How Selvage Came To Be
Enrique Sanchez, founder of Selvage, shares his
story behind the fashion store in Kalmar.
Selvage. Who would’ve thought that Kalmar, a city in the southeast of Sweden of only 40.000 people, could house such a niched fashion- and lifestyle store? Enrique thought so. And he made sure to prove any doubters wrong.
Today, Selvage houses more than 16 brands from all over the world. The selection is carefully put together — the red thread covers quality, ethics, style, and tells you everything about the passion and dream that Enrique is trying to convey through his modest store in the outskirts of Småland, Sweden.
Apart for well-crafted footwear from Common Projects and avant-garde pieces from Damir Doma — he’s made room for more lifestyle oriented things, such as scented candles, lava stones and fashion books.
But it hasn’t been smooth sailing all the way. As with every new business, there’s this uphill ride that you have to deal with. For some, it lasts longer. And for others, it’s completely unpredictable.
We sat down and talked with Enrique, to hear his thoughts on the journey Selvage has been through.
Enrique, what was life like before Selvage?
"Well… I’d been dreaming about opening my own little place ever since high school, when my interest in fashion really started to grow. But it felt impossible, right? We didn’t have much back then."
"I worked at JC [a Swedish jeans store] when I was 20. That's when I really started to nerd out. What material is this, why'd they make the seams this way, you know? I really liked that place. Actually so much that I wanted to buy in at some point, but it just wasn't possible."
Opening your own place takes proverbial balls — what made you take that big leap?
"Haha… A really good friend of mine was studying economics back then, I think it was around 2007… He was absolutely sure I’d do good on my own. He kept nagging me about it and said I’d do well, since I care so much about the actual meeting, you know? Between people. Individuals."
"He made an impression I guess. I quit my job at JC in the spring of 2008 and found a place I could rent in town. Things went really fast. I started researching brands I was interested in, and back then I was really focused on Scandinavian up-and-coming brands. So, with a little help from the bank and some really hard work put in by my loved ones, we finally opened up shop. I couldn’t have done it without my family and friends."
"It was never about just buying and selling"
Selvage opened up their doors almost 8 years ago, and Enrique describes it as a challenging journey, but that every second’s been worth it.
"Opening up a store like this in Kalmar, of all places, was very unusual. But people liked it. Really liked it. So together with the people who were interested, we had built a regular base of customers… Customers…"
It’s clear that Enrique thinks of his customers as more than just customers. Friends, more than anything. He tells us that many of his regulars stop by just for the connection they’ve found.
"I don’t want to use that word, customers… They’re friends. Buddies. Thanks to the feeling I think we’re sending out with what we do, people stay for coffee sometimes. We chit chat, about life, problems and stuff. It was never about just buying and selling."
“We’re family, and we help each other out."
Tell us more about your family — I understand they’ve been of tremendous help to you, and Selvage?
"Yes. YES! I can’t emphasize that enough. It really is a family business. It’s amazing — so there’s me, my mother Mirta, my father Manuel and my nephew Malcolm. Mom and dad are there with me probably 6-7 days a week."
"I’m really happy we’ve got some chilean culture which means we’re family, and we help each other out. It’s important, you really cherish it. We work around the clock together, and without them… Without them I don’t think we would last long. And my nephew, Malcolm, he’s great. We’re starting to ease him into the company now, and I guess he’s always sort of looked up to his uncle a little bit. Haha! Right now, he helps us out during weekends, and models when we take photos. And he’s a great marketer within his social circles, you know. Parties, in school, sports…"
"If we crash and burn, we’ll crash and burn with pride!"
Enrique’s passion for what he does is hard to miss, and the fire in his eyes tell us more about Selvage’s future than words could ever do. He talks confidently about how important it is to believe in what you do — and we find it really difficult not to be inspired.
"You’ve always got to believe in what you do no matter what. Things have been up and down, and sometimes we’ve been just days away from closing. I mean, of course. I’ve felt gutted every now and then, it’s like that sometimes when you're on your own. Doing things your own way."
"But you’ve gotta believe in it to a 100%, because it’s going to reflect in what you show the world. I’ve always believed in my idea, and especially believed in the meetings we share with the people coming in. I mean… If we crash and burn, we’ll crash and burn with pride!"
Can you share a special memory with us from your time with Selvage?
"The things I’ll definitely keep with me are all of the people I’ve met, inspired, and been inspired by. We’ll follow each other for life. I might not have seen them for years, and all of a sudden — someone stops by and we’re like “hey!”. We catch up. It’s nice."
"And of course, to see how my hard work has paid off. It’s funny… I could barely afford a T-shirt from Filippa K back when I was 13, and now — I’m sitting right there at the catwalk. Watching my favorite designers since I was a little kid. It’s surreal."
Last year, Selvage opened up the online store you’re currently browsing. Reaching out to even more people who share the same passion for clothes, fashion and lifestyle has always been a dream, but it’s clear that it has to be more than just an online store. After all, Enrique is passionate about people, meetings and stories. Selvage is Enrique.
And that’s why he’s set out to make this something bigger than just your regular, click-and-buy, internet stop.
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