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Sometimes it’s those closest to us who inspire us the most, and this is certainly true of GLAS founder and CEO Christoffer Sundberg and his mother, Laila. Hailing from Luleå, a small city in Northern Sweden, Christoffer founded GLAS when he realized that Laila couldn’t find reading glasses that both made her feel confident, and suited her style.
We sat down with Christoffer and Laila in his flat in southern Stockholm for a cup of coffee, as they looked over some designs and samples for upcoming collections. Together, they reveal the full story behind GLAS. Read on to get to know what defines the pair’s relationship as mother and son, and their lifelong mission to see the beauty in everyday things, in their own words.
On a sunny day in 2018, Christoffer met his mother for a coffee at a hotel in Stockholm. He asked her why her reading glasses did not match her personality and style, to which she answered she had never found any that did.
“I started talking to my mum about what we have around us that is just an essential, but that people have made beautiful. We sat down, and we had a coffee. I was in a mindset where I was looking for beautiful things everywhere. She placed her reading glasses on the table, almost looking ashamed of them. Suddenly one plus one became three. I thought - this is an everyday essential that has been neglected and forgotten, why don't we create reading glasses that are actually beautiful?”
After this light-bulb moment, Christoffer began to realize that fashionable reading glasses were something that were very hard to find. Regular reading glasses available at petrol stations or pharmacies were all created with little attention to details, design or quality, and lacked a unique sense of style.
“My mum has always been a good role model in the way that she always tried to enhance her everyday life and style. When I was a kid, the worst thing I knew was to be with her in stores. I'd sit down on a chair and wait for her. Then later when I grew up, I realized that none of the big brands were really made for her. Seeing her walk around in those stores trying to see if there's something made for her. She'd bring up a shirt or something but say "This is not for me. I'm too old for this!" I think that actually stuck with me more than I thought at that point.”
This is what led Christoffer to reject the idea that women of a certain age should fit into a single mold, simply because of a poor offering from lifestyle and fashion brands. That same year, GLAS was born, with the aim to associate aging with strength, self awareness, and renewed confidence.
“It doesn't matter if you've come up to a certain age, you still have to take steps forward and be brave. Everything starts with a small step, I like to think reading glasses can be the first step.”
Laila remembers with great pride the time that Christoffer hit his first milestone after founding GLAS, although she acknowledges that it wasn’t always an easy journey for him.
“I actually remember a time when Christoffer called me just when he had started GLAS, feeling very disheartened. We talked for a long time and I tried my very best to motivate him. I felt strong at that time myself, so I had the energy for the both of us. Suddenly he said "Mum! Just a minute! I just sold a pair of glasses!" And I said "Yes! This is the beginning!"
The pair have a bond that is unique in its closeness, and characterize the relationship that they share as mother and son as being extremely positive and supportive.
“I would describe our relationship as very close. We talk all the time. When I hear about the relationships my friend's have with their parents I’m often surprised, some only talk to them once a month! That's unthinkable for me.”
“There's a lot of humour in our relationship. We're simply positive; if an obstacle occurs- you get over it. I think you're born positive.”
Christoffer explains that he was always inspired by his mother throughout his childhood. From a young age, she fostered a passion in him for enjoying the simple things in life - an outlook that they still share today.
“My passion for cooking comes from mum. When I was a kid, there was always some kind of meal bubbling away on the stove. The kitchen has always been an important place. We didn't have the possibility to travel a lot back then, so we found joy in trying out a new dish, or simply taking the cooked meal to eat outside instead.”
“If we did travel somewhere, we would go to our cottage in Arvidsjaur, in Northern Sweden. We cooked together and made bread. We barely even had electricity in the cottage, and there was certainly no running water.”
“When you remove the comforts you have in your everyday life, you start seeing really beautiful things. You see the water and you see the flowers, and you appreciate everything. I think that's central in our relationship, finding the essentials. In this way, spending time with family is also central to me.”
The GLAS ethos is that the little things in life are something to be celebrated, and the brand has grown on the firm belief in enhancing the everyday through creating a lifestyle around what makes you feel positive; from kind people and self care to beautiful things. This is a mantra which Christoffer lives his life by, not only through GLAS, but also when he’s at home with his family.
“My mum was a big inspiration for me in this regard, because she was always taking the small things and putting them in a nice context. Growing up, we were encouraged to see the good in the mundane essentials.”
"I think I also always encouraged you to look on the bright side of things. At first when something terrible happens, you won't be able to see a solution, but with time you'll have to find the key to solve the problem and get something good out of the bad."
Beyond GLAS, becoming a parent himself is something that has allowed Christoffer to further this practice of finding joy in the small things, and see it in a completely new light.
He also hopes that this is something that will continuously inspire new products and new directions for the brand going forward.
“Now that I have a three month old daughter, we sit down and just look at something mundane, like a fork or a flower. Everything is so beautiful for her. She sees them for the first time, and I do too! And that's the way I grew up. I think I have it with me in my backbone, to really stop and try to see the beautiful things in everyday things.”
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