Building A Modern Brand: Totême’s Elin Kling And Karl Lindman
When Elin Kling first appeared on the fashion scene back in the late 00s, she quickly became known for her enviably effortless style, espousing the kind of Scandi cool that has since had the fashion world in its thrall. In 2014, Elin and her partner Karl Lindman began their own venture, turning her stylish vision into the brand Totême, now based in the couple’s home city of Stockholm. Focusing on a timeless wardrobe of sleek staples inspired by architecture and design, Totême has quickly become synonymous with just the kind of understated elegance that today’s modern woman wants to wear. To celebrate the brand’s exclusive capsule collection with Browns, we asked founders Elin and Karl to tell us more about combining their skills in life and love...
How did you two first meet?
Elin and Karl: We met in New York through mutual friends.
Between you, how do you divide up your skills and responsibilities when running your business?
Karl: We are both very much part of the daily operations at Totême. Elin spends most of her days with the design and creative teams to execute the vision as Creative Director, and I oversee the art direction and the brand, as Brand Director.
Would you say your personalities and working styles are aligned, or is it more of an “opposites attract” dynamic?
Elin: As we outlined the concept for Totême, we realized that our backgrounds complemented each other. I had a loyal following and a clear point of view, which combined with Karl’s expertise in luxury branding formed an ideal combination. We complement each other in many ways, and work is a central part of both our lives. It feels great to have built something together.
What was the ethos behind the capsule you’ve created for Browns?
Elin: Totême revolves around signature looks and trusted pieces that are subtly refined and tweaked over time, and the collection reflects this.
Do you have a favourite piece? Why?
Elin: The dinner jacket, Molara. It’s a piece I was missing in my own wardrobe – a jacket that can be added to a dress on chilly summer nights. It’s less formal than a blazer but still feels pulled together, with an easy silhouette that will work with most dresses. In fall I will wear it to work with a pair of high-waisted jeans.
Elin, when you first made your name in fashion, it was a time where the industry was very focused around fashion week and trends, whereas Totême is founded on a sense of longevity and timelessness. How did that shift in mindset happen for you? When did you realise you wanted to create a brand like Totême?
Elin: My background has very much set the direction for Totême: my goal was never to cover every trend, but a style that appealed to me. I take the same edited approach to Totême. It’s about curating a streamlined wardrobe that backs our woman’s purpose – pieces to rely on that go well together, and transcend trends. We love the idea of creating a signature look with a strong identity, and defining that look for different occasions.
Karl, what about you? What was your career journey like prior to Totême?
Karl: My background is in art direction and luxury branding. I was the Senior Art Director at Baron & Baron in New York, and then Design Director at Interview Magazine. I’m now overseeing the brand at Totême, as Brand Director.
When you first started Totême, was there any person, designer or company you looked to for inspiration or guidance?
Elin: Totême is a style universe based around our woman’s world. It’s about defining a wardrobe that suits her life and changing needs. With this, the inspiration is very much taken from my own life, my friends’ lives, and women around us. What do our days look like, what challenges do we face, and how can we find comfort and confidence through our wardrobes?
Who is the Totême woman? Is there a woman who you feel evokes the brand and its values?
Elin: The Totême woman is a person who likes to curate her world according to her taste and values. This is her mission, in a sense – shaping and defining who she is and what she aspires to be. She’s a constant work in progress – she’s not perfect and she’s never “complete” – and she’d like to keep it that way.
In previous interviews, you’ve both spoken about following your gut feeling when it comes to building your brand. Do you have any tips on how to cultivate instinct, and how to return to it if you find yourself drifting?
Elin: If in doubt, I always go back to myself and what I want to wear. Is this appealing to me?
Karl: Be flexible to change and demand but don’t compromise the vision or expression, and never take shortcuts.
Is there anything you disagree on?
Elin: Takeout. We never want the same thing.
The brand’s ethos celebrates elegance and minimalism. Are there any areas in which either of you have maximalist tendencies?
Elin and Karl: Christmas! We miss the Holiday season in New York – the decor, the lighting, the food, and the excess of it all. Last year, we decided to bring some of that festive spirit to Stockholm and our store. We had Santa’s workshop windows, a mistletoe garland wrapped along the staircase, and supersize gift boxes stacked here and there. It was magical – we’ll do it again this year.
Quick fire recommendations:
Karl: Knives Out (2019). I have always been an Agatha Christie fan so I found Rian Johnson’s modern take on the classic whodunit murder mystery highly entertaining.
Elin: I’m currently reading Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult.
An artist or designer to Google…
Elin and Karl: Andrée Putman – an interior designer we’ve always loved and who’s influenced our interiors at home, at the studio, and at our Stockholm store.
Favourite Swedish dish…
Elin and Karl: Toast Skagen – a classic that never gets old. Simply mix the best shrimps you can find with a bit of mayo, a touch of horseradish, some lemon juice, dill, salt and pepper. Serve with a spoonful of Kalix löjrom (whitefish roe from Northern Sweden) on top, on a slice of white toast, pan fried with lots of butter.
Your one guilty pleasure…
Elin and Karl: A good bottle (or two) of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.