Tiger of Sweden is today one of Scandinavia's most legendary and well-known brands. It all could have gone sideways and been shut down in a dark barack in small town in Sweden.
By Henrik Malmberg | Interview | 2015-10-28
Marcus Schwartzman and his companion Hjalmar Nordström founded the brand in 1903 under the name Schwartzman & Nordström. They got hugely popular right from the start in the suit business in Sweden thanks to their new way of taking care of business. Instead of letting the customer come to you, they brought the suit to peoples home. Thanks to that they could deliver the suits faster and easier without any reduction in quality and this was revolutionizing back in the early 20th century. One of the earliest models of the suits was called Tiger and it became so popular that Schwartzman decided to but a sign on the factory roof that said, ”Tigerkläder” (Tiger clothes). From that day on no one called the brand anything but Tiger.
The years went, business was rolling and then the second world war broke out. Most swedish companies struggled during the war but one flourished. Marcus Schwartzman managed to adapt the production and Tiger started to sew uniforms for the swedish army. After the war Tiger opened up one of the most modern factories in Europe in the small town of Uddevalla. The factory had air-conditioning, music system, club room, bakery shop, sauna and a swimming pool.
Ten years after the flourishing after-war period the business faded. The founder Marcus Schwartzman passed away and his son Robert Schwartzman took over. At the same time competition popped up from Finland, Portugal and a bunch of other countries that produced cheaper clothes. The swedish textile industry went into crisis with the growing competition and at the same time Robert Schwartzman tragically died in a car accident. Now Tiger stood without a leader and in the middle of a crisis. Times were so harsh that the swedish government bought Tiger in an attempt to stop the crisis in the swedish textile industry and save the jobs.
The swedish government sent Tiger into exile and forbid the brand to do any kind of marketing in Sweden and gav the suit business to other swedish brands. Tigers future were now hanging on by a thread.
Tiger managed to make their way in to the british fashion scene and shortly after aimed for the US market. With a cocky move they opened up their headquarters in the Empire State Building in New York. While the launching of the brand abroad were going good Tiger got in contact vid a swiss manufacture called Bleiche. Bleiche had a very nice gabardine fabric in it’s range, a fabric thats harder to make a suit of then a traditional fabric. Thanks to Tigers knowledge about tailoring they managed to produce suits from the fabric and all of sudden gabardine suits where the hottest suits on the market. Tiger sold 70 000 suits in one year in the US and the exil turned out to be a success.
In the year 1983 Tigers exploration abroad had gone so well that they were able to buy back the company from the swedish government and start on their own. Just as Tiger took their first steps on their own the next setback pushed them back on the ground. The trend of gabardine fabric cooled of and in 1987 Tiger was forced to move out from their headquarters in the Empire State Building. With no control from the government Tiger could choose which market they wanted to explore and put their chips in and they went all-in on the Yuppies. The Yuppies grew fast and they were wearing suits so the called seemed logic at the time but then a financial and real estate-crisis hit hard and the numbers of Yuppies reduced drastically and so did the numbers of Tiger-suits beeing sold. The brand was once again forced to sell the company and the buyers this time was a company called Tiger Brason with only four employees.
The nineties came and Tiger hit rock bottom. The sales from the suits hade been cut in half and the growing grunge-trend with Kurt Cobain leading the way were not a trend suitable for Tiger. The main office had in a few years moved from the Empire State Building to a small and dark barack in the small town of Alingsås, Sweden. The CEO of the time, Roger Tjernberg, was faced with a difficult decision about the brands future. The easy move would have been to pack down the suits in boxes and move on but Tjernberg thought otherwise.
Instead of trying to adjust to the grunge-trend Tiger went with what do know and do best, suits. The inspiration to the new suits came from the cult film ”Reservoir dogs” by Quentin Tarantino. The message from Tiger was loud and rebellic, take the suit out of the bank world and into the streets. The jackets were made so you could wear them without a tie and match them with jeans, and the suits were so comfortable that you would wanna skip your pyjamas and wear your suit to bed.
The first collection had a more narrow silhouette, smaller lapels and a tighter fit. The re-launch from Tiger was well received among artists, rock bands and excentric people in the media and all of a sudden the almost 100 year old Tiger was one of the hottest and hippest brands in Sweden.
Tiger were back on track and were now seen as one of the best brands in Scandinavia. With the wind in their sails Tiger went out to explore unknown territory and they started making jeans.
During the 00’s Tiger became one of the strongest players on the Swedish fashion scene but they were not satsified. 2008 the man who saved the brand, Robert Tjernberg, passed the torch to the young and bold David Thunmarker who aimed for the international market once again. As of today Tiger is growing and have more than 1200 stores in over 18 countries all over the world.
"We throw the best parties in the fashion industry"
"We throw the best parties in the fashion industry"
The success abroad is key and a motivation for menswear designer Ronnie McDonald.
– It has become an addiction, when you have success like we managed to have abroad you just want more. That’s the motivation for me to take Tiger to the next level.
McDonald describes the recipe for success for Tiger has been to use the knowledge that run through the veins of the brand and have an youthful approach to tailoring.
– Its the key to stay relevant is such a fast-paced industry as fashion and I think the strenghts of Tiger, besides the legacy, is embracing Scandinavia and have that young rock ’n' roll attitude.
The youthful and rock and roll attitude is something Tiger not only bring to their clothes, but also to the parties.
– We throw the best parties in the fashion industry and thats one reason why working at Tiger is so great. The main reason though why it’s the best job is because of all the knowledge and experience that runs through the brand. It makes my job as a designer much easier.
Although the knowledge and experience inside Tiger makes Ronnie McDonalds job easier that doesn’t mean he will lay off on the work load.
– My vision for Tiger is to constantly strive to be better than our competitors and never stop moving forward.
1. Invest in long term garments That way you can have them for several seasons. Karl Lagerfeld said it best: Trendy is the last stage before tacky. 2. Colour combinations Learn what colour and colour combinations works for you. That makes it easier to build a wardrobe where all garments work together in combination. 3. White shirts Always have a couple of white shirts in your wardrobe. 4. Spend money on shoes A great pair shoes can be the difference between a good outfit and a bad one. 5. Be picky with your suit Not every suit matches every body type. When you’re buying a suit off the rack don’t be afraid to get it altered.
Founded: 1903 Main office: Stockholm, Sweden Employees: 134 Revenue 2014: 132 million USD Feature: A sharp sartorialist with a rock 'n' roll attitude. Favourite piece of clothing: The suits as a great fit and breathes rock 'n' roll more than Wall street.
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