Sebastian Dollinger is considered something of a luminary in the world of shirtmaking. As creative director of 91-year old Swedish shirting house Eton, he has revitalised the brand, bringing his innovative and boundary-pushing designs to an otherwise commonplace and often overlooked garment. We were lucky enough to chat with Sebastian about his sources of inspiration, his vision for Eton and the pleasures of a simple, well-made shirt.
I understand you have quite a history at Eton. Can you tell me a bit about your experience with Eton and how you came to be involved with the brand?
It all started in the basement of my parents' house. That's where my father, Eton's first Sales Manager, used to put the Eton collections together in the '80s. The room was completely full of these small fabric cuttings and my father would put the fabric collection together piece by piece. I used to sit there with him, even though my mother would not actually allow me to go down there because I would disturb Dad in his work. I spent my summers at the factory with my Dad, and I used to hang out with the seamstresses up on the top floor where they created all the CMT [cut, make and trim]. Then at the age of 16 I got a job working in the stockroom. Since then - 20 years ago - I have held every position in the company up until now, as Creative Director. Quite a journey!
What is the key design philosophy behind Eton?
For Eton's design and its aesthetic expression, we strive first to create the best possible essential pieces on the market and then add design work based on expressive mood boards. We see ourselves as artists creating explicit seasonal collections, and the canvas for our creative expression just happens to be a shirt, a pocket square, a scarf, or a tie.
Obsession with every detail is something that runs through our entire company, in combination with a ton of good old-fashioned Swedish work ethics. It's a fantastic company to be a part of, where all departments work their asses off (to be frank), to contribute to offering our customers excellence.
Who do you envisage as the typical Eton customer?
It's generally speaking a man who is comfortable in his own identity and doesn’t need to show off the brands he wears in a "hello I'm wearing a huge logo" kind of way. I think we have an awesome customer. Our brand awareness is driven by word of mouth. It doesn't matter if he is an art director from San Francisco or a banker in London. What they have in common is their love for quality and design. Since we are shirt specialists, we have such a vast variety of shirt styles that we can have lots of different customers in the way they wear clothes in different individual ways.