Eva Karlsson

The fashion entrepreneur travels by train from Stockholm to Munich – for the sake of the environment.

(Photo: Gabriel Liljevall / Houdini)

Munich Buying a new ski jacket for a week of winter vacation? Eva Karlsson thinks this is nonsense. The boss and partner of the Swedish outdoor label Houdini therefore offers the equipment for the slopes for rent. “We even achieve higher margins than when we sell the clothing,” explains the Swedish entrepreneur. For the 50-year-old, innovative business models are part of protecting the environment.

Ever since she took over Houdini almost two decades ago, sustainable management has been at the heart of her work. The Swede’s goal is to achieve a cycle. She strives for all-weather clothes that are made entirely from recycled materials.

In the end, however, consumers should not simply dispose of jackets and pants, hoodies and T-shirts in the used clothing container. The items of clothing should either be recyclable on an equal basis or they should crumble completely into compost.

Karlsson believes that this is on the right track, but does not consider it sufficient. Therefore, she also experiments with new services. She currently only offers clothes for rent in her own six stores, but soon the service will also be available online. This is sustainable on the one hand, but also good for your brand: “We are building a very special relationship with our customers.”

Many large labels focus on sustainability

This is not the only innovation that Karlsson is currently concerned with. She is also working on a clothing subscription. According to the plan, consumers should change their clothes at any time. This would ensure their small company that the textiles are used frequently and for a long time.

Houdini grows and thrives, assures Karlsson. The turnover of the medium-sized company from the Stockholm suburb of Nacka increases between 20 and 30 percent each year; most recently it was 20 million euros. However, Houdini is by no means the only outdoor company that has consistently committed to sustainability. Vaude from Tettnang in Swabia follows a similar path; in the USA, Patagonia is considered a green pioneer.

The major suppliers in industry, such as Jack Wolfskin, are increasingly emphasizing their efforts to protect the environment. “We were always very quiet,” emphasizes company boss Melody Harris-Jensbach. The Jack Wolfskin label has already achieved a lot. “We are now trying to communicate this positively and authentically,” said the manager.

We achieve higher margins by renting than when we sell the clothing. Eva Karlsson, CEO Houdini

That is why Houdini also has to stand out from its typical Scandinavian design. The approach is “minimalistic”, explains Karlsson. This is well received by dealers in this country. “Houdini maintains a clear, reduced style,” explains Martin Kerner, head of the Karlsruhe outdoor shop base camp. Karlsson also focused the brand very early and consistently on sustainability, that is what distinguishes it.

Nevertheless, it is more of a hobby to offer the label in his shop in the city center of the Baden city. Because, like many other smaller providers, it is not really perceived by consumers. The staff in the shop had to explain a lot, especially since the models were comparatively expensive.

However, this is hardly possible, especially on days with strong sales. Houdini is on the shelves of specialists like base camp. But chains like Globetrotter also carry the label in Germany.

The rather unusual name for a Swedish outdoor brand goes back to company founder Lotta Giornofelice. According to legend, she was on a mountain tour in a hopeless situation in 1993, when she remembered the strong nerves and the skill of the great escape and magician Harry Houdini. She survived the adventure and from then on Houdini became a household name for the alpinist.

Giornofelice, however, had no interest in making the brand big and handed it over to her friend Karlsson at the beginning of the millennium. You now own the company together with some investors and numerous of the 50 employees.

For the energetic woman, sustainability is more than just a marketing mesh: at the end of January, she traveled to Stockholm from the world’s largest sports fair, the Stockholm-Munich train.

More: Jack Wolfskin wants to go back on the shelves as a green brand

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