Occasionally, although rarely these days, a brand will spark the touch paper of a white space you never realised existed, and explode. Tekla is a little bit like that – when co-founders Charlie Hedin and Kristoffer Juhl began discussing luxurious, consciously made bed sheets with a credible design ethos back in 2016, it seemed a step too progressive. ‘No one had done this before. When we first launched Tekla and were out there knocking on doors, people thought we were crazy,’ says Juhl. ‘It didn’t make any sense that two young guys were going to work in this industry that had barely changed for 30 years. It was uphill for sure.’
The reticence didn’t last long: it turns out the co-founders knew just what we wanted before we did. Hedin has a stealthily solid track record with a Midas touch. The Swede, who began his career at Acne, is a natural innovator who prefers to fly under the radar, eschewing courting a social media following in favour of building real-life relationships. Juhl brings an of-the-moment knowledge of digital business and e-commerce, having studied luxury consumer economics. While finishing his degree, he started his career at Danish jeweller Sophie Bille Brahe – where he met Hedin in 2012 through Hedin’s sister, who was also working at the brand – before going on to launch a social app based on a Danish radio show that worked by inviting people to dinner parties at home. It’s not a giant leap from today’s conversation around Tekla’s new kitchen line, which is centred on sharing good food and company across a table.
A new kitchen collection by Tekla
Glass towels in Apple Core, Ducks Egg, Claret and Porcelain, £32 each
Hedin had been noodling around with the idea, and by the mid-2010s had enough of the framework in place to seek Juhl’s tech expertise. The duo started working together, informally at first, and the brand launched in spring 2017, just at the moment we began to become hyper-focused on our homes, obsessed with community and with eating together. Tekla addresses life’s ‘core’ activities; sleeping, washing, resting and now, cooking. ‘Staple goods, part of your home, part of your everyday life,’ says Juhl. ‘People value timeless aesthetics, quality, finish and consistency in those areas.’
The brand launched with linen and stone-washed percale cotton bedding, and evolved to include terry towelling bathrobes and towels, cotton poplin pyjamas and woollen blankets when Hedin couldn’t find a high-quality version of a certain aesthetic on the market. Now, they are expanding into kitchen accessories, including tablecloths, napkins, glass cloths, kitchen towels and aprons. The rich colours – Porcelain, Apple Core, Ducks Egg, Claret, Stain and Black – are inspired by the aftermath of a dinner party. (The brand is also looking ahead to its own retail spaces, so one eye was kept on colour coherence with other items that will sit alongside the napkins and aprons on shelves).
Napkins in Apple Core, Ducks Egg and Claret, £29 each
Although a kitchen line had long been part of Juhl and Hedin’s plans, the idea didn’t galvanise until the pandemic, as dinner parties and family gatherings disappeared. ‘We wanted to find a way to translate the emotion that comes with hosting, wining and dining into products,’ says Juhl, of the inspiration for the Tekla kitchen linen collection. The product development stage took longer than expected, firstly because the pair were unable to visit their suppliers in Portugal, but also because Hedin is a perfectionist. Finally, they found a linen that satisfied him – double the thickness of anything comparable on the market. ‘Functionality is very important,’ Juhl continues. ‘Even when something is beautiful and has a great touch and feel, and a good fall at the table because of the size and thickness, we wanted to consider functionality. So, we reached out to chefs, and friends of ours who like to cook, and asked them what they would want to see in the range. They gave us some really valuable pointers.’
‘We wanted to translate the emotion that comes with hosting into products’ – Kristoffer Juhl
The new kitchen line launches from the springboard of an already vibrant business. The brand’s agile and lean team of 18 has built a loyal following, particularly in Scandinavia, the UK and Asia (South Korea and Japan are spiking following a collaboration with Stüssy), but this year, America tipped into pole position as its biggest market. Part of the genius behind Tekla is the business model, built on a tight edit. Juhl unpacks it: ‘You don’t need newness ten times a year to be relevant. This allows us to be as sustainable as possible and avoid waste. Having a very tight co-assortment allows us to do something smart in the way we set up our planning and production: had we had a co-assortment of 100 colours, it would be impossible to allocate our capital and investment efficiently, but having eight colours makes it much easier to double down and also go to the wholesalers with what we perceive is a beneficial business model.’
Tablecloth in Porcelain, from £265, and glass towels for drying dishes in Apple Core and Ducks Egg, £32 each
While not a fashion brand, Tekla’s beautifully considered imagery is drawing an aesthetically sensitive audience. However, in stark contrast to fashion’s perpetual churn for newness, Tekla’s ethos is chiming with a new generation of consumers, thanks to its radically rethought psychology of shopping. It takes confidence for a brand to not chase a quick sale, instead putting time, energy and resources into delivering a few perfect things.
‘Our foundational values haven’t really changed when I look back over the past three and a half years,’ says Juhl. ‘We saw an opportunity for bridging culture into a product, at home, building relevance through integrity, and creating some excitement around a category that had completely stalled.’ Mission accomplished. §