Oi Polloi

Interview: Joel from Schnayderman's

Published: Tue Sep 05 2017

In these days of uncertainty and novelty, you must never forget the important things in life — fresh air… a flavoursome packet of crisps… that feeling of satisfaction you get when you slip on a high quality shirt on a bright, Autumnal morn.  

Schnayderman’s is a company from Sweden who understand this more than most. Whilst most brands try to be all things to all people, this lot focus purely on making really, really good shirts. No mad gimmicks, just a wondrous balance of buttons, collars and sleeves. 

I talked with main-man Joel Urwitz to find out more.

First things first, how did Schnayderman’s come about? What’s the story behind it? 

Being shirt nerds, we had the ambition to master one product instead of many — we thought we could expand the idea of what a shirt could be.  

Where did the name come from? It really rolls of the tongue. 

Schnayderman’s means tailor-man in Yiddish. It’s the language of me and my co-founding partner’s forefathers that came to Sweden in the early 20th century from Eastern Europe. 

Many of them were in the ‘shmatte’ business (that’s Yiddish for ‘clothing industry’). The name is a tribute to our family’s history — the rest of our brand and process has a more contemporary and progressive approach.  

You lot just make shirts. Do you think you’ll ever deviate and start making Schnayderman’s trousers or something? 

You never know. I’m pretty sure that Schnayderman’s core always will be shirts, but we’ll also do other garments that we feel are an expansion of what a shirt can be. 

This season we’ve redefined signature item, the Overshirt, with different features, and added new styles, like the Coatshirt and the T-Shirt — a versatile piece to style on top of a shirt or just by its minimalistic self. 

If this range will include trousers at some point… time will tell. 

Shirts are fairly simple in design terms, which probably makes it a bit harder to stand out and make a truly brilliant one. What is the secret to making a good shirt? 

As with any good garment, I think it’s all about the details. The best fit, the best fabric and buttons of course. Another cornerstone for us is simplicity… letting the garment speak for itself. 

What was the first great shirt you wore? And which shirts suck? 

It was probably some shirt that I inherited from my father, who just like me is a big ‘shirt nerd’. There's one chambray shirt that I’ve had for years and years, which still has that great feel. 

The ones that suck are the ones that don’t last a season.  

I suppose if you’re making subtle shirt, then you’ve probably got to use fairly fancy fabrics to set your shirts apart from the rest. What materials do you use? Where does the fabric come from? 

We put a lot of effort into sourcing the best fabrics and trimmings such as creased linen and nylon; structural cotton and wool; washed and faded denims as well as our characteristic light poplins. The fabrics are principally from Italy, Japan and Portugal. The shirt buttons are hand made in Italy and the snaps from an old Swedish supplier. 

Where do you make your shirts? 

Our shirts are sewn close to our home town of Stockholm, at a Swedish factory that moved to Estonia, which is just over cross the Baltic Sea from Stockholm, in the eighties. We are also, on a small scale, producing in Portugal.  

Moving on from shirt chat now, what else do you like to get up to? What music are you into? 

When I don’t work I try to enjoy my free time in the best possible way with my loved ones, combined with a lot of cooking and eating out, and in the summer, taking a dip in the sea and the lakes of Stockholm. 

This coming weekend I am seeing French band Phoenix here in Stockholm. Other music on my playlist right now is everything from 2Pac and Drake to Bon Iver, The War on Drugs, as well as Swedish acts like Shout Out Louds and Håkan Hellström. 

Have you seen any good films lately? 

Dunkirk was a really good one. Christopher Nolan never disappoints.  

How come so many decent clothing companies come from Scandinavia? 

I think it's a combination of two factors. First we have a strong design heritage with a clear identity and style that appeals to an audience that reaches far beyond our own borders. This is great. 

Second I think we have a healthy culture focusing on both art and commercial elements of the business as brands grow.  

Have you got any recommendations for things to do up there? Any good places worth visiting? 

Whenever in Stockholm I recommend you to visit a really good bakery and try our bread. One of my favorites is Lillebrors Bageri at Rörstrandsgatan 12. 

Otherwise, you just have to get out in the Stockholm archipelago for some serious island jumping. That’s one of my favorite things to do this time of year, especially just after a hectic summer season. 

Okay, I think that’s all I’ve got so far… have you got any words of wisdom you’d like to add? 

As a wise man said to me, “logic will get you from A to B, imagination and a good shirt will take you anywhere.”