Enchanted by Karin

Swedish Toronto-based designer Karin Edhlund handcrafts leather products inspired by Norse mythology and the Swedish nature in which she grew up. Karin’s company, Förtrollad (Swedish for Enchanted), focuses on bringing Swedish design to a North American audience while staying true to its values of sustainability, functionality, quality, and simplicity.

Karin Edhlund in her studio.

Karin Edhlund was adopted by Swedish parents at a young age. She grew up in Huddinge where she loved spending time in the forests near her home. After graduating and studying photography in Stockholm, she decided to head off on the adventure of a lifetime and left for Toronto to find her biological mother and study fashion at George Brown College. Some 25 years later, Toronto has become home, but Karin still draws her inspiration from her Swedish childhood. “I recently discovered that my adoptive great grandfather and his father were saddle makers. They loved leather, just like I do now,” she smiles.

Using traditional tools and techniques, Karin handcrafts small batches of leather and textile products such as bags, accessories and bracelets. When asked about the inspiration behind her work, Karin reveals that her childhood hikes and adventures in the Swedish forest greatly impact her creativity to this day. 

“According to Nordic mythology and ancient folklore tales, the forests are inhabited by marvelous creatures like forest fairies, elves, trolls and other mythical beings, surrounded by fierce gods and godesses all with their very own unique supernatural powers. This was so magical to me as a little girl and I used to spend hours dreaming up fantastic stories and divine adventures. Norse mythology and ancient nordic folklore intrigue me to this day,” she says. 

Nature is what drives Karin. “I often walk in High Park here in Toronto. I try to stay off the beaten paths and have found hidden places that no one else seems to frequent. I think nature is incredibly healing and I feel it’s important that we take care of it and conserve it. I try to be aware of how I use resources. I recycle leather from old jackets and make sure not to waste even small scrap pieces,” she says. 

Karin is always trying to make her company more climate friendly. She donates money to plant a tree for each sale through a partnership with onetreeplanted.org, and Förtrollad has so far planted more than 500 trees worldwide. 

Karin is all about minimalism and the importance of functionality in fashion, concepts that are very prominent in the world of Swedish design. Whenever she returns to Sweden, usually once a year, she buys Swedish fabrics that she wishes to share with her North American clients. One of her most recent designs are small pouches made out of Estrid Ericson’s iconic Swedish elephant fabric. Karin is also inspired by Swedish fashion through the ages: she is now working on bags influenced by näverkorgar and the technique of weaving together strips of birch bark, but instead of bark she uses woven leather strips. 

Learn more about Karin and Förtrollad here: fortrollad.com