Jennie Lööf: Tomboy Princess

Swedish-born, Glasgow-based designer Jennie Lööf gives us a peek at what has formed her as a designer, influences as diverse as Disney princesses and snowboarding

Feature by Rena Niamh Smith | 01 Mar 2012

If the Glasgow based designer Jennie Lööf could dress anyone, living, dead or mythical, it would be Princess Giselle from the Disney film Enchanted. The story of an animated princess of the instantly recognisable form; all breathlessness, wide eyes and bursting with spontaneous song, transported by spell to modern-day New York, it deals with how the fantasy of ultimate girlishness deals with the real world.

Indeed, Jennie’s clothes are very much about that escapist 'pretty' meets modern girl. Fresh, but with plenty of dresses that reference past decades such as the 1950s but often in more va-va-voom prints, with exaggerated details and thigh-skimming hemlines. Sugar sweet meets caffeine rush.

The collection’s video by John Johnston shows model Cristin Haussman, with her punky tattoos and delicate features, twirling on the banks of the Clyde, in front of glinting water and quayside high rises. She is a great model for Jennie’s designs, in gorgeous, unusual vintage fabrics with a modern silhouette. This is androgyny where minimalism does not feature; girlishness with a smattering of ballsy attitude.

Jennie was fascinated with princesses when she was small, and so, sketched fantasy dresses with her grandmother in Sweden. “We used to sit together and draw princesses when I was little, the most fashionable princesses you’ve ever seen!” Surrounded by like-minded women, she grew up learning her trade. “My mum and grandma are both very talented seamstresses and we always had a sewing room in our house. I think I was probably around 8 or 9 when I made my first scrunchie.”

Yet despite that, it wasn’t always her dream to make clothes full-time, but something wholly different. “I never wanted to be a designer while growing up. It sounds rather random but I always wanted to be a professional footballer. I did play a lot of football when I was young and on a professional level as a 15-16 year old but when I got into snowboarding at college, I dropped everything and decided that I wanted to be a snowboard pro instead. Youth eh?” she jokes. “I just didn’t have the same focus back then.”

With sporty credentials in the mix, it is this balance of perceived gender elements that lends Lööf her special edge. Her dresses are not so sugar sweet as to sicken, and the use of off-beat shapes give things punch. Also, as well as her main line of bespoke pieces, she has branched out into accessories with a line LOVELY by Jennie Lööf which include spats, her first menswear piece under her own label, which she premiered at Granny Would Be Proud’s Boyroom Blitz All-Male special in February 2012.

Typically, the spats are wholly retro in inspiration. We imagine some Glasgow boys, with their healthy love of the faded glamour of the past, will slot these easily into wardrobes with secondhand tweeds, 50s hair cuts and old school specs.

For Lööf, there are some crucial differences to consider when making men’s clothes, “Women would generally wear anything that makes them feel fantastic. For men, on the other hand, comfort has just as much importance as style. I also find that they are more into details.”

However, she does see a gap on the market and wants to bring her own tomboy take to this. “I am planning to do one menswear collection this year and see how it is received. I feel that there is a certain amount of longing for some independent menswear garments in Glasgow so I want to see if I can fill that hole.”

It is her place on the Scottish scene that shapes a lot of what Lööf does. She has shown at In The Company of Wolves, Nightwalk and Bold Souls. She feels that buying independent in fashion means supporting what is important: “You are supporting your community and reinvesting in the finances of your area”.

She dabbled in menswear when she designed for the stage. This background in stage costume obviously informs her wonderful escapism. She finds shopping on the high street “boring”. “I have a very sentimental wardrobe,” she muses. “I like second-hand and independent shops where you can usually stumble over something unique. I have many leftovers from theatre shows and I’m a ‘victim’ of the hand-me-down.”

Informed by a sense of the past and by her inheritance, she uses vintage fabrics that she picks up on her travels in her collections, but last year she took her heirloom of a skill-set as mood-board and material for her collection Family Chest.

“All the fabrics from that collection were saved by my mum from my grandmas and great-grandmas and finally handed down to me.” Shot by John Johnson on sunlit streets of suburban Glasgow with old photos of glamorous Lööf's past, it is a sweet tribute to the women in her family.

She in turn is handing on what she’s been given, and with a sweet demeanour and infectious enthusiasm, she’d make a great teacher. She did a fashion course for the Impact Arts summer project Gallery 37 for people aged 14-19, which has turned into a bona fide business venture, “Gallery 37 has now bloomed into the fabulous shop Eco Chic Boutique on the High Street in Glasgow. It's run by the genius that is Lisa Carr and some of my summer students now work there. I don’t have words to describe how proud I am of them.”

With princesses past and present, royal or blue blooded, catwalk fantasy or contemporary, flooding the media at the moment, this snowboarding Scandinavian is certainly one to watch, and a go-to name for a princess moment of your own.