Myrqvist, a Scandinavian Approach to Traditional Footwear

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Swedish footwear brand Myrqvist blends traditional shoemaking to an unexpectedly fitting Scandinavian design approach. Sebastian Öhrn, founder of the brand, explains his philosophy and shares with us the challenges he and his team had to face over their almost ten years in the craft.

Sebastian Öhrn, Founder of Myrqvist

Could you share with us a little about your background and what initially inspired you to create Myrqvist?

I’m 31 years old now and have been immersed in building this brand for the past seven years. It essentially encompasses my entire professional journey thus far. My interest in menswear and craftsmanship dates back to my teenage years. Footwear particularly captured my fascination around the age of 18, prompting me to delve into the intricacies of crafting high-quality shoes, exploring esteemed brands like Crockett and Jones. Alongside this passion, I’ve harbored a keen interest in entrepreneurship and business. Pursuing economics and management at the University of St. Andrews further solidified these aspirations. Surrounded by peers destined for careers in banking or consulting, I found myself torn between my love for menswear and the allure of entrepreneurship. Combining these passions, I seized the opportunity to forge my own path, launching Myrqvist in 2016.

While the journey initially started with me, I was fortunate to have early collaborators such as Olle and Massar, who remain integral as founding partners and shareholders in the business. Our team is relatively small and everyone shares a deep dedication and a founder’s mindset. It’s been a collective effort filled with passion, hard work, and a shared vision that has shaped Myrqvist to what it is today.

What is the meaning of your brand’s name and what does it signify?

I understand that for those unfamiliar with Swedish, “Myrqvist” may sound rather peculiar and challenging to pronounce. However, “Myrqvist” is a colloquial term referring to the plant upon which a very specific berry grows. This berry is known as the cloudberry. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with it, but it resembles an orange raspberry and is exclusive to Sweden, growing only in select marshy areas. To me, “Myrqvist” embodies the essence of Swedish heritage and the dedication required in crafting our products. In fact, the inspiration behind the name stemmed from personal experience. I recall spending time with my grandmother, harvesting these berries in the marshes, and feeling a profound connection to both the land and its traditions. This deeply meaningful experience became the driving force behind our brand name, “Myrqvist.”

We haven’t actively spotlighted this narrative in our communication channels. However, in Sweden, Myrqvist sounds like a traditional Swedish surname and it exudes a sense of traditional Swedish craftsmanship and heritage, which aligns perfectly with our brand values. It’s a cherished aspect of our brand’s identity, reflecting our commitment to quality and authenticity.

As a brand, what core values and beliefs does Myrqvist embody, and how do these inform the design and production of your products?

Craftsmanship and effort are at the heart of what we do at Myrqvist, but it’s crucial to consider these elements within a specific price point. Our mission is centered on delivering exceptional customer value. While there are luxury brands selling shoes for a thousand euros or more, our focus lies in providing the best possible value within our price range, which currently falls between 200 to 300 euros. This value encompasses various aspects, including the quality of materials, the construction of the shoe (most of which are Goodyear welted), and the meticulous attention to design. We view ourselves as offering a Scandinavian take on traditional British footwear, characterized by a slightly more minimalistic aesthetic that also reflects the Scandinavian influence in terms of fit and shape. In recent years, we’ve expanded our product range to include a contemporary line, featuring sneakers, sandals, and hiking boots, all while maintaining the brand identity of Myrqvist. Our aim is to create the classics of tomorrow, blending timeless appeal with contemporary elements and, above all, prioritizing customer value.

Our customer base spans beyond Sweden, reaching enthusiasts worldwide. Sweden has long been recognized for its forward-thinking approach to style, coupled with a casual attitude toward dress codes, making it an ideal environment for our products to thrive. We strive to bridge the gap between classic and contemporary footwear, recognizing that not everyone desires traditional lace-up Oxfords anymore. By infusing classic designs with modern elements, such as loafers and functional features like rubber soles for enhanced comfort and protection, we cater to diverse markets globally. This Scandinavian mindset resonates with individuals worldwide, appealing to their desire for both style and practicality, regardless of their location.

Have you ever envisioned expanding your product line beyond footwear?

