Sebastian-Style

ETON’S DESIGNER BRINGS A FRESH YOUNG TAKE TO LUXURY SHIRTINGS.

BY KAREN ALBERG GROSSMAN

With DeVotchKa blasting in the background, it was hard to hear Sebastian Dollinger, conducting this interview from the studio in Sweden where he designs the world-renowned Eton shirt collection. “Yes, I design to music; it’s a big part of my life,” he confides. “I’m a DJ and a drummer when I’m not designing shirts…”

He came to designing Eton shirts in a roundabout way: since his father, Jan Borghardt, has worked for the company since 1981, it was the last thing he’d planned to do. “My dad is from Holland; he met my mom on a sailing trip to Sweden, fell in love and needed a job. He started in the Eton stockroom and is now number two at the company. I was born in ’83. I was a wild kid who got kicked out of school and took various jobs pumping gas and waiting tables. But when I ultimately took a stockroom job, I made sure it was the cleanest stockroom in the universe. My dad taught me to take pride in my work, whatever it is…”

After serving in the army for a year, Dollinger reluctantly took a job in the Eton stockroom, then gradually worked his way up. “I took the long road at Eton, determined to prove myself without favoritism. (Editor’s note: Since his dad has a different last name, few people were aware of the relationship.) I went from the stockroom to a London-based position to a sales job, where I increased volume in my Swedish accounts by 800 percent. At that point, I felt vindicated and was excited to move to a design job.”

Explaining the success of Eton, Dollinger sums it up simply: “We don’t take shortcuts; we spend on quality. We use the best French and Italian mills for our fabrics. We’ve developed a special finishing process that takes four-and-a-half weeks extra but adds luster and life to the shirts.” Other success secrets: a sophisticated use of color, pattern and detailing so the shirts are interesting but not over-the-top. “Balance is important,” says Dollinger, who also paints. “There’s a way to combine elements so it’s not screaming or in your face.”

Finally, there’s the fit factor: Eton shirts come in three different fits so that they feel custom-made. “Eton isn’t just another global brand with extensive marketing; it’s quality in every way. Plus we’re one of very few companies to specialize in shirts.”

When he’s not designing, Dollinger is out and about. “My body clock is reversed: I work late and come alive even later. I never watch TV; I’m out doing things. In addition to music (these days he’s listening to Joy Division, Demolition, The Black Keys, Muddy Waters) and design, I love writing (poetry, song lyrics), and also cosmology. I was always that strange little boy who studied the stars every night…”

Speak Your Mind

*