Threads: Wilhja




words / Ida Theran

Since 1970 Sweden’s king has been inviting young musicians together with established names to give concerts at the castle, every summer. The idea of Musik på Slottet (Music At The Castle) is still to mix well-known artists with upcoming stars. Today, it is one of the oldest music festivals in Sweden. And it’s still ”protected” by the king.

Traditionally the festival has been centered around classical music, in recent years it has been moving toward a modern influence, manifested in 2015 by working with fashion, design and contemporary issues in society. This year, the fashion designer and artist Carolina Rönnberg (Wilhja) is working with Musik på Slottet. She is creating a visual concept for the Mozart opera Lucia Silla that is being performed, drawing inspiration from the future, fantasy and rococo.

Wilhja is based in Vilhelmina, in the very north of Sweden, and while Carolina herself is an introvert her design to the contrary speaks a bold language. Bold enough that, despite her lack of formal education, the self-taught 30-year-old designer has attracted the attention of the royal household.


How did you end up working with fashion?

I just experience a lot of visions and emotions on possibilities with certain materials. I see shapes and colours bending and moulding together and I have the need to express that sensation.

I also find words easy to take for granted, a kind of manipulating way of expression. I prefer to use fashion as a way to express myself more freely – through wearing your art, so to speak. And through my work I contribute with a wearable expression of experimental elegance.

What is the idea behind your collection for Musik på slottet?

In designing the visual concept for the Mozart opera at the Royal Castle, I wanted to give the public a full-body experience. By mixing the strong musical act with the visual play, I want to give the public a taste of *Lucio Silla*.


Your design is not that traditional?

I didn’t want to use historically correct tailoring. Instead, I wanted to make something bold and refreshingly new. Mozart premiered with *Lucio Silla* in 1772, and he referenced things that happened and people that lived in ancient Rome, circa 79 B.C. I chose to use influences from those two eras, combining ancient Romanesque features and the European aristocracy of around 1770 with a search for the new, never-before-seen.

I decided to work with symmetrical graphic shapes and silhouettes with a brave colour palette. The colours are of great importance. They have a symbolic play with the characters and their relationship with each other.

Where did you get your name Wilhja from?

Wilhja refers to the Swedish word vilja (will/wish). It’s all about my and your will, what we wish to do with our life. How we want to express ourselves, either through what we create or what we choose to wear. What we want to contribute to, what we wish to celebrate or support.

My wish in my life is to contribute to a greater good. But my body has this need to sculpt things. So I figure I have to do that for my personal sake. And then use the profits from that labour to help Mother Earth and her inhabitants.

 What is your personal relationship to nature?

Nature is of the utmost importance for me. I have grown accustomed to that type of nature located up in south Lapland, we have a sort of mutual understanding for each other.

I chose to spell the word vilja after my hometown Vilhelmina/Wilhelmina as a tribute. I find it gives the brand and the design a sort of an exoticness that high fashion or avant garde creations are tailored in such a remote wilderness.

How long have you been interested in fashion and design?

I see and feel colour and shapes and surfaces. On the inside. Some combinations of them speak to me or make me react in whatever manner. There is a lot of fashion and design out there that doesn’t make me feel anything, that is empty but with a fancy label. A lot of people are buying that bullshit, which irritates me.

That’s why I have a hard time saying that fashion and design is an interest of mine. It all comes down to an interpretation of what it really is.

Without using labels, let’s say I have always been interested in presentations of shapes and colours combined together in whatever surface, in whatever material, in whatever constellation that eventually moves me or make an impact on me. It could be clothes, sculptures or bags.

How do you succeed as a new and upcoming designer?

You have to stand out to make an impact, right? One way is to be a phenomenal ass kisser or a giant crowdpleaser. I don’t kiss ass and have never found a place in the crowd. It’s not built for me. So I’ll be making my own way. One that suits me.  Hopefully I will stand out and make that impact.

What inspires you?

Possibilities. And they are endless.