4 Questions To – Anton Grahnström

Talking to creative and art directors from different parts of the world, The Blogazine took a moment to speak with Anton Grahnström, one of the founding partners of the Stockholm-based studio Unestablished. Before settling down in Sweden, Anton worked with some of London’s finest studios and his list of clients carries more than a few high-profile names. For The Blogazine, Anton Grahnström talks about not wanting to feel established, the importance of working with inspiring people and the ups and downs of being located in a city like Stockholm.

London to Stockholm, Burberry to Absolut Vodka, fashion to books to exhibitions to being a lecturer at Beckmans – your resumé has some width, to say the least. What type of projects do you enjoy the most?
I wouldn’t say that it’s as wide as it may seem. The process and the aesthetics in my projects have tended to be pretty stringent, although they have resulted in different kinds of output for different kinds of brands. For me, it’s usually not the projects themselves – the brand, media or the output – I enjoy the most. It’s the people I work with. Getting to collaborate with inspiring people is at the core of every good project I’ve been involved in. When I started out I think I had a clearer idea of what kind of end result I wanted, but as time went by I discovered that the result turned out to be less important, while the process and the people involved became increasingly interesting. The context, and the exchange between people, is always the core. My work is definitely not about being the lonely artist. It’s more about creating a context where good work can be done. Doing a great shoot, or whatever the actual job is, is such a small part of the challenge. When everything is in place, the result doesn’t seem “good”. It just seems natural.

You started Unestablished in 2010 – how has these first three years been? Do you feel established yet?
The name came from an idea of working with very established clients, but doing that from an underdog perspective. There’s a certain kind of energy in that. So in that sense, I don’t think I ever want to feel established. I want to stay with one foot on the outside, moving on to the next thing.

I think successfully starting a company requires you to be at a sort of tipping point – naïve enough to think you always know best, and experienced enough to actually deliver on the projects you take on. I think I was in that place when I started Unestablished. In one sense, I feel like we’ve come a long way in the last three years, and in another way, I feel like things could have moved a lot faster. In my mind, I’m way ahead of where we actually are right now. But when looking at the projects we’ve done in the last three years, I realize that it would have been impossible to do all that in a year and still do good work.

Unestablished is based in Stockholm and you have experience from working with Swedish companies, designers and magazine. How do you look on Swedish fashion and Stockholm’s position in the fashion industry?
Stockholm will always be a small town in northern Europe that nobody really cares about, and that’s a good thing. It turns this place into a play house, where everyone’s open to experiments. If it doesn’t work out, it’s not the end of the world. On the downside, as with all small towns, there’s a streamlining of expressions and ideas. There’s simply not room for as many different influences as there is in a larger city, like London.

Another positive aspect of Stockholm is the accessibility. There’s lot of talent here, and everyone knows everyone. If you want to work with someone, you simply call them up and they will be in your office an hour later, having coffee. That means creating the right context with inspiring people, as a mentioned earlier, a lot easier.

Do you believe that the location from where one works, Stockholm in your case, affects and influences one’s work in any way? How?
I think we are a lot more affected by our physical surroundings than we might think. Most of our influences come from our immediate surroundings – our upbringing, family, friends, the walk to work. I’m constantly surrounded by things that I don’t even think of as Swedish, or Scandinavian, but naturally, it’s not a coincidence that there is a Scandinavian aesthetic. It doesn’t come from nothing. At the same time, we become increasingly globalized. Everyone, all over the world, is browsing the same blogs. You would think that with the access everyone has to everything now, we would see greater variation in expressions, but usually it’s quite the opposite. We all see the same things at the same time. So we end up back in the process. The people you work with, that’s what makes the difference.

Lisa Olsson Hjerpe – Photos Evelina Nylander