Built on a lasting tradition of substance and style with its focus on sustainable and luxury textile production, Countess von Eckermann continues to lead the way in manufacturing the highest quality products with continuous appeal and functionality.
Carl von Eckermann, CEO and co-owner of Countess von Eckermann and grandson to the founder Countess Ebba von Eckermann, shares the company’s legacy and its vision in the years to come.
What is the story behind Countess von Eckermann? Countess Ebba von Eckermann, born Ebba von Schwerin of the house of Stegeborg, was born in April 1921. At that time the Countess’ future success in the textile business was of course still unknown, but the talent and passion behind her success was a combination of heritage from her mother and her desire to help others.
Ebba’s mother, Marg von Schwerin, came to play an important role in Ebba’s interest and knowledge in design, handcraft and fashion and as founder of the esteemed Swedish haute couture design school Märthaskolan, Marg was well known to the fashion world both in Sweden and internationally. She had a vast network, including renowned international designers such as Christian Dior, and was a valuable part of creating the foundation of the Countess’ future business.
Ebba attended fashion shows in Paris with her mother already at the age of twelve and started taking weaving lessons as a teenager. At that time, weaving was for fun and she mostly used handcraft as a vent for creativity, making throws for friends, but the focus would change. In addition to creative talent, Ebba had been gifted with an entrepreneurial spirit and soon started serving her mother’s fashion firm with handcrafted fabrics. This business formed the first step leading to her own full scale international textile company.
Besides Ebba’s interest in fashion and the availability of her mother’s knowledge and network in the industry, another very important reason behind the foundation of the textile business was the Countess’ commitment to the local community.
Ebba was married to Erik von Eckermann and their family home was Sandvik manor in Ripsa, a little quaint village in the heart of the Swedish county Södermanland. Hunting and forestry, horse riding and farming was part of the everyday life of the family, and textile production and fashion would soon be added to that list. In 1950, Ebba decided to transform her passion for textile and design into a business where the Sandvik manor became the heart of the textile production facilities.
Many of the women who lived in Ripsa were dissatisfied due to lack of occupation. Their husbands worked on Erik’s farms so the start of Ebba’s textile business was an opportunity to provide these local women with employment and purpose. Thanks to the new business, a strong community was created around the production in Ripsa, where the exclusive handwoven throws textiles were created.
Ebba imported and used the finest wool available for her products and the beautiful nature of the countryside in Södermanland was her generous source of inspiration for design and color. The textiles were produced in the little village of Ripsa and the entire community was engaged in the Countess’ adventures and success.
The weaving took place either in the converted stable at the family farm or in the women’s homes. The woven fabrics were then distributed to other women in the village for sewing and finishing touches. Once completed, the product was brought back to the farm for final packaging. Gulli was Ebba’s right hand and support and played a very important role in the production and organization of the business and distribution, especially when Ebba was travelling the world to sell her collections and market the brand. Ebba and Gulli remained close friends throughout Gulli’s lifetime.
Ebba’s dream of weaving exclusive textiles combined with her country life gave birth to a three decades long flourishing textile business in the small village of Ripsa and the fabrics ended up traveling far beyond the confines of Sweden. It all began with throws with Ebba’s original expression of color and pattern and with leather trimming and later on, the business evolved into offering exclusive, colorful and sparkling fashion collections. The vision was to service a highly exclusive audience of individuals as well as business clients throughout the world.
Not long after its birth, the brand was welcomed onto the international fashion scene and later on became part of 20th century fashion history. Christian Dior adored the designs and fabrics and offered both the Ripsa Jacket™ and the signature Countess Ebba von Eckermann skirt in his stores in Paris. The pattern “Humoresque” (renamed by Dior to “Gueule-de-loup”), used for skirts, was made by Ebba specifically for Dior in 1952.
Almost from the very beginning the products were offered in the U.S. and the Americans were fascinated by “the Weaving Countess” and her fashionable handcrafted products. Ebba fell in love with America and made several extended trips there to sell her products and collections to the exclusive department stores in New York, Boston and San Francisco to name a few. Ebba subsequently evolved her business through selling at exclusive private venues. She was featured in well renowned magazines such as Life Magazine and National Geographic and even participated on TV on the Today Show.
Ann Forsberg, wife of the former American ambassador Franklin S. Forsberg, was a true ambassador for the original Countess Ebba von Eckermann brand and a dear friend of the von Eckermann family. She played a very important role in Ebba’s business activities in the U.S. and her private collection was in 2011 shown at the Hallwyl Museum (once the home of a von Eckermann ancestor – Ebba von Eckermann, born Ebba von Hallwyl – http://hallwylskamuseet.se/sv/utforska/familjen-von-hallwyl) during the exhibition on Countess Ebba von Eckermann and her work – “Vävda Modedrömmar – Från Ripsa till New York “(“Woven Fashion Dreams – from Ripsa to New York” – http://hallwylskamuseet.se/sv/vavda-modedrommar ).
