Cissi Centerwall has a fashion boutique in SoFo, Stockholm – and is launching her first collection.
It takes some courage to combine a screaming orange dress with grass green panties and striped wedges, even though the thick make-up and the backcombed hair distract a little bit. Your eyes fly from mannequins to posters to hallstands. Understatement is definitely not what you find at Cissi och Selma. This shop is a time machine, beaming you back to the decades of the Beatles, pop art and exaggerated plastic accessories. Colours, dresses and retro: That’s the motto of the shop and it’s obvious.
What you also see upon entering Cissi och Selma, is the big sweet smile on the face of the graceful blonde behind the cash desk. With scrubby bangs and a snub nose she looks like the typical Swedish girl. Cissi Centerwall is the owner of this shop that is named after her and her little daughter Selma. This is her heart, her passion. “It was always my dream to have something of my own, a café or a shop,” she says. “Now it is this.” She speaks with a soft voice, warm and friendly. A pleasant contrast to all the dizzying flowers, patterns, dots and colours. It is six years ago now since Centerwall opened her own business. She sells dresses, skirts and accessories in the style of the 60s and 70s – and this year she even launched her first collection of dresses.
Located in SoFo (short for “south of Folkungagatan”), the hip, creative neighbourhood in southern Stockholm, Cissi och Selma is one of several shops that focus on vintage trends. Walking along the streets, it looks like the shop owners have plundered their parents’ attics, either to decorate their cafés with unique furniture or to proudly sell things that were once ordinary and are now trendy. Girls with piercings and half-shaved heads, young men with skinny jeans and sideburns are the norm, not the exception. The people of SoFo are avant-garde; they are everything except classic, casual or inconspicuous. With a conservative look, you attract attention here. “This area is perfect for my shop,” says Centerwall. “The people here like vintage. Compared to other areas, they are not afraid to be special here. They want to be unique.” She even likes the idea that her parents probably wore the same kind of clothes when they were young.
After working in big clothing stores and learning how the business works, Centerwall started with a smaller boutique on the same street. She also had clothes for children. “But I didn’t like all the mums coming there,” she says, smiling benignly. So after one year, she moved to her present place and offered only women’s clothes. She sells both bigger brands and small Swedish designers. In the beginning, she searched online and in several boutiques for interesting designers of clothes or jewelry, but now they even contact her. For Centerwall, commissions with the small Swedish designers are easier to handle, because with the bigger brands she has to buy a certain amount of clothes to sell them then. “I want to support the small designers,” she says.
Starting her own collection this year wasn’t really planned. “It was just like the next step after opening my own shop,” she says. Last summer, she designed a number of dresses in the style of the 60s and 70s with different patterns and cuts. The pieces were produced in a small factory in Lithuania and now they are hanging right in front of her. Of course she is wearing one of the dresses herself. “But it is not only about what I myself like,” she explains. “Mainly I got the inspiration for the dresses from what the customers asked for. It’s a combination of the customers’ wishes and my own favourites.”
Her collection is selling quite well. At the moment, you can also buy it at five other shops, in the future maybe even in more. Centerwall doesn’t have any plans to go international yet. With two small children and this full time job, she says that she can “kind of” make a living. “It is expensive to have a small collection,” she admits. But with her online shop, more women take notice of her business and come to the place to try the clothes in real life. And – who knows – maybe she will open another shop soon and sell more colourful, feminine dresses with swinging skirts. “I never have enough of these wonderful 60s and 70s things,” she says.