Some people do what others just dream about. Like moving to another country, to a city where you know nobody or nothing besides your own dreams and desires. Maria Hedmark did just that; she moved from a small town in Sweden to New York, to pursue her dream in fashion. She now has her own brand, Linie NYC, where she creates clothes from one-patterned pieces. Growing up close to nature, she’s currently living with her husband in urban South Williamsburg, where the train rocks her to sleep.
In 2011, you moved from small town in Sweden to the great NYC. What made you take that big step, well, flight overseas?
I’ve always wanted to try living in New York. During my education in Fashion Design at The Swedish School of Textiles, University of Borås, there was a compulsory internship and I began searching for a position here in NYC, and got one. On the 4th of June in 2011 I took a flight from Landvetter, Gothenburg, to Newark with no friends or family meeting me on the other side and what more: I had not even been here before… I never hesitated but right there, on the airport, I was nervous. I would more or less start a new life! And it was exactly what happened; in NYC I’ve met new friends and made a career. And NYC is also the city where I met my husband.
What was the first thing you did when arriving?
I rented a place through Airbnb because I wanted to have my staying settled before moving. It was perhaps an expensive way out but it was also a bit cheaper then, and my room was furnished with everything you need – including bed clothing and towels – which made it really convenient. I got there quite early during the day and after unpacking everything I went out to explore my new neighborhood.
What did you see?
Well, actually… When I looked for a place to stay I wanted it to be in Williamsburg, or close to Williamsburg, because I’d heard it was a nice neighborhood. Manhattan was way out of my price range, so Brooklyn it was.
The location seemed close to Williamsburg when looking at a map. But it was not. Really not. The neighborhood is called Bed-Suy (Bedford-Stuyvesant) and even though I lived in a big and newly built house with a doorman, it’s a rather poor and rough area with policemen near the subway station more or less all the time. I actually lived just by “The Projects” where Jay Z grew up. Looking back at this time I think I was so cool, moving to NYC without a clue about where I would really live!
So where do you live now?
In South Williamsburg. It’s a two-room apartment and the house is located on Broadway, where the subway is actually above the way. Our apartment is at the same level, which has its pros and cons. On the backside – the noise. On the other hand the station is really close and the rent is hard to find anywhere else in NYC. South Williamsburg is an exciting mixture of different nationalities and people, and our apartment is close to the best restaurants and shopping in Williamsburg.
Your apartment has changed location, but how have you changed?
I am more spontaneous now than back in Sweden. Everywhere I turn there are grocery stores, the gyms are open around the clock and the subway runs 24/7. I can get whatever I’m in the mood for, no matter night or day, and there is no need to plan anything when it comes to my own time. When it comes to my social life, on the other hand, there’s not really room for being spontaneous. Everyone works late and has an active social life – a date with friends has to be planned weeks ahead.
Are you living in NYC, or is it more like an endless trip?
NYC is definitely where I live; my husband and I have a nice apartment that is our home. I think the ultimate proof of feeling at home somewhere is when you can stay in all day and night, without the feeling of missing out on anything. When I first moved here I remember thinking that the day I run into someone I know on the street, then it’s for real! And it happens everyday now.
What is your favorite street in NYC?
Oh, there are so many streets I love, but I can’t name a favorite. You have Berry and Wythe Street in Williamsburg, because of the people scouting – I love looking at people
in the middle of their everyday lives.
Another street is North 3rd Street in Williamsburg. There you’ll find small shops, cafés and restaurants, but the chain stores seems to take over. It’s a shame.
And then there’s Mercer and Wooster Street in Soho with trees and cobblestones and the calm atmosphere (and Celine, Editors note), which is a welcomed contrast to Broadway, the street I like the least.
Morningside Heights, in the north west part of Manhattan, has several cathedrals and churches and a beautiful park. If we have children someday, I would love an apartment there.
Are you at the right place at the right time, now?