This exhibition became also the starting point for our revival of the exclusive Countess von Eckermann brand.
What is the inspiration behind each product and design?Our current production is focused on handloomed throws, trimmed with vegetable tanned leather – just like the first product offered by the Countess in 1950. Our throws are divided in two collections; the Legacy Collection, offering original designs of the Countess and the Contemporary Collection, offering more subtle and discreet designs and colors, reflecting an evolution of the brand into the 21st century.
The inspiration for both collections is sourced from nature, natural and sustainable materials such as stone, wood, water and plants.
The Contemporary Collection breathes elegance through simplicity in design and sophistication in choice of colors and is based on nine subtle and elegant colors and several leather colors. The handwoven throws of the Contemporary Collection are currently offered in three designs – “Sara”, “Carl” and “Wilhelm”. “Sara” is a two or three color design with discrete stripes, “Carl” an elegant solid and “Wilhelm” a combination of weft and warp color.
The products of the Legacy Collection are original Countess Ebba von Eckermann designs, dating back to the 1950s, showing the Countess’ unique and colorful expression and the leather trimming that she pioneered.
An example from the Legacy Collection is the design “Humoresque” – created by Countess Ebba von Eckermann in 1952 for Christian Dior. “Humoresque” is everything but unassuming and the name reveals some of the hilarity of the expression in this design, offered in the exact colors of the original. The bright turquoise, fuchsia, yellow and green are grounded by black and blue and framed with the natural color leather that the Countess originally used for her throws. The bright expression of “Humoresque” has become a signature design of historical importance for the brand and has an obvious place in the Legacy Collection.
In addition to these collections and for the true luxury connoisseur, Countess von Eckermann is proud to offer unique bespoke handwoven products, designs and colors.
With a long-standing attention to sustainability and top materials, describe the production process: Just like in the old days, our exclusive Countess von Eckermann collections are today hand-loomed and handmade in Sweden. Our extremely skilled colleagues have vast experience and knowledge in the field of weaving and handcrafting as well as a fundamental sense of quality and attention to details. Genuine care and many hours of meticulous craftsmanship is invested in each of our unique hand-loomed products.
Just like the founder, we would not be able to offer our products without the excellent skills of our colleagues and the long hand-looming tradition that Sweden has. Each person involved in our production process is very competent with extraordinary skill in weaving and sewing and we are proud to have a very experienced and committed team producing our Countess von Eckermann products.
We have continued the tradition of letting people handloom in their homes. However, instead of limiting this opportunity to weavers in the vicinity of our production facility, we have today a national wide hand-looming production model that allows us to offer work and being part of our organization regardless where they live in our vast country. Our goal is to fuel a national wide engagement and to help support and evolve the exclusive Swedish hand-weaving heritage.
The production process of making one of our exclusive throws includes 25 steps, starting with the cones of yarn and ending with a finished product wrapped up and packed into one of our exclusive boxes.
All materials used for our handmade products are environmentally friendly and of the most exclusive quality – giving our unique products their exclusive nature. The yarn is directly imported from one of the most well renowned yarn manufactures in the world and is especially tailored for our hand-looming process.
Our unique hand-woven products are lined with the finest leather, prepared through the traditional craft process of vegetable tanning, a natural and environmental-friendly leather preparation method. The leather is cut, adjusted and assembled completely by hand, adding character to each product. The leather is soft and exclusive in nature and will only become finer over time.
What sets Countess von Eckermann apart from other producers or retailers? The combination of our unique history, heritage, commitment to quality, exclusivity, craftsmanship and the responsibility towards nature and society.
I am a firm believer that luxury today and in the future will be much more than just a shiny logo – it needs to have soul and a commitment to something greater than just the product, all in respect to the people making the product and the consumer paying a high price to own the exclusive and prestigious product in question.
Countess von Eckermann – Swedish Sustainable Luxury – Embodies Exclusivity, Design and responsibility – For people who care, is our motto and part of our mission and vision.
How does the company remain true to its heritage? I believe the company will stay true to its heritage as a natural consequence of my upbringing since I have been raised according to many of the fundamental values you find in our brand. I have a very special relationship to my grandmother, the founder of Countess von Eckermann and a lot of people say that we are very alike in many regards.
The company will also remain true to its heritage by us always challenging everything we do according to our motto and by having people working for us that truly understand our core values and that want to be part of fulfilling but also evolve our mission and vision.