“Everyone loves something that’s made just for them.”
“You’ve always moved to the beat of your own drum.” That’s Mosha Lundström Halbert, fashion journalist/on-air expert and co-founder of the luxe outerwear brand, Therma Kōta, describing her mother, designer Linda Lundström. And fierce independence is a quality that Linda has clearly passed down to her two daughters, Mosha and sister Sophie, to the benefit of coat lovers everywhere.
The three women founded Therma Kōta in 2017 after Mosha noticed a void in the market for unique toppers. She remembers seeing the “uniform of utilitarian coats” that paraded by her each winter while she worked as a Fashion Director in New York City. “It made me feel sad,” she notes, going on to recall the mudroom in her childhood home being filled with the joyful outerwear her mother was famous for making with her line, La Parka. (Mosha and Sophie’s father’s family was in the fur business, so there was no shortage of outerwear inspo on either side of their heritage, in fact.)
“It dawned on me one day,” Mosha goes on. “If we came together with my mom’s [design] background, creative genius and experience, and my sister’s award-winning graphic design capabilities and creative direction, and my fashion savvy and understanding of the current market and business models, we could create the type of coat I didn’t feel really existed: Warm but glamorous, versatile, and made in Canada.”
Linda says she’ll never forget the phone call from Mosha when she proposed the idea for Therma Kōta (that’s Nordic for “warmth providing; protection from the elements”). “I asked, are you sure? I had been in the business for a long time and had the experience but I also knew what some of the challenges would be. I was thrilled, but I wanted to make sure they both knew what they were getting into.”
What transpired from the trio’s union became a line of reversible shearling pieces including the brand’s best-selling Silja jacket and the Ragna vest. Each garment has the on-the-house option of customization, meaning sizes can be modified to suit all bodies. “Getting messages from customers that say [a piece] fits them perfectly is so satisfying for so many reasons,” Sophie says. “Everyone loves something that’s made just for them.” The direct-to-consumer model on which Therma Kōta runs lends well to this inclusive direction, however the brand is popping up in Aspen from December 15th until April for those hoping to get even more of a hands-on experience.
Made-to-order is just one of the facets of Therma Kōta’s key pillar of authenticity, as Mosha describes it. “Our dedication to ethical transparency and sustainability and size inclusivity all come from that general banner of being authentic to who we are,” she notes. And the brand has now dug even deeper into its sustainability mandate with the introduction of three sizes of bags fabricated from production off-cuts.
“I was brought up with the slogan waste not, want not,” Linda says of how the bags came to be, jumping off from the mindful initiative of creating mittens for every customer with pieces from fabric from their coats. “I come from a hard-working class family, and nothing was wasted. I can’t not do it – you can’t unlearn something. When I was overseeing the production of the shearlings, there were pieces around the skin that were too small to cut the mitts out of, but were big enough to cut into geometric shapes. I kept saving them, and eventually had enough saved to look at what we could make.”
Once the concept of bags was decided upon – with Mosha suggesting the outsized “Mega” option for intrepid souls who carry their life with them – Linda says the scraps were arranged “like a jigsaw puzzle”; and she notes that each bag is different because of the multiple configurations that can be crafted. “[Our mom] thrives when she’s innovating,” Sophie adds. “It fuelled her creativity to work with those off-cuts. [And] we’re not just making bags for the sake of it – we came up with them through this idea of zero-waste.”
“The garments and accessories have a symbiotic relationship,” Linda says. “The bags wouldn’t be possible if we weren’t making the garments. [And] if we run out of scraps, we’ll have to sell out of the bags.”
Mosha hopes this thoughtful approach to design becomes more commonplace, highlighting that 2020 “caused a reckoning this year for so many industries. I really hope more brands decide to dig deep and ask themselves why they’re making the things that they’re making – are they truly necessary or are they just contributing to the excess?”
Homing in on how to further evolve the brand through embracing a “waste not, want not” attitude also led to the launch of Therma Kōta’s Kokkur apron, which launched earlier this year and sees a percentage of its proceeds go to The Native Canadian Centre, which provides meal services to at-risk and homeless Indigenous communities. And for tomorrow’s Giving Tuesday, the brand will donate 15 per cent of its sales to The Sewing Circle Project, an organization founded by Linda with the goal of providing tools, materials, design workshops, and production education to remote Indigenous communities in Northern Canada.
“Luxury is really being redefined right now in the fashion industry,” Mosha says when discussing these philanthropic components of the brand. “Customers really do care about conscious consumption, sustainability and give back. We sold so many more aprons than we anticipated, and we’ve been able to donate really meaningful amounts. It reinforces to us that our community cares. Right now, people are looking to make purchases that are aligned with their values, and getting something that’s unique and has a story behind it. [And] we’re moving away from ostentatious symbols of luxury and wealth into things that are more craft-driven, too.”
To this end, it’s possible that Mosha, Sophie and Linda’s daring to drum to their own beat will one day result in a symphony of brands eschewing how things were done for how they should be done. But until then, Mosha says they’re content with their solo mission. “We just want to make things for people who want them and will cherish them for a lifetime. We’re making things that are built to last.”