Erik Torstensson

Driven by Curiosity: Erik Torstensson on Brand Building

Show Notes


FRAME cofounder and chief creative director, Erik Torstensson, is a pioneering figure in the fashion industry. He created Mr. Porter, co-founded and led creative agencies Saturday Group and Wednesday Agency, and co-founded and helmed Industrie magazine. With a keen eye for branding and digital strategy, Torstensson has successfully deployed unique marketing and communication approaches across his roles. He’s driven FRAME's global reach through culture-catching campaigns and collaborations, often fronted by top talents like Gisele Bündchen, Karlie Kloss, and Amelia Gray. As an outside-of-the-box thinker, he shares insights into conscious design, digital strategy, brand partnerships, and his recent obsession with AI. Consistently setting new standards for what’s contemporary, Torstensson advocates for curiosity, naivety, and the restless courage that comes from using an outsider's perspective to his advantage.

Episode Highlights
  • Growing up as an only child on a farm in the Swedish countryside, Torstensson remarks on the importance of boredom to his creative development and the necessity of simply finding something to do.
  • Slow-paced life didn’t suit him. He began to enjoy traveling, dancing, and skateboarding, which held both collaborative and independent creative potential.
  • After working at interiors magazine Wallpaper, Torstensson helped launch Industrie and Man About Town magazines—the former had cover stars like Anna Wintour, Edward Enninful, and Naomi Campbell.
  • Outside of quantitative efforts in brand identity, ad campaigns, and editorial work, Torstensson says, “It’s not really about you. It’s about who you work with, who you surround yourself with.”
  • FRAME was a community-led “passion project” stemming from Industrie. It was built not necessarily on denim but on the idea of perfecting any single product with a particular aesthetic in mind, in this case, “the FRAME woman.”
  • Working on a budget to produce and market FRAME’s aesthetic has led Torstensson to think out of the box.
  • Torstensson discusses a brand’s life cycle and its different versions, from starting out as a hot newcomer to becoming more organized and productive to later cutting through the media landscape with more sensational marketing.
  • On the level of scale and production, AI gave Torstensson a great new tool he likens to Photoshop, making him quicker and more effective.
  • Having a strong team, a partnership with Jens Grede, and the luxury of slowing down have gone hand in hand with an increase in confidence in his work over the years.
  • He foregrounds the importance of knowing your strengths and leaning into them, going with your personal passions—“Just do it.”
  • Torstensson recommends reevaluating what’s contemporary and what will last every five years or so, not being afraid, and learning to evolve.

Notable Quotes:

  • “Boredom I think, is heavily underestimated in the sort of the making of a creative soul or process.” —Erik Torstensson
  • On magazine work: “There was a chance to meet our heroes and do ideas where we could collaborate with people—that was in a more free way than just doing ad campaigns for them.” —Erik Torstensson
  • Industrie is one of the few things I’m quite proud of because I think it was at the right time, I thought it was contemporary then. . . we did a cover with Marc Jacobs in drag by Patrick Demarchelier and Katie Grand. And that was cool and interesting and then irrelevant at a time when Instagram came and then, Marc was in drag on Instagram on himself every day. So, there was no real need for us to try to get that access. It was there, and that’s great. And then you move on.” —Erik Torstensson
  • “Everything else is really about surrounding yourself with people that are very good at what you’re not good at and to understand what you’re not good at and not think that it’s important to know it all.” —Erik Torstensson
  • “To stand out, you need people who cut through. I think it’s very hard to, in today’s world, to make a mark in that. And as the size of a brand FRAME is, I need to work with people where they are also a headline. I can’t buy enough media to support a campaign in a way that, let’s say if Gucci has a cool young model that no one knows, they can get their message across and the aesthetic across by buying a lot of billboards and ads and magazines and digital and so forth, because they have the budget. I need to think about ideas that are slightly different.”  —Erik Torstensson
  • “Happily, I’m obsessed with AI. And again, I think that comes down to being constantly evolving and being curious, which I think is extraordinarily important, especially when you come to my age: to not stop being curious.” —Erik Torstensson
  • “That’s exactly what it [AI] is to me, a tool. It’s not a solution to anything really that I couldn’t do before. It’s just like when I got my hands on Photoshop…This is just a different tool so I can be faster, but it made me feel like Iron Man or Superman as a creative director.” —Erik Torstensson
  • “I just don’t want to be an audience. I want to actually try to do it, which has been a regular, recurring thing in my career.” —Erik Torstensson
  • “I’m like, I’m not going to tell you what to do. I’m going to tell you what I believe is like the brand DNA, what we stand for, and how elevated it has to be. And then you have to do it. You have to tell me, and you should tell me that I’m not, that I don’t know what I’m talking about. You should prove me wrong at all times, ideally, if you have the right people.” —Erik Torstensson
  • “Don’t wait, no one’s going to. A lot of people are procrastinating so much about what are they going to do and think about what’s right to do and what’s not right to do and so forth. But no one’s going to thank you because you waited; you just have to go, do. And then you find by doing, you find your way. No one is waiting for you, you know?”
  • “If you have a momentum, you have to take that momentum, and you have to turn that into something else.” —Erik Torstensson
  • “I think it costs nothing to be nice. It costs everything to be an A-hole, I don’t know why; what’s the point of being not nice. I don’t get it.” —Erik Torstensson
  • “What’s contemporary now is a constant; it would be the constant answer in my view, and that is youth, or the young generation. It is their job to be contemporary now…And then the other thing I would say, and I said italready is AI, you cannot ignore it. It’s just a seismic shift in how we behave and what we’re going to do. So if you ignore it, you are going to be left behind.” —Erik Torstensson
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