With leather in his DNA

For Jan Elfstrom the leather industry has been part of his DNA since childhood. Not only that, under the guidance of his grandfather he was able to make a pretty fine bomber jacket at the fine age of seven years old by piecing together leather cut-offs. Here we talk to the man who has been within the engine room of 94-year-old Swedish leather institution, Jofama for almost 28 years.

Growing up in the town of Malung in middle-Sweden is perhaps less significant with regards to the better-known towns and cities in the country. However, the town is very well-known for its history within the leather industry, where it used to boast up to 243 factories as well as tanneries.

“There used to be a very vibrant and creative industry here until, for various reasons, it was moved out to Asia during the 1970s,” says Jan “My grandparents used to own a factory here which was in the grounds of our family home, so when I was growing up, after school, I would be in the factory as my parents also worked there. I would play around with stitching and leather.

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"It's true, I actually made my first leather jackets when I was seven and I still have them.”

"It's true, I actually made my first leather jackets when I was seven and I still have them.”

Leather became a passion that perhaps fizzled out as Jan grew up and he went on to study finance and economics, eventually working for a bank in Malung before interviewing for the position of finance manager at Jofama at the tender age of 23. A position he felt he might not be able to secure.

“I didn’t believe that I was educated or experienced enough initially for the position as I was coming from a bank environment, but I think my knowledge of the leather industry from my heritage and understanding of the creative process managed to convince people,” Jan says jokingly.

“There have been key and telling stages to the history of the business, including the name change to Jofama in 1973, which stands for Jonsson Factory Malung,” says Elfstrom. “Since the business began, we have been manufacturing the very best leather and sporting goods to a global audience - the sports side of the business being sold in that same year to Volvo.”

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A business started by 17-year-old Niss Oskar Jonsson in 1926, Jofa became one of the many respected leather manufactures in and around the Malung area and would specialize in not only leather apparel but also sporting and outdoor accessories from ski poles to tents and latterly becoming highly regarded within ice hockey, particularly helmets.

“Jofama is an old heritage brand here in Sweden that is recognized for its quality,” adds Elfstrom “It was important that we started to try to engage with the younger community in Sweden who perhaps didn’t know us so well or at all, hence the business drive to partner with creatives that had a relevance,” he says.

"We teamed up with designer Efva Attling to create a jacket for us during the season of A/W 2008, which suited the brand very well. Attling was and is a name that resonates with a wider audience. We also had a long and meaningful collaboration with Kenza Zouiten – today one of Sweden´s most famous influencers - who helped us design for a younger audience.”

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With a constant eye on creating new and exciting opportunities for the brand in terms of style and engagement, the collection has evolved with the wealth of history at the heart of the designs.

“We have a responsibility to stay true to our brand values and expectations of a faithful consumer, but we also have to move with the times and think about how we talk to the wider consumer and perhaps a younger generation that appreciates heritage and quality too,” says Elfstrom. “In 2010 we took the decision to use only faux fur in our jackets and two years ago we released a collection of sustainable, functional fabrics, including RDS certified down jackets."

As a man with leather firmly stitched into his DNA, Elfstrom is also keen to part his wisdom on how to truly make the best of a leather garment.

“People often panic if their leather jacket will suddenly be hit by sudden rain- or snowfall, but in most cases, there is no need to worry,” he says. "If the jacket gets wet the important thing is to let it dry out spaciously and slowly in normal room temperature. Suede jackets can be buffed lightly with a soft brush after drying.

“People also need to remember that leather grows better with age and it should be worn regularly otherwise it can become stiff and hard,” he adds.

As Jofama progresses through what has been a difficult 2020 for everyone globally, there is an ongoing air of energy and positivity within Elfstrom.

“We have stood the test of time and showcased how we can evolve naturally as a brand.”