I think that my life in New York is like a DNA structure that is constantly growing. One thing leads to another and new opportunities always emerge from experiences and people you meet. If you’re nice and good willed, everything will turn out ok, I think. There are a lot of people, especially in the fashion industry, who acts really badly – like choosing who to treat nice and who to not. But what goes around comes around. I prefer to be kind to everyone.
Do you think New York has affected your design?
Yes, in many ways. Starting your own brand is so much easier here than in Sweden, it’s not nearly as expensive and not such a hassle. Here I can find fabric agents with a wide range of interesting textiles, and factories – everything in the nearby area.
Speaking of nearby… How do you move from A-Z in the city?
I love walking in NYC but it would take me forever to walk everywhere. The subway is amazing here; there are so many stations and lines. But when going from A, and Z is 15
blocks away, I walk. Once again, I love looking at people. You always discover something new, or see something you haven’t noticed before.
Does the wearer of your clothes live in NYC as well?
I think she can live anywhere, but most likely in a big city with a high variety of everything and perhaps she has a will to stand out a bit.
What’s a common sight in New York?
Well – all the homeless people. I have never seen the like in Sweden. Unfortunately, I don’t always have the possibility to support them, but I always look them in their eyes when they ask for money, instead of ignoring.
Then there’s the variety of people – you just can’t help noticing the contrasts. It makes me laugh a lot. I think it’s beautiful, and it makes me happy.
Speaking of contrasts. You held your wedding reception last summer and you chose to celebrate in a small town in Sweden, a big contrast from the big city…
When we first arrived in Sweden before the reception I rediscovered the scent of newly cut grass and how different the nature is. Sometimes it was almost hard to fall asleep because it was so quiet – just the mosquitoes buzzing. I’m used to trains, horns and people shouting, singing and laughing outside my bedroom window. But I soon got used to the silence, and when we got back to NYC it was a chock. There was so much noise: cars everywhere, people shouting at each other… I got dizzy from all the noise and impressions. We even talked about looking at a house upstate because we couldn’t bear it. But after three days we were back on track again. Now I like hearing the train while going to sleep – it makes me feel secure.
What makes you survive NYC, then, since you grew up close to trees, the lake, and silence?
Hiding away in my apartment without seeing people, not even friends. With so many people and impressions everywhere I really need my space, and time away, to charge my batteries.
Is there somewhere you can escape?
We often try to go upstate, for house gazing. Not that we have any house plans, but it’s a break from the pulse of the city. Both my husband and I grew up with forest just around the corner, and it’s important for us to be able to escape somewhere quiet. I also love going to Fort Tilden Beach during summer. Unfortunately, I didn’t find time last
summer. The feeling of looking out over the ocean, hearing the water rolling in… It’s such a feeling, a feeling of total tranquility with no traffic or intrusive noise. A big umbrella, some fruit and cookies and my fingers playing in the sand, that’s all…
What happens when there’s money left in the end of the month?
Money left?! Hasn’t happened for a long time! It’s so expensive to live here. However, you socialize by din din and drinks (eating out), so I guess it’s a way of spending some extra dollars.
So where do you go out for dinner?
Xixa in Williamsburg is a really good restaurant with an atmosphere that is something extra. But then there’s so much great Korean, Japanese and Mexican food here! And whenever I urge for Swedish food I go to Greenpoint and one of the Polish restaurants. They use similar spices like back home, and a three-course dinner will cost you no more than $10!
If I’m in the mood for something fast there is so much it’s almost hard to choose… There is always the $1 pizza slices. If I’m in a hurry I always go for a slice, I mean it takes 30 secs to get your food.
The best bar?
Trophy Bar is the best, and located close to our apartment. It’s close to home, not too loud music and all kinds of people.
When in NYC, don’t…
… go to Century 21. It’s mainly crap, a lot of people and actually a bit awkward.
The restaurants in Meatpacking District and Chelsea Market were so cool and genuine before, but now it’s more like an industry. So you won’t miss out on anything if going somewhere else.
See Maria’s top restaurants
(Cover photo in this story by Maria Hedmark.)
by Catharina Holm