Smålands Skinnmanufaktur is a design studio with its own production facility in Småland, Sweden. They design furniture, details and accessories from leather. And not just any leather, the highest premium vegetable tanned leather there is: from Tärnsjö Garveri.
In 2019 we launched a collaboration with Smålands Skinnmanufaktur under our in-house brand Low Key Goods. The aim for that collaboration was to create accessories that you carry around daily, protecting the things that matter to you. For every passing year they gain patina and turn even more beautiful.
It’s a classic Swedish foggy November day when we walk into Hillevi and Johans Studio / showroom / office in Jönköping, and later into their factory in Nissafors. Read the interview below.
Tell us a bit about your background?
I’m currently working as an Art Director and creative, both at an agency and with my own business. Earlier I’ve worked with creating stage environments and visual merchandising. I’ve studied at Textilakademin, and also undertaken studies within graphic design and communication.
I’ve worked in Sales and as a Pedagogic Counsellor. I’ve always enjoyed developing businesses. I’ve been employed within this sector before, but now run my own business.
When was Smålands Skinnmanufaktur founded and how did you start up in the first place?
Just about ten years ago we got in contact with someone who was running a leather factory. He let us spend a lot of time there, and we soon saw the business opportunity. We started making products for other companies, and leant a great deal about the craft and the business.
The goal of the venture was to earn enough to start up our own brand and to package that in a beautiful manner. SSM Smålands Skinnmanufaktur began taking shape during 2015. Today we make all our furniture and other products here in Småland, but they’re sold both nationally and internationally. We’re now also a design studio, creating new concepts, striking up collaborations and helping our customers to design the products they need from us.
We’ve learnt a lot by trial and error, and by keeping our eyes on a mutual goal. Over the years we’ve collaborated and gotten to know many different factories. That we were to take over one of them and run it by ourselves wasn’t something we could have ever dreamed about. The previous owners used to tease us about it. But when the offer came it was really a no-brainer, even if it was a bit scary. So about three years ago, we teamed up with our friend Rickard and took over the esteemed company Kallfeldts Läderfabrik.
What are the pros and cons of running both a business and a family together?
We’re very similar in many ways, but also a bit different – which is a good thing. We can have different perspectives on designs and details, while sharing our idea of the big picture. I think we’re a great team, both at home and at work. We talk a lot about everything.
We’re both a bit reckless in terms of jumping on new products, which has its pros and cons, but our mutual feeling is often ”This could be fun!”
Hillevi: ”Even if the line between work and our private life is really blurry, there’s no one else I’d rather do this with than with Johan.”
Johan: ”Sometimes I get a creative dip during the Champions League. The burdens of being a fan.”
What are your plans and goals for the future?
We’ve established a good foundation, and the goal is to improve upon that. We want to keep doing things we love, on our own or with others. At the moment we’re looking to have our products and our brand to be more visible abroad. We’ve also just refurbished our office in Jönköping and turned it into SSSM Studio where we show up and sell our own products.
Hillevi: ”If I were to let myself dream big, I’d love to build more showrooms. How about one in Copenhagen, Berlin or New York?”
How come you started working with leather?
It was chance, really. It’s not really the story I’d prefer to tell, but it’s the truth. That we then came to love the material and its attributes is also the truth. The patina that changes a leather product over the years; it’s a hard thing to beat.