Interview with Maja Svensson, Owner and Creator of Elsa and Me

Sleeveless Elsa Dress in Butter Cream Spring 13

Sleeveless Elsa Dress in Butter Cream Spring 13

Tell us a bit about yourself: I am the Brooklyn-based designer and founder of ELSA AND ME, a small clothing business that offers a signature dress – the ELSA dress.

I am originally from a small town in Sweden and I left my corporate job in December 2011 to be the passionate independent businesswoman I have always dreamt of, and have since worked fulltime with my company.

Maya Svensson

Maya Svensson

After I earned a degree in Economics from Sweden, I came to New York in 2008 for an internship at the Consulate General of Sweden. Shortly thereafter I began working at Invest Sweden, also in New York, where I consulted US companies wanting to establish in Sweden. It was while working at Invest Sweden that I was inspired by all the people I met in the city “doing their own thing” and started to look into what my “thing” could be. Without any prior experience in the field I began experimenting with fashion design in 2009. After making connections to the New York’s famed Garment District, I realized it was possible to make clothing with just a visual idea of a design. After receiving positive feedback on my first design, I registered my company and began making clothing for women like myself, businesswomen and corporate office workers looking for a more diversified and feminine look at the office.

Tell us a bit about Elsa and Me: ELSA AND ME offers a signature dress – the ELSA dress which can go from work to a cocktail party. It fits and flatters for most off the rack and can be customized for all else. It is made to order and produced locally in New York with organic fabric.

The ELSA dress is sold online and through sales ambassadors only, and is currently available in the original 3/4 sleeve ELSA and a sleeveless version. Both are available in 8 colors:
Dusty Black, Vanilla White, Midnight Blue, Power Red, Sunny Wheat, Sweet Potato, Butter Cream and Hibiscus.

Inspired by an elegant and stylish grandma named Elsa, ELSA AND ME was founded to enable a more diversified and feminine look at the office. Everyday women are featured in the dress to show the variety of multi-faceted women role models.

The dress is made of organic cotton fabric, produced locally in New York City and designed not to be dependent on a short term trend.

Where does your entrepreneurial spirit come from? I don’t know why some people become entrepreneurs and others don’t. I’m not fully sure why I became an entrepreneur.

I’m originally from a small town in Sweden. There wasn’t a lot to do there, so I got creative and started various projects. My sister and I would bike around the countryside with fresh baked cookies, which we tried to sell to our neighbors. We also had a “store” in our house, meaning we’d throw a blanket on the floor and then put stuff on it to sell to whoever came to visit our parents. This would evolve into other smalltime ventures in capitalism throughout my life, like making and selling my own jewelry in college; so I believe that my childhood experiments in business planted the seed of the entrepreneurial spirit in me, but it didn’t fully bloom until I came to the US

“Sustainability is the capacity to endure” according to Wikipedia. I really like that. I think that can be incorporated into a lot of situations.
— Maya Svensson

Why is using organic cotton important to you? Since I am bringing a new product to the market, it is important for me to look into what good materials there are out there. I found that woven cotton would be a good material for the dresses and therefore researched some good woven cotton that had less impact on the environment, which turned out to be organic cotton. The fabric that I use is GOTS-certified, which means that there are certain restrictions on how the cotton is being grown, and also on how the cotton is turned into textile – for example, no use of pesticides and water-recycling requirements.

What does sustainability mean to you? Sustainability is the capacity to endure” according to Wikipedia. I really like that. I think that can be incorporated into a lot of situations: the relationships that you have to your family, friends or partner, for example. To me sustainability in business means that you are being able to be in business financially and that you are creating a business and product which has less impact on the environment and eco-system.

What was your inspiration for the name? The inspiration behind the name is my grandma Elsa, who has always had a very classic and elegant style, and still does. She also represents a generation that did not have the same opportunities as the women of today, and with ELSA AND ME I want to show-case that different women role models exist, in celebration of my grandma’s generation.

What is the biggest challenge to being a fashion entrepreneur? The biggest challenge and risk for me right now is time. Being able to sell enough dresses each month so that I can pay my rent and other bills.

How often do you wear the Elsa? I wear the ELSA dress approx. 5 days a week. Not always full days, but most of my weekdays I am wearing ELSA.

Describe how your business model is different from the typical fashion business model: I do pre-orders on the ELSA dress (online orders, or through fittings I do in the city), which enables me to get paid by customers, prior to production. That is the business model that enables me to work fulltime with the company.

Sleeveless Elsa Dress in Hibiscus Spring 13

Sleeveless Elsa Dress in Hibiscus Spring 13

What is your biggest accomplishment to date with Elsa and Me? That I am able to work fulltime with the company.

What are you most proud of? I am proud that I had the courage to take the leap and start working fulltime with ELSA AND ME.

Who do you look to for fashion or personal inspiration? I am a very visual person and get inspiration from everywhere I go and everyone I see. That is the privilege of living in New York. You are able to see so many different people and styles by just walking out your door, or especially, by riding the subway.

This entry was originally posted on Zoe's Fashion Feed on 02/13/2013 under Designer Interviews