BJÖRK silver – big bracelet with branches

JohannaN is an Umeå-based company that designs, produces and sells jewellery. It’s owned by Johanna Nilsson who also designsthe jewellery, and her goal isn’t to make money. ”If I work hard enough, maybe I’ll be able to discuss the issues that are important to me. I want to be a powerful force in slow fashion.”

So what is slow fashion? Johanna explains. ”It’s the opposite of fast fashion and the big chain stores. It’s about conscious consumption, buying fewer but better things.” Slow fashion is sustainable, both in production and in consumption.

JohannaN has an office within the BIC Factory incubator in Umeå, Sweden, and employs one person part-time. ”Hiring someone means I can now spend my time building the brand and finding new people to work with”.

She refers to her products as statement pieces and conversation starters, and it’s easy to see why given their unique background. ”I combine northern Swedish design with Thai crafts history”. Johanna designs the jewellery in Sweden, but they’re made in Thailand by people she got to know during an exchange year in the country.

Her location in the north of Sweden is important. ”I’ve based a lot of the brand around Norrland and Umeå, both in the spirit of the company and the design itself. There’s a certain amount of exoticism around northern Sweden in countries like the Netherlands and Belgium.”

Johanna says one of the biggest challenges has been to view herself as an entrepreneur, perhaps that’s why she finds her role models in completely different fields. ”I’ve realized that everyone is building their brand. I’m inspired by people who become visible based on who they are and what they believe.”

She wants to keep expanding, but she believes in meeting people in person. ”The normal way of exporting is through agents or distributors but I’ve gone the opposite way and hired

Boa – necklace with tree and butterflies

someone back home so I can travel and meet shopowners myself.”

That way of building relationships also shows in how the company uses social media. JohannaN is active on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram, as well as keeping their own blog and sending out newsletters. ”I think it’s important to respond to every comment, I want the customers to feel like they know me.”

You’d think as a student who dropped out to focus on her business, there’d be a few detours or mistakes along the way but if she had to do it all over again she wouldn’t do it any differently. ”I don’t think there are any shortcuts, it’s all a process and you get where you are through hard work.”