Grad is Head Designer for Activewear Brand in Sweden

Grad is Head Designer for Activewear Brand in Sweden

Born in Stockholm, Sweden, Jessica Rosenquist moved to Los Angeles when she was 19 and graduated from FIDM in 2011 with her degree in Merchandise Product Development. She is now a head designer in Sweden for two activewear brands in SF Group: Better Bodies and Gasp. One of her dreams is to help launch start-ups, and consult on visual direction, sketching, and tech packs. We caught up with the talented designer to learn more.

Tell us a little about yourself: I am, surprisingly in many people's eyes, a super organised designer. I love to create lists on everything and check boxes, but I always make sure to block time to be in my creative bubble as well. I love to talk, love to laugh, and love to socialise, so I am always out and about both during work hours and on my free time. 
I was born in Stockholm, Sweden, moved to Los Angeles when I was 19, to New York when I was 23 and back to Sweden at 25. And to be honest, I feel half American at heart - I love the energy, the openness and the people in the US. So just because Stockholm is my base now, I always make sure to stay in touch with my friends all over the globe, and visit often. 
At work, I would say I am a bit of a perfectionist, especially when it comes to color and making. I care very much about each and every style and can get very upset when I have to let something go to production that I am not 110% happy with. But that’s life and definitely something I am working on. 
On my free time you will find me either at the gym or with a group of friends trying out a new restaurant. 
Tell us about your current position at SFGroup Better Bodies & Gasp. What is a typical week like for you? I work as the Head Designer for two brands in SF Group: Better Bodies and Gasp, where Better Bodies needs a bit more of my time than Gasp does. Better Bodies is an activewear brand started in New York 1982 but bought by a Swedish company. Gasp was founded a few years later from the same company and focuses more on bodybuilding gear. Since I started this position, no two weeks have ever looked the same. 

Some of my main tasks include being responsible for all styles from beginning to end, meaning everything from idea to execution to production. Since I don’t have an assistant at the moment, I also do all the little things, like changing current styles and sketches, approving color in all materials, keeping track of overviews and line plans, and creating sales material.
I try to always be three steps ahead and live in the future which is very important in my role. I need to listen to what the consumer wants, and interpret what that will mean in a year from now. We create both cut and sewn garments as well as seamless, which are two different processes, where seamless is a bit more complex. I usually start the design process with a fully detailed sketch, but for seamless I start with ideas and cuttings and work closely with the factory to develop a style from there. 
I love to work with activewear, for me it combines my two passions in life. When fashion meets function - it’s a true match for me!
What inspires you in your work and your designs? Sooo many different things. First of all, I can’t force myself to be inspired all the time. I prefer to leave “openings” in my calendar to do different things, like just walk around Stockholm, people watching, do some store visits, search everything I can on the internet/Instagram, chat with friends all over the world. Those things get me truly inspired. For more specific inspiration, I use WGSN, I talk to our community around the brands, and I travel a lot, both for business and private (not at the moment of course).
Why did you choose FIDM? Pretty quickly after moving from Stockholm to Los Angeles for community college, one of my sewing professors told me about FIDM. I decided to look into it and was hooked immediately. I realised that if I wanted to pursue my dream 110%, I had to apply. One of the best decisions I have ever made. 
How do you feel FIDM prepared you for what you are doing now? So so much, I know on my introduction day one of the speakers said “Welcome to the first day of your new career” which I think says a lot about the work ethic and expectations on the students. The education was very straight forward, very work and future focused, and many years later I still reference my classes and professors at FIDM in various situations.
How did you decide on your major? I was debating a lot between Fashion Design and Merchandise Product Development, but as I wasn’t 100% sure I wanted to do design only, I ended up choosing Merchandise Product Development and taking extra classes outside of the curriculum in both sketching and draping. 
What went into your decision to study in the US? I always had a dream of speaking English fluently with no accent, and my original plan was to move across the Atlantic with a soccer scholarship. However during my last year of high school I got injured and was no longer able to play soccer. After letting it sink in, I finally decided that I could do it anyway, and decided to pursue my creative side instead. 
Any advice for international students considering FIDM? DO IT! It will be scary at first, with lots of “serious terms” and words that you’ve never heard before. When I had to take a “public speaking” class I almost decided to quit school, but OH it taught me so much. I can’t imagine any better preparation for real life and a life in the tough, but oh so amazing, fashion world. 
How does the fashion industry differ in Sweden compared to the US? I would say it’s equally competitive, because the fashion industry here is so much smaller. A difference is the hierarchy thinking, in Sweden it’s more levelled out than I found it to be in the US companies where I worked and interned. Otherwise, when working for international companies, everything is in English and we are working worldwide both in production and sales. 
How have you (and the creative community in Sweden) been staying inspired during the pandemic? I think all our social channels have become more important than ever during this time. Instagram, tik tok, LinkedIn - I think I, along with many others, have found inspiration through our channels and also through sharing our experiences of 2020. I have been staying extremely connected to the community around Better Bodies to make sure I stay on track and create what they want. I believe the consumer behaviour will change a bit after this, and being in the health industry is not a bad thing. I just have to make sure we create what the community wants. 
I noticed on LinkedIn that you stopped working on Wearthy in February. What are your goals for your business post-pandemic? One of my dreams is to help start ups come to life in terms of visual direction, sketching and tech packs so that is something I do on the side of my “real” job. In Wearthy I decided to go on as a co-owner as well but this year it came to an end from my side. Post-pandemic I would love to get the consulting going again and take on new exciting projects and challenges. 
What is your biggest goal right now? I have two main goals at the moment:

  • Turn around this year and make sure Better Bodies have exactly the products we need when we leave the pandemic behind
  • Get back to helping small companies/start ups with their design direction

Anything else you’d like to share? As cliche as it may sound, never quit. Some things will feel unnecessary or like a step in the wrong direction. But remember that you can learn something from everything. I was laid off from my first design assistant job. To make money, I worked in a furniture store and never thought I could learn so much about fabrics in such a random place. 
Also please don’t hesitate to reach out (Instagram @jessicasmode) if there are any questions or anything I can help with. This industry can be so closed off at times; let’s change it. 

Categories:  Merchandise Product Development Alumni International