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Gudrun Sjödén—A Colourful Universe

Apr 01, 2020 - Oct 18, 2020

Related programming:
Nordic Women In Leadership | A Conversation with Gudrun Sjödén and Petra Hilleberg | Watch here

The technicolored story of an inspired, knowledgeable, and principled creator of fashion for women worldwide is brought to vivid life in "Gudrun Sjödén—A Colourful Universe." This career retrospective of Swedish fashion designer Gudrun Sjödén (b. 1941) examines her philosophy, process, and practice through watercolors, clothing, textiles, and archival materials. 

The exhibition title references a guiding consideration in her designs—color. Sjödén cites French artist Henri Matisse’s bright, brilliant canvases and Mexican painter Frida Kahlo’s eclectic, vibrant personal style as influences. From Sweden, the artistic influence of the Sámi captured Sjödén’s attention early in her career, and she has since discovered that her own maternal line may be traced to the indigenous inhabitants of Sápmi, more specifically the Kola Peninsula. Each of her collections examines a region of the world, and she collaborates with designers who have firsthand understanding of these aesthetics and their significance. In 2019, Sjödén partnered with the mother-and-daughter design team of Delina White and Lavender Hunt, founders of IamAnishinaabe, members of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, Anishinaabe Nation, and residents of the Leech Lake Reservation in Northern Minnesota. The floral patterns of Delina’s cross-body bag are unique to the Anishinaabe Nation, and they align with Sjödén’s interest in nature. Fascinated by folk motifs and flowers, Sjödén has explored the visual culture of Europe, North and South America, and Asia. Recurring motifs are abstracted sunflowers, tulips, and roses—the last being her signature shape.   

Sjödén’s work begins as a painting in watercolor, which she then translates into textile design. She received her artistic training in regional textile traditions at Stockholm’s Konstfack, University of Arts, Crafts, and Design (1958–1963) and draws from this foundational educational experience in each year’s collection. In 1974, she registered her trademark—Gudrun Sjödén AB—which led to Sjödén opening a storefront from which to sell her textiles two years later.  

From her first brick and mortar location on Stockholm’s Regeringsgatan to today’s online marketplace, Gudrun Sjödén—A Colourful Universe will trace the trajectory of her life as a fashion designer and entrepreneur.  


*Note: at the request of the designer, we are using the British title of this exhibition, hence "Gudrun Sjödén—A Colourful Universe."

A photo of Gudrun, with bobbed white hair dressed in a white sweater and stripped shirt, sits at a table and paints bright floral watercolors. The wall behind her is yellow and displays more of her botanical watercolors.