Maja Svensson

Maja Svensson in one of her designs

Maja (pronounced Maya) crafts custom-made, ladylike, dresses of organic cotton that are meant to be worn in the boardroom and the bar for happy hour, through her brand Elsa and Me. Thoughtful and soft-spoken, yet strong when it comes to adhering to her values, this smart Swede left her corporate job in just 2012 to pursue her dream of designing timeless basics for the striving eco-friendly set.

I cornered her at a sustainable fashion event and got her to agree to the How’ I’m Livin’ interview. Find out her quirks, convictions, and favorite places to shop. (Not that she shops that often!)

What’s your favorite NYC restaurant?

Marlow and Sons in Williamsburg. Such great environment and oysters.

What’s your favorite bar?

Pianos, on the Lower East Side. But that is more of nostalgia. My friend and I used to go there a lot, almost every weekend a couple of years ago.

Describe your perfect Sunday.

Wake up early. The apartment is already cleaned. I drink coffee and eat breakfast (a bagel) with my man at our tiny kitchen table, and we listen to some cheesy NPR weekend radio. I go do yoga, come back home, my man and I take the dog for a walk and it smells like fall outside. We go to the Whitney Museum in the afternoon and look at art until I get tired. We come home and have dinner and a glass of wine at our tiny kitchen table. Then we watch Bob’s Burgers and I eat peanut butter M&M’s. The Sunday End.

You can only see one musical artist perform this year–who do you choose?

Mumford and Sons. I am obsessed with how emotionally mature these lads seem to be.

What’s your favorite place to shop in the city?

I honestly haven’t been shopping in NYC for the past two years (except for tights/hosiery in the winter). First and foremost because I do not have a budget for it as an entrepreneur. Secondly, shopping does not entice me any longer. But I really like strolling markets, like Brooklyn Flea, Chelsea Market and Artists & Fleas: lots of beautiful things from local artisans and small businesses.

Your favorite NYC-made brand?

I mean, I wear my own brand all the time! But I guess that does not count. Although I haven’t bought anything from her I must say I really like Carrie Parry–her style is so elegant and thoughtful, and I could definitely see myself wearing many of her pieces.

You have three days free to get the heck out of the city. Where do you go?

Upstate New York to a cabin by a lake, where I can go hiking, and would drink wine by the fire in the evening.

An Elsa and Me dress

An Elsa and Me dress

Do you vintage shop? Where do you go?

I tend to buy jewelry second hand. I used to live in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn and there I would go to Brownstone Treasures to stock up on jewelry.

What’s your biggest, unsustainable bad habit?

I shower for way too long. Being in the shower has always been a peaceful place for me. This is where I tend to get the best ideas, and where I solve problems; the problem is that I waste a lot of water doing so.

How has living sustainably change your life for the better?

I am not sure I am there yet in living sustainably, but I do like the non-shopping aspect of my current life. It has taken me away from the short-term ego-boost that the “last minute shopping spree to make you feel better” gave me, that I would be used to solve emotional issues, and I have become so much more creative in terms of wearing what I already have in my closet. I feel as if this has made me value what I have more than I did earlier, both in terms of things and relationships. But maybe that is just how things evolve when you get older. (I’m 30)

Do you ever lecture your friends on their non-green choices?

No, I think that is a tiresome way of living and being. You can only really begin with yourself, and then inspire others by doing, rather than telling.

What do you find most challenging about living sustainably?

The way society is built: the system that surrounds our everyday life is already so well-established that it is difficult sometimes to know or to find the motivation to change all of those times during a day that you’re making an unsustainable choice (showering for too long, doing the dishes with running water, having the lights on, driving a car, eating lunch at a non-organic place, buying a plastic bottle of water, having the computer turned on at work all night, using too much toilet paper). There are so many things you can do “wrong” all the time. Having to continuously make an active choice if you want your ways to be more sustainable is draining, and why people choose not to care instead. Motivation is the challenge.

When it’s yellow, do you let it mellow?

Eh, no, that I flush down too.