“Stop talking about your idea. It’s now or never.” This is the sharp piece of advice that catalysed the creation of Håndværk – a small, relatively young clothing brand that specialises in luxurious, artisanal basics. The magic words were spoken by Ms Petra Brichnacova, one-half of Håndværk, to her husband Mr Esteban Saba (you guessed it, the other half) as he hemmed and hawed over a decision to leave the finance industry to start a label. Such transitions can be scary, can involve a loss of lifestyle, of fortune, of years off your life. But: “She was right,” says Mr Saba. “It was the right time for us, and in late 2012, we moved full-time to our weekend place, and started working day and night to launch our brand.”
It’s very lucky for us that Mr Saba and Ms Brichnacova took the leap. Håndværk creates thoughtful, well-made pieces that transform the concept of loungewear. No frumpy, lumpy sweatpants that you got for free on a company retreat here. No, the brand’s core collection includes soft polo shirts, buttery rollnecks and trim sweatpants that will change the way you dress when you’re at home. Of course, you can wear Håndværk outside, too. In fact, with such a stylish home basics wardrobe, you might have a hard time transitioning back into your stiff denim or tight-fitting suits when the time comes.
The beauty of Håndværk is that it looks smart enough for a Zoom call with your boss, but is still comfortable for a walk in the park with a friend. “We believe there is a need for what we call ‘elevated casual’,” says Mr Saba. Indeed, this new collection is just that. “Pieces that are versatile enough for the office, where you need to look well put together, and also, translate well to your everyday life from grabbing a drink after work to the weekend.”
At MR PORTER, we’re all about investing in transitional dressing – clothes that are multifunctional and won’t require you to go through several costume changes throughout the day. A muted palette of cream, navy, and grey ensures that all of their pieces work together, making rolling out of bed and throwing on a clean, curated look even easier. This kind of commitment to the way an item looks, the way it feels and the style of it comes from a family history rooted in the textile industry (Mr Saba) and extensive training in fashion design (Ms Brichnacova).
Together the couple have created a brand that has made an art out of the basics, meaning that each and every piece gets the care of a bespoke suit. “By limiting our focus to these absolute essentials, we are free to obsess over every minute detail,” says Mr Saba. “Petra and I are obsessed with perfecting our products, and we are truly dedicated to this pursuit.”
He describes the design process as one of paring down a piece to the bare bones and then building the ideal T-shirt, for example, from there. There are no extraneous tabs or seams, everything is considered from the fit to the fabric. It’s hardly a surprise, then, that Håndværk is also committed to sustainability and ethical practices. “Doing the right thing is our North Star,” he says.
Though a superior product is paramount, they pay equal attention on how the thing is actually made. “We work with an incredible cohort of suppliers, and insist on full traceability, transparency and rigorous certification. In return, we commit to fair pay and working conditions, respecting their expertise and supporting their communities.” The result is a collection of at-home essentials that are perfect for the world we live in now where the home and the workplace have merged into one. Think T-shirts that keep their shape, minimalist cardigans, and flattering rollnecks.
“We only create a product if it truly merits a place in your modern, ethical wardrobe,” says Mr Saba. “It must be timeless to outlast trends and versatile enough to make other purchases redundant. It must be the highest possible quality, enabling it to stand up to countless wash cycles and many years of use without fading, stretching or pilling.”
It can be tempting to let your standards slip as the days become shorter and the kitchen turns inexorably into an office. But Håndværk makes quite the argument for keeping up appearances even when no one can see you. After all, dressing for the day – even in the softest, easiest loungewear – can lift your spirits and energise your workflow. And wearing pieces that have been designed specifically for purpose will make all the difference.
Styling by Ms Sophie Hardcastle. This article was originally published in the MrPorter Journal.
Words: Ms Lili Göksenin
Photography: Mr Mark Sanders