A Q&A with Erik Torstensson, the Co-Founder and Creative Director of FRAME

The term “creative polymath” is a little overused. It seems like everyone is either a creator, creative director, or multi-hyphenate with innumerable jobs with no clear descriptions. Erik Torstensson, however, is a true jack of all trades – and he has the experience to back it up. The co-founder and creative director of FRAME, the off-duty model’s denim of choice, has worked extensively in every creative capacity from publishing and PR to art direction and brand management.

Torstensson and his business partner Jens Grede, whom he met while both were working at Wallpaper magazine, got their start running the highly sought after fashion marketing agency Wednesday Agency Group. The pair then became editors-in-chief of fashion magazine Man About Town before launching the fashion insider’s bible Industrie. In 2012, the Swedish serial entrepreneurs co-founded FRAME, a Los Angeles-based premium denim brand that immediately became a hit with It girls and models Gigi Hadid and Karlie Kloss, among others. The brand has since grown into a wildly successful, fully-fledged brand with complete men’s and women’s lines.

Here, Torstensson talks to Elsewhere about his career, the role of creative director today and launching new stores in a pandemic.

Erik Torstensson

What is the story behind FRAME?

After years of brand-building for others, in 2012, Jens and I decided to launch FRAME, and rather than launching with a huge product selection, we set out to perfect a single product: blue skinny jeans. Friends like Gigi Hadid, Hailey Bieber, Karlie Kloss, and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley were quick to embrace FRAME, taking note of the high quality and comfort. At one point, we collaborated with Karlie on a collection that still exists today. I admit, one of the best parts of having a brand is working with friends, which doesn’t feel like work at all.

FRAME now produces four seasonal men’s and womenswear collections per year, as well as multiple limited-edition capsule collections and collaborations, but denim is always at its core.

Walk me through your creative process.

It happens rather organically. We look to the men and women whom we know and aspire to, and we design for them. We also focus on fabrication and innovation. While we do consider cuts and trends, the finest materials are what set us apart from many other brands.

In 2020, when asked about the role of a creative, you told British GQ that “The smartest creative directors of today are now experts at applying their singular opinion.”  What’s your singular opinion?  How do you apply it?

My opinion and vision for FRAME is informed by my own aesthetic; it is in my DNA therefore it is in FRAME’s DNA. I’m committed to the modern man and woman and servicing them with essentials designed for their lives – a modern uniform, so to speak. This concept is realized in the clothes, of course, and extends to my photography, designs for our stores, our events, every touch point. FRAME is chic, effortless, and charming, and our execution embodies those same elements.

As challenging as this year has been, it presented an opportunity for us to not only communicate with our teams and customers, but also evolve with them.

From your vantage point as a creative director but a true multidisciplinary brand builder, where do you see the future of both media and fashion heading?

Not an easy question and not an easy answer, but I think we already see there is little room to remain neutral or passive. To stay relevant, brands, like people, need to “move” with the rest of the world; you can no longer “fake it till you make it.” Consumers are smart and sophisticated. They are effectively the new editors. We work for them! It’s our job to fit into their lives, not the other way around. 

Fashion, alone, has many challenges to overcome regarding responsibility. But at FRAME, it is something we address in every discussion: how do we become better global citizens, how do we create a more responsible brand?

In addition, we recognize the power of the younger generation. Covid accelerated the creative presence of Gen-Z, replacing millennials faster than expected. So for us seniors, we need to keep open minds and welcome the amazing creativity and energy entering the industry.

In a volatile year for retail, you’ve expanded and opened stores. How did you do it?

As challenging as this year has been, it presented an opportunity for us to not only communicate with our teams and customers, but also evolve with them. The unprecedented change in consumer behavior forced us to make difficult decisions and take creative and strategic risks where they matter most. As a result, we have grown physically and virtually through our partnership with HERO as well as closer to our community than we have in the past.

What’s your future vision for FRAME?

Continued expansion – retail-wise, FRAME will have 16 locations globally by the end of 2021 and another five in 2022.

As a company, we continue to evaluate and grow sustainable practices and material innovation – color and dye techniques, production partners – always asking ourselves, “Are there alternatives that minimize our impact on the environment?” Within the bigger picture, it’s been helpful to focus on short-term goals such as achieving 30 percent recycled polyester, equivalent to 1 percent of a plastic bottle, in FRAME’s denim pocket lining by Winter 2021. Next is packaging. We are diligently changing practices at every touchpoint and striving to improve upon every step we’ve taken thus far.

What’s the brand ethos?

Buy less, buy better. FRAME creates chic essentials inspired by a global citizen; these are quality garments that are effortlessly timeless. Our commitment to clever design, research, and testing means sustainable practices that enhances people’s wardrobes without compromising the planet.