Oi Polloi

An Interview with Sinan from Séfr

Published: Fri Apr 05 2019

Séfr is a Swedish brand that make some exceptionally classy clobber. 

It’s luxurious, without being too over the top – the sort-of thing that won't look out of place during long afternoons down the pub, as well as razzing an Aston Martin around country estates if that makes any sense? 

To illuminate things further, here’s an interview with co-founder Sinan Abi about vintage clothes, the wonders of Sweden and gut instinct…

For starters, what is Sefr? 

Séfr means zero in Lebanese Arabic. The idea behind Séfr is that with everything we do, we try to do it in a different and unique way — everything from the design to the production to how we communicate on our social media platforms. 

Instead of set rules and ideas of what’s supposed to be right, we actively try to break those types of boundaries. 

According to my research, you guys heard you guys started off selling vintage clothes, which is a bit similar to how Oi Polloi started. How did hoarding vintage clothes transform into Sefr? 

We started the vintage shop back in 2012 when studying and working for other brands in Malmö. The idea of starting our own brand always appealed to us. Whilst our customers were in our store browsing our vintage selection we always asked them what they were looking in terms of details, and why. 

We started off by doing a shirt called Crash in two different color ways. It was produced in 200 pieces and the shirts sold out instantly. At that point we realized that our customers weren't the typical thrift-shopper, but were instead looking for really good quality clothes.

Do you think your years collecting vintage clothes gave you a perspective you might not have had before? 

Absolutely, after selling everything from vintage Helmut Lang to rare Margiela pieces we got a deeper understanding of fashion and the historic references found in clothing.

Some specific details have seemed to have been forgotten during the last few decades, so we’re trying to create garments which in some way reflect today but still feel timeless, like those vintage pieces. 

Did you collect any particular types of vintage clothes? Or was it a bit more of an eclectic mix of stuff? 

Me and Per started the vintage shop by riding our bikes around the city of Malmö and picking up high-end clothes from friends and acquaintances. Indeed it was an eclectic mix of garments from a variety of brands.

We tried to keep the mind-set of only accepting clothes from highly esteemed brands in mint or close to mint condition. Most of the stuff was sold on commission, so the seasonal aspect was also important to take in account. 

You guys are based in Malmö, right? I've never been out there - do you find that the city influences your clothes, or your decision making? 

We started off in Malmö, correct. But we moved the entire operation to Gothenburg last year. It came very naturally, both me and Per are originally from Gothenburg and it’s where we have our family and friends. But Malmö did for a long time have a big influence on us. It's a city with a very prominent cultural scene, not only in clothing and design but also in music. 

Sweden seems like a bit of a hotbed for great films, great art and great clothes. Do you have an idea about what is it about Sweden that produces such mint stuff?

Well, in some ways I'd say that there's a free mind-set. I'm not sure how it works in the UK but in Sweden there are different types of financial support you can apply for, for different types of cultural activities. 

Looking at your wares, it's all pretty luxurious, especially those towelling shirts. How do you go about choosing fabrics? 

We are incredibly keen on choosing both fabrics and our choice of manufacturers. Naturally as an ethical standpoint, all of our products are made in Europe and the fabrics are sourced from reputed European mills. This is obviously important to us but not our primary impulsion. 

What really gets us going is unique material which has a sort of twist to it. That goes into the design-process as well. It could be a material which is often seen in womenswear which we produce in a “masculine” shirt style with custom made buttons, giving it a unique look and feeling. 

It all seems pretty timeless as well. Are you influenced by contemporary brands at all? 

Absolutely, we are influenced by contemporary designers as well - but we try not to focus on the label. Mostly we are influenced by womenswear. A lot of the details we put in the Séfr garments comes out of the inspiration we get from vintage women's pieces.

What kind of stuff do you tend to avoid when designing clobber? 

I usually trust my gut when designing a new collection. I need to be satisfied with not only the individual pieces but the overall feeling of the collection. It’s vital that we’re all feeling thrilled and excited, since this is what we want our customers to feel. If the feeling does not present itself, we usually go back to the drawing board. 

Another important thing is that we don’t stop moving forward. We actively try to renew Séfr with each and every collection. It should be as stirring for us as for our customers.

What do you guys do when you're not designing clothes and stuff? 

Both me and Per have kids. I have two sons — a two year old and a new-born. Per also has a new-born son. We honestly don’t have much time over for anything else besides family and work - but it’s as it should be. We are both family men - the contrasts are large and we love that. 

Any words of wisdom to end this with?  

When you work hard opportunities appears, so you have to be ready to take them. That’s what we have done since day one.