to persuade him to join forces with me.
 With a green light from both  Feder and Candiani Denim I could truly start C. O. F. Studio. From here I contacted my favorite quality suppliers for leather, labels, buttons & rivets that I had worked with during my years in Italy. Also I let one of my employees at MB08- Martin Johansson (a real denim enthusiast) become the brand manager, with his main focus on the commercial and marketing activities. This allowed me to take care of my other business commitments, even if I always keep an extra eye on COF Studio since I work purely with my heart in this project.

 The DNA of the COF Studio project is to make, without compromise, classic 5 pocket premium jeans. Two words I want to avoid at C. O. F.  are “vintage" and “heritage" and leave this to American and Japanese brands. As an European company- considering we really only started to wear jeans first in the mid 60’s, I feel making a very modern cut of jean is truer to our roots.

MR: What is C. O. F. Studio up to this year?

Per: We are continuing to expand internationally: our products are available at a few finer denim shops in Sweden, Italy, the UK, and the US. In the US, Howard Gee at AB Fits is our product rep.
 We are going to start attending more industry events this year- we were at Denimbruin in San Francisco last year, and will attend again this year. We also will be at Pitti Uomo in Italy and Selvedge Run in Germany.


Edited by mr randal - 14 Jun 2016 at 6:46pm
Back to Top
mr randal View Drop Down
retired
retired
Avatar
MDLD

Joined: 12 Jan 2012
Status: Offline
Points: 47664
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote mr randal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Jun 2016 at 9:17pm
Double0Soul was good enough to read this last week and suggested a number of insightful additional questions for Per, mostly about his cultivation of the workforce at Feder Sewing Labs and EU labor politics.

Per hasn't gotten back to me with his additional answers yet, and I had to keep things moving since there are hopefully three more interviews to come out in the next week or so from Denimbruin exhibitors, so I will add in Per's answers as they arrive.

Thank you, double0!
Back to Top
mr randal View Drop Down
retired
retired
Avatar
MDLD

Joined: 12 Jan 2012
Status: Offline
Points: 47664
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (3) Thanks(3)   Quote mr randal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Jun 2016 at 9:17pm
Some images from the FW15 C. O. F. Studio look book:

















Edited by mr randal - 11 Jun 2016 at 9:35pm
Back to Top
Maynard Fried-San View Drop Down
whiskered
whiskered
Avatar
anonymous

Joined: 21 Jan 2012
Location: London Taan
Status: Offline
Points: 11923
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Maynard Fried-San Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Jun 2016 at 1:17am
Very interesting and readable article Mr R, Per certainly has a wealth of experience and knows his stuff.

Some good points about the Chinese labour and the EU (good input from Double 0), I can't remember exactly where it is located but I've heard about huge industrial estates for the large Italian brands/fashion houses, which are effectively staffed only by Chinese workers, even the street signs are in Chinese. I don't whether the workers are legal or not or whether they live on site or are bussed in from a nearby Italian town. Effectively, it sounds like a Made in China operation housed in Italy, so they can slap the 'Made in Italy' label on.

The Salento story reads a bit like the choice of Cardigan (south Wales) for Hiut Denim - getting the old jeans-making workforce back in economic activity, so I wish them luck there.

Finally, it was good to read about the choice of Candiani Mills for the denim, I know Left Field use that too and from some of the pictures I've seen, it looks very nice.


EDIT: Here's an article on the Chinese clothing industry in Italy (thanks Dr Heech).

Edited by Maynard Fried-San - 05 Jul 2016 at 11:06am
Helixing my inner beanie
Back to Top
mr randal View Drop Down
retired
retired
Avatar
MDLD

Joined: 12 Jan 2012
Status: Offline
Points: 47664
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote mr randal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Jun 2016 at 6:14pm
Thank you Maynard, its always gratifying when people really read though the interview and comment upon them.

I was excited to interview Per, much as I was with Dan Disanto from levi's, as it's great to get a peek into the seldom seen parts of the garment industry that actually turn the gears...
Back to Top
mr randal View Drop Down
retired
retired
Avatar
MDLD

Joined: 12 Jan 2012
Status: Offline
Points: 47664
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote mr randal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Jun 2016 at 6:35pm
 I've received Per's answers to a couple of follow up questions posed by Double0soul- I'll post them here for those who have already read through the interview, and have edited them into the main body of text as well.

 Thanks, 02!




02: Would you like to see more government incentives for businesses operating within the EU that meet the existing criteria in regards to tax breaks, training ect. as opposed to the current "punishment" (or lack of it) for those which flout the rules?

Per:  I am not a big supporter of incentives because from what I have seen they are often misused and don’t accomplish the goals they are set to. 
To get more people back in work, especially in the south of Europe, it may be wise to give some incentives through reductions in Social Security tax paid on employees for companies, so that its attractive to hire more people instead of paying out money for unemployment.  This is not an easy proposition, and the EU should definitely fight to regulate Social Security payments and benefits for the groups who really need them, but in my opinion there is a big group of unemployed people from our industry in the south of Europe that we could get back to work with that strategy.


02: In regards to your Italian sew shop, when the business grows how will you address an aging workforce? After such a downturn in productivity do you envisage difficulty finding young skilled machine operators locally who want a secure future? With pay being limited how will you make working in a sewing factory sound appealing to the next generation?

Per: Good question! This is the catch, so far if we increase our volumes we can easily find workforce because there is a lot of people between age of 45 to 60 with already 14-20 years of experience, but currently without work.  I am convinced this group of workers would be willing to come back to our industry. But for the younger generation I think it will be more or less impossible to attract them to go into our industry if we can’t rebuild the industry with my own generation of workers first. Who knows- I just read one article earlier this week about Adidas who is building up a new factory in Germany where they should produce some of their new shoes with robots and around 150 people. Sounds bad on first read, but in fact such a factory gives the local population 150 jobs, which is certainly better then nothing. Understood from the article that Nike and Under Armour will also work on the same type of project to be produced in the USA.

 Maybe the next generation will develop similar factories for textile and garments in Europe and the USA to bring back jobs and make our industry more attractive for them. Personally, I would prefer to protect man-made goods, but if robot manufacturing in Europe is the future, with reduced workforces  but some local jobs that wouldn't have otherwise existed, then I suppose that is something that my generation will just have to accept.

Back to Top
Cinch View Drop Down
whiskered
whiskered
Avatar

Joined: 04 Mar 2012
Location: Bay Area
Status: Offline
Points: 2861
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Cinch Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Jun 2016 at 10:33pm
Great interview. Thanks Mr R
Back to Top
 Post Reply Post Reply
  Share Topic   

Forum Jump Forum Permissions View Drop Down

Forum Software by Web Wiz Forums® version 11.10
Copyright ©2001-2017 Web Wiz Ltd.

This page was generated in 0.031 seconds.