It’s noon on an early September Saturday in SoHo. Corralled behind metal barriers, two equally lengthy lines of buzzing young women wrap around the corner of Spring and Mott Streets, hindering foot traffic and forcing pedestrians into a narrow walkway between parallel parked cars and rubbernecking taxi cabs. “She is so sweet!”, one buzzing young woman exiting the circus wipes her damp cheek. “She’s perfect!”, her companion agrees. Patrons of sidewalk tables at a cafe across the street crane their necks to catch a glimpse of the petite blonde woman outside the sleek corner storefront, singlehandedly halting the flow of a normally bustling lower Manhattan street.
“Who is that?”, a tourist probes passersby with his camera in hand, catty-corner to the affair. “She’s Matilda Djerf, an influencer!”
The man chuckles in response, bemused by the name and amused by the dedicated fanfare of the young women to just an “influencer”. But his reaction is mistaken.
The reality is it’d be easy to boil down Matilda Djerf to just one label (Google already has) but it’s time to set the record straight: Djerf is officially not just an influencer, but a growing multihyphenate across industries. At 26, the fashion tastemaker has arisen from simple OOTD snaps on the streets of her native Stockholm to the chief of an international fashion label. While this level of success is calculated by many, her intro to the world stage conversely began unintentionally. Djerf’s fledgling photo blog during post-high school travels with her boyfriend was discovered by Tumblr-era bloggers and initially triggered her internet virality. Upon her return home, Djerf’s snaps of romanticized Swedish countryside living and Scandi-cool minimalist style quickly racked up numbers on Instagram and a dedicated pack of loyal post likers, ornamenting her comment sections with heart eyes and inquiries about where they, too, could purchase each piece she modeled from hair to toe.
Djerf became the face of every fashion follower’s Pinterest board. Her mane—perfectly coiffed with flouncy layers and Farrah Fawcett-reminiscent volume—gained a loyal following akin to mainstream celebrityhood. As the Gen Z answer to the 90s’ “The Rachel”, Djerf’s locks set off a scissor storm of curtain bangs at hair salons worldwide.
Then with a few hundred thousand followers and counting, Djerf’s fandom grew in unison with her resumé. Her every sartorial choice became the gospel truth for “what’s trending”. Brands readily caught on to her unerring styling and devoted following, teaming up for priceless exposure and leading to the next title on her evergrowing CV: designer. To the tune of sold-out collaborations with Ete Swimwear, Tine K Home, and Emi Jay, Djerf cemented her status as one to watch and all the while, got Djerf thinking about her next venture.
“I realized my social media presence could be transformed into a business when I started doing design collaborations with other brands. That’s when I saw that my vision and the ideas that I had were really appreciated,” Djerf remarks. “The collections that I did with other brands would sell out every time. Me and my partner [Rasmus Johansson], who is CEO of Djerf Avenue, both felt like it was time for us to do our own thing because if we could sell out for other brands, why wouldn’t we be able to sell out for our own brand?”
And sell out, they did—repeatedly. In 2019, without a business plan but equipped with pure stick-to-itiveness, Djerf and Johansson launched Djerf Avenue with a humble capsule collection of closet staples she describes as pieces she wished she already had in her wardrobe. Breezy button-downs, slouchy oversized blazers and wide-leg trousers took center stage—the kind of wardrobe just as easily sported at the office as happy hour.
“In a world where trends move so quickly, it’s nice to have pieces that could live through season after season,” says Djerf. The subdued tonality and sleek lines resonated in areas far beyond the confines of Scandinavia, theorized by Djerf to be the classic timelessness of these wardrobe keystones.
Within the first year, Djerf Avenue profited 1.8 million in revenue and the limited stock became social media style currency. This result, Djerf notes, was the moment that she and Johansson realized they were on the cusp of something bigger. Over three years, the team expanded TK fold in employees (and over 18 fold in profits) as Djerf Avenue planted roots across the pond with the introduction of a New York office as the second site of a growing empire. Online sales were steadily in an uptick and the next natural step was brick-and-mortar.
After booming success at Djerf Avenue pop ups in Los Angeles and Stockholm in 2022 and 2023 respectively, Djerf and Johansson struck a bullseye on the Big Apple as the proposed next site for an in-person shopping experience. “New York felt like an obvious choice to us because we obviously have a lot of customers here but there’s a lot of foot traffic,” Djerf says during a brief break amidst her hours-long meet and greet in the late summer sun. “It’s New York and there’s a lot of possibility to do something really special.”
