Issue 15

Photos by casper sejersen, PETTER LUNDGREN Words by Lia forslund
Bengt Thornefors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bengt Thornefors describes himself as always looking for juxtaposed perspectives. To step into his curious mind is to begin to understand the power of his lateral thinking. It’s midday, and the 43-year-old creative director is sitting on a bench outside Magniberg’s partly Kvadrat-owned pop-up shop in Copenhagen, where he is presenting the latest bedlinen in the brand's new range. It is a colourful collection of bright pinks, blues and yellows against a contrasting dark floral print. 

 

Even though Magniberg has a commercial agenda, he says, we are on an exploratory journey together, learning things as we go. Say, for instance, we see something whilst walking on the street and it speaks to us emotionally, we must allow ourselves to explore that from not only a technical perspective, but also a contextual one. He is the visible leader of that journey from the unknown to the finished product. 

Bengt Thornefors

When Thornefors and his wife, Nina Norgren, established Magniberg in 2016, the launch took place at Anna Bohman’s gallery in Stockholm. We sent out invitations, but I don’t think people understood what we were doing. They thought we were showing an art installation, he comments, then pauses and ponders, But what is art anyway? With time, Thornefors’ special gift for leading explorations became apparent to a wider audience. 

 

We have areas of interest that we tend to push together, mixing contexts in combinations that might be unconventional for some, he says and references a photo shoot by Magniberg last year. For the images, new bedlinen was placed in Lilla Hyttnäs, the preserved house of Carl Larsson and his wife, Karinnineteenth-century Swedish artists renowned for having created a family home with its own distinct architecture, colour schemes and interior design. We wanted to bring our elements into the Larssons’ home because they inspired us, embracing a creative fusion of new and old. That is our way of storytelling, too.

 

He grabs his phone and scrolls through thousands of thumbnails to locate the references he wants to share with me. All the while, the dots in his mind are connecting at lightning speed. I observe his seamless combination of spontaneity and precision, and ask him about the constant contrasts at play in his head. Thornefors explains, Putting seemingly random things together, from different angles, that is how new things are born. Several ideas connected by a tendency, a red thread if you like, is how I see anything being invented. I appreciate classic elements, textures people are familiar with, but when you start moving them around and placing them in new settings, that is when something interesting happens.

 

Thornefors changes course to talk about people, but the sentiment remains the same. My good friend and colleague from floorball coaching hasn’t a clue about the world of design, but he appreciates what we do. This is our ambition with Magniberg: making something nice for someone like him. An intriguing creative goalan unexpected love of the same bedding by another floorball coach, a design brief that seems both imaginative and real at the same time. 

 

Thornefors’ CV lists iconic fashion houses including Saint Laurent Paris and Acne Studios, and there is no doubt about his long experience in artistic leadership. I have a background in fashion, but I decided to leave it. I had just become a father and wanted to express something different, he continues. I started working on this bedlinen and lifestyle brand, but I wanted to enter the market from a new perspective. Instead of starting with the fabrics, I studied a photograph by Wolfgang Tillmans showing garments strewn over a floor. The photo chimed with my own form of expression; as I began to play around with my father’s washed-out black army t-shirts thrown down next to silks or satins, I set my new direction. There is a long silence.

 

While most of our conversation still references art or fashion, something is tugging Thornefors’ thoughts elsewhere. Every so often he takes an investigative, even nerdy turn. Bedlinen brands talk about how good their products are. And obviously, I love great products too, he says. But we need to talk about something more than organic cotton. We need to start voicing what you do in the bedroom, what you feel while you are there. I felt the emotional aspect of the bedroom was lacking. And we heaped that onto our products.

 

As he starts to list things people do in bed, his mind clearly drifts. We talk about bed rotting, the latest TikTok self-care trend described in a recent article in the Guardian. The phrase stands for staying in bed all day by choiceeating, making love, dozing, scrolling, streaming, reading, daydreaming, working. The bedroom has become a place we hang out in. Apartments are getting smaller, and bedrooms are becoming more open. In the past the door used to be closed; now the room is a part of all-day activities. This gives us the liberty to explore new contexts, Thornefors expands. 

 

We usually read about creative directors ahead of or after a major show. But interestingly, the idea of creative direction seems to lie deep within Thornefors, beyond any delivery of great performances once or twice a year. To a greater or lesser extent, all his artistic training has embraced cultural clashes that he was born into, each of them an attempt to find new perspectives and new ways of seeing. 

Creative Director of Magniberg & Sahco, Thornefors filters memories at an impressive speed and tells stories of how this helps him reinterpret objects in a new way.

I propose returning to where his talent for clashes first emerged. I’ve always been interested in what constitutes Swedish culture and what doesn’t. My father is Swedish and my mother is from Thailand, and I grew up in the suburbs of Stockholm. To do laundry, we had to go down to the basement, to the laundry room (a very deeply rooted Swedish phenomenon). I remember how my mother washed and arranged our bedding, mixing everything together, a composition of patterns and colours that made sense to her, he says, and briefly reflects on whether it might have been intentional or not. He finally concludes that it was probably not, but this weekly ritual had a strong influence on his aesthetic. 

 

There are so many things I want to say at the same time, and Magniberg became our platform. And there are stories, things I want to express, that go beyond the product; ideas which are a bit off the wall, or maybe even strange, he says in reference to the brand’s show at Bukowski’s, one of Sweden’s most renowned auction houses. He shows me the pictures on his phone, along with a movie made by Danish photographer and director Casper Sejersen. I don’t consider this to be commercial. But actually, what is commercial anyway? Thornefors asks. We don’t live that long, so we have a sort of need to enjoy life and do what feels right.

 

Thornefors loves art in the making. And even though (as he points out) he does not consider himself an artist, he always works with artists and creatives he admires. Everything happens organically. If I find someone that interests me creatively, I appoint themand at the same time, I let go. If I work with a creative and tell them exactly what I want, the collaboration becomes pointless, he explains. My job is about knowing when to step in and out, to give and take.

 

Being the creative lead is not easy. A Swedish journalist and friend told Thornefors that he does not compromise, and it made him think. I had thought that I compromise all the time, but then I realised the journalist was right: I don’t compromise on what I like. I can change my mind for something that is better, but then that isn’t compromising. It’s changing direction and letting go.

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