10 Questions With Petra Fagerstrom

The winner of the 38th Festival de Hyères Mercedes Benz Sustainability Award is one to watch.

For those looking for exciting designers to keep an eye on, the annual Festival D’Hyeres at the Villa Noailles in the South of France is always a good measure of who’s poised to hit it big. Throughout the festival there are several different awards given out, with the Mercedes Benz Sustainability Award being one of the most sought after. The luxury car brand has been a sponsor for the last decade, offering their expertise to guide the next generation with the resources they need. “ All [the] finalists were mentored on sustainable resources by our partners and encouraged to up-cycle materials from decommissioned Mercedes-Benz vehicles, laying the groundwork for the entire process, not just the end product or look,” says Julia Hofmann, Head of Branded Entertainment & Brand Partnerships at Mercedes-Benz AG. By celebrating young talent this award is able to push the future of sustainability and make it more accessible. 

We have sat down with the winner of this year’s award Petra Fagerstrom, whose collection consisted of futuristic looking pleated capes and parachute-like dresses, derived from up-cycled materials. Read on to hear about her inspirations as well as how figure skating set the tone for Fagerstrom’s future.

1. What’s the next step for you as a designer?

I’m at a crossroads right now where I’m figuring out my next steps. I’ve recently made the decision that I will be reproducing my most recent collection and launch my brand. I’m working with the Swedish Fashion Council, which is a 5 year incubator program, to help to get things started. I’m also going back to school for my masters at Central Saint Martins in London. It’s a lot but it’s all very exciting!

2. Other than focusing on sustainability for this collection, what was your other source of inspiration?

The collection was based around my grandmother. I found a photo of her when she was around my age and she used to be a parachutist in the Soviet Union. Super cool! She’s in all this gear and her style was a mix of surplus military garments with floral nightgowns. [The pieces represent] a combination of her style and is meant to encapsulate the life of Soviet women under the regime.

3. What inspires you in general?

I enjoy talking to people and I’m curious to see how things are being worn. In previous projects I’ve interviewed particular [individuals] to see how their way of life influences what they wear and try to take a very fluid approach towards applying that to my work. 

4. Being Swedish, what was your favorite thing about growing up there?
Free education. I’m thinking about this because I’m about to go back to school. The Swedish system is amazing! Sweden also has such beautiful natural landscapes. I am from Gothenburg, which is by the sea, and I really miss it everyday.

5. What is the one piece from the collection that you’re most proud of?

I was most interested in the pleated parachute dress because I was able to find a way of upcycling that worked well for me. I usually find the process quite challenging because you need to think about the value of the material and the aesthetic of it.

6. Did you always want to make clothes? 

I grew up figure skating so my first interaction with making clothes was with [my] dresses since they’re quite expensive. It was a lot of bedazzling and sewing. Creating proper clothes didn’t start until high school though. I would get such a kick out of finishing a piece, which I still get now once I see a garment on a model. There’s really nothing like it.

7. In an ideal world where do you see yourself and the brand in 10 years? 

I have a pretty strong vision in what I love doing. I want to be able to live off of my own brand and have a good customer base that likes my work. I want to keep it on a manageable scale while also remaining independent. I like to have the freedom to do what I want.

8. If you could take three things to a deserted island what would they be?

If we are being practical i would say a water filter, maybe my phone with satellite, and a solar power charger. I am not a living on island type of person so I need to make it as comfortable as possible.

9. Who is one person to represent your brand?

I’m not a huge fan of celebrity culture in the sense that every brand needs to have a celebrity to represent them. It’s more for the woman who is a genuine customer — that’s who I would want. With the most recent collection, of course it was my grandmother but I generally like making clothes with my perspective and seeing who it attracts. 

10. What is one piece of advice you’d give to aspiring designers?

A really big learning experience from this part year (and it might sound cliche) is that you will get a lot of advice and input from people. They will try to define it but if it doesn’t align with you, you have to be able to say no. Standing your ground becomes such an important thing to be able to do in this industry. You need to make a collection that feels 100% authentic. 

Mercedes-Benz Sustainability Prize Winner Petra Fagerstrom.  Courtesy of Mercedes-Benz, captured by Kristin-Lee Moolman.

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