The weekend-long site appears arguably nondescript on a Lower East Side corner. Outfitted with a white brick exterior and white “Djerf Avenue” logos emblazoned on the windows, its façade does not argue for attention amongst blaring neon lights of neighboring pizza shops and bodegas. Its simplistic image, perhaps a nod to the brand’s Nordic roots, begs to remain under the radar yet still commands a crowd fit for a 21st-century popstar. Out front, in collaboration with the New York-based java house, a Bluestone Lane-branded coffee push cart churns out dozens of Djerf Avenue iced vanilla lattes by the minute, bespoke for the occasion and exclusively complimentary for entering and exiting shoppers. Inside, the shop is minimalist yet warm. A couch centered between the four stark white walls welcomes customers into the store (or tired partners to rest while the Djerf Avenue-obsessed shopper peruses). Each section of the wall is dedicated to one particular Djerf Avenue staple: button-ups to the right, silk slips to the back left, and blazers to the front left.
The pop-up operates as a well-oiled machine: one line out front is for a photo with Djerf herself, the other to shop in-store—separated, Johansson notes, after a day of trial-and-error. Djerf is to stand outside throughout each pop-up day because otherwise, shoppers stop for pictures. A strategy was struck to keep the customer turnover rate at a suitable speed and the sidewalk queues as speedy as possible. Once an item is purchased inside the pop-up, the order is sent to a “warehouse” hole-in-the-wall down the street for customers to fetch their merch away from the hubbub and keep the conveyor belt of commerce chugging along without a hitch. Every detail, from queue organization to cashier location, has been fine-tuned from the two previous brand pop-ups—events that’d appear JV in comparison to this varsity-level turnout.
Despite 3.1 million followers and counting, Djerf still gets nervous for the prospect of low attendance before each of her in-person events. While doors aren’t to open until 10 AM, the first customers secure their spot in line each day around 5 AM. Across the three-day event, countless fans return to queue for hours for the chance at yet another selfie with Matilda herself before returning to the back of the second line to shop.
“It’s been so good and so unexpected. Whenever I do something like this, I have a fear that nobody will show up and that we’ve invested so much passion and energy into a project that nobody will come to see. I’ve realized that is a silly thing to think. Everybody tells me, ‘Of course, people are going to show up, Matilda!’.” she laughs. “But for me, Djerf Avenue is my baby and I’m so passionate about it. It’s all I ever think about and work on, so to be able to share this weekend with our customers is a really special thing. It’s truly such a safe space which is our main goal always.”
For these young women, Djerf Avenue is not just a brand but a sisterhood. From the unretouched campaign imagery celebrating true body diversity, the full-length store mirrors adorned with “Ur an Angel!” to the “Angel” terminology itself, reminiscent of a cult-favorite brand of yesteryear, Djerf molded the brand with expert attention to what sets her Insta feed and personal story apart from her social media contemporaries. From the start, Djerf has been outspoken about her personal struggles and mental health; from her eating disorder past to a traumatic ectopic pregnancy, Djerf’s followers receive as much insight into her personal life as her wardrobe. Her authenticity has translated over into her label wherein a community of uplifting (and trendy) individuals uniformed in blazers and an ethos of compassion and acceptance is fused into the DNA of Djerf Avenue. In an era of social media stardom and influencer-fronted brands, it is Djerf Avenue’s camaraderie that is pivotal to setting itself apart from being another flash-in-the-pan success.
In case its permanency in the fashion world is up for discussion, Djerf Avenue settles the score on a Sunday evening post-pop-up. As the sun sets over the iconic Guggenheim Museum, the venue is transformed into a mesmerizing backdrop for a two-part classic: dinner and a show. Chic who’s who, clad in fine silk frocks and trendy knee-high boots, mingle beneath the museum’s spiraling architecture. An affirmations wall and polaroid cameras adorning each table encourage moments of self-reflection and instant captures. Glossier’s makeup artistry further heightens the glamour in a thoughtful inter-brand collaboration. Rounding off the night, the lights dim so the spotlight can shine on not only the brand’s newest collection but also its core values.
For her first-ever runway show, Djerf refreshingly encapsulates all that the brand represents sans labels and exclusion. Showcasing diversity and inclusivity, 22 models of varying body types and abilities walk the runway in reinvented brand favorites including silk tie front blouses and power suit-esque jackets. Behind the scenes, Djerf is captured as a hype woman for her models in an internally and externally validating pep talk.
“You’re here because you guys are amazing. I’m so grateful you are here and you are a true representation of what Djerf Avenue is,” Djerf affirms to the backstage crowd. “We’re going to show the fashion industry that we can be more than just one size, one kind of girl,” happily cut off by the roar of her Angel squad.
After the show, Djerf is all smiles. She cheerily chats with attendees, continuously thanking each for their commitment to the brand’s blowout weekend and humbly shrugging off the praise. Djerf doles out embraces in the culmination of a three-day fashion bender. Surrounded by hundreds of rising faces in the industry amongst a Manhattan mainstay locale, it’d be easy for her to admit that she has “made it”. However, Djerf remains indifferent to labels, even of the it-girl persuasion.
“It’s not something that I see myself as and I don’t really enjoy being connected to that. I’m just me, and if that inspires someone, that makes me really happy,” Djerf smiles. “But then again, I don’t like labels in general.”
Photography by Indie Jansons