During the tumultuous times of COVID-19, various possibilities were considered, including branching out into clothing or jeans, as suggested by advisors. However, we remained steadfast in our commitment to footwear. While we do offer some accessories like socks, our focus remains on perfecting our core product. We believe there’s still ample room for innovation within the footwear category, whether it’s refining existing designs, investing in proprietary technology, or sourcing premium materials. Our aim is to continually elevate our footwear offerings and solidify our position as a leader in the market. As for expanding into other product categories, perhaps when we reach a much larger scale, it may be a consideration. But for now, we’re content with our footwear-centric approach, supplemented by an omni-channel retail strategy and a strong online presence, especially outside our home market of Sweden.

What are some of your most popular or beloved products, and what do you think makes them stand out to customers?

Our best sellers continue to thrive, with classics like the Äppelviken leading the charge. As our quintessential Oxford, it’s a staple in every gentleman’s wardrobe, embodying timeless elegance and versatility. However, we’ve also witnessed a surge in popularity for more contemporary styles. Take, for instance, our recent winter release, the Funäs boot—a stylish zipper boot that has garnered a considerable acclaim. It’s been incredibly rewarding to witness the success of products like the Funäs, where we’ve ventured beyond traditional classics to introduce our own unique designs and innovations. Seeing these creations resonate with our customers is truly gratifying.

Are there any meaningful moments in the history of Myrqvist that you would like to share with us?

Entrepreneurship is a rollercoaster ride, filled with peaks and valleys. One particular instance comes to mind, a moment when we found ourselves at a significant low. It was the beginning of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. At that time, our product line predominantly comprised of traditional, Goodyear welted dress shoes, tailored for office wear, weddings, and formal occasions. However, with the onset of lockdowns, the demand for such footwear plummeted, causing global sales to decrease by over 80% compared to 2019. It was a stark and sudden decline, challenging the very foundation of our business. In response, we realized the urgent need to pivot our strategy. We recognized an opportunity to diversify our product offering, catering to the growing demand for casual and contemporary styles. This marked the inception of our new line of contemporary footwear, designed to appeal to a broader demographic beyond formal settings. One notable addition to this line is our Oaxen Monochrome sneaker—a sleek, low-top design that seamlessly integrates into office attire. We deliberately avoided the bulky white sole commonly associated with sneakers, opting for a more refined look suitable for professional settings. Looking back, while the challenges posed by the pandemic were undoubtedly daunting, they also served as a catalyst for innovation and adaptation. Through adversity, we embraced change, transforming hardship into opportunity. Our foray into contemporary styles has not only reinvigorated our brand but has also become integral to our identity. It’s a testament to our resilience and determination to thrive despite adversity.

Among the most iconic brands with a strong legacy, what is your favorite one and why?

It’s a thought-provoking question, and I appreciate the opportunity to delve into it. While luxury brands like Hermès certainly command admiration, I find myself drawn to those that strike a balance between premium quality and broad accessibility. Ralph Lauren stands out in this regard. It has left an indelible mark on the global fashion scene, particularly within the American preppy aesthetic. What fascinates me is its ability to exude timelessness and luxury while catering to a wide audience. Ralph Lauren’s appeal spans demographics, making it inclusive and aspirational, which is both aesthetically and business-wise inspirational to me.

Is there a book, a movie or a trip that has inspired your life or the creation of the brand?

While it may not be a traditional trip, my time studying at St. Andrews University in Scotland holds immense significance. Coming from Stockholm, immersing myself in the rich preppy culture and traditional British heritage of the university sparked the initial inspiration for my brand. It was there that I began to envision creating a product within the realm of classic footwear, traditionally associated with Northamptonshire brands like Crockett and Jones, but infusing it with my Swedish roots, resulting in an Anglo-Scandinavian fusion embodied by Myrqvist. 

Additionally, if I may expand beyond that, the book “Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight has been profoundly influential. Even for those not particularly interested in footwear, Knight’s journey in founding Nike offers invaluable insights into entrepreneurship and resilience. His recounting of the challenges he faced resonated deeply with me and served as a source of motivation during my own entrepreneurial endeavors.

As a company focused on product development, our goal is simple: to continually enhance our offerings and deliver the best possible product to our customers at an unbeatable price. Over the past few years, we’ve made significant strides, and now we’re poised to enter a new phase of growth. This entails further investment in our factories and production processes, which promises exciting developments on the horizon. While I can’t share all the details just yet, I can assure you that this year holds many exciting prospects. Consider this an invitation to stay tuned and discover more about our latest updates and innovations.

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