For more than ten years she worked as an internationally successful model, at the time when the supermodels became a phenomenon. She has also had a career as an actress, columnist and TV host. Today Emma Wiklund is the CEO of Emma S. She has had a lifelong passionate interest in beauty. “If I could, I would test creams and search for interesting ingredients all day long, and perhaps even study to become a chemist.”
Emma Wiklund (formerly Sjöberg) was born in Stockholm but grew up in Huskvarna in southern Sweden.
“When I was young, nobody thought I would become a model, not even my mother (who also had worked as a model for a few years). I never thought I was good-looking. I was so disproportionate. I always thought my mouth was too large, something I also was teased for. And I had a gap between my front teeth and had to wear braces.”
Like many teenagers, she got some pimples in her teens. “I smeared toothpaste over them as people had told me that this would help, but which of course was a big scam. Also, I borrowed my mom’s creams, and even used her concealer stick which smelled funky to dab on the spots so that it looked as if I had typhus.”
Emma was just 18 when the model scout Mika Kjellberg, founder of Mika’s modelling agency, noticed her in a beauty contest in Emma’s hometown. Mika sat in the jury and asked Emma if she wanted to come to Stockholm to start working as a model. Emma’s plan was to study international business at the university, so therefore she decided to first finish high school.
Shortly after her graduation, she received an offer from the agency Fashion in Milan, where she went and stayed for six months before moving on to Paris.
“Emma was smart as a whip already at an early age. She knew exactly what she wanted and was extremely determined and professional. And she was always on time, no actually she always came too early. Difficult for me who always came late, but great for all the customers”, says Mika Kjellberg.
Emma initially thought that the modeling should only last for a year so that she could avoid having to take student loans, but she soon had to change her plans.
During the years 1988-2000 Emma worked as an international fashion model. She belonged to the era of the 80’s and 90’s supermodels who appeared on all the covers of the major fashion magazines – Elle, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Marie Claire, on the catwalks of Paris and Milan, in commercials, advertising campaigns and in cool music videos. She worked for the major fashion houses – Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Dior, Balmain, Versace, Azzedin Allaia, Gaultier, Thierry Mugler and Lanvin.
During her successful model years, Emma always ran this as her own business. “My first product was myself.”
She soon developed a passionate interest in beauty products. One of the reasons for this was her own personal skin problems. As it was not possible to retouch photos at the time, this sometimes led to difficulties.
“Twice I was sent home from shoots because I had a big pimple. They were going to make a beauty shoot for a magazine, and it was simply not possible to shoot me with a pimple…”
When in Paris, she established contact with a dermatologist who helped her to find skin care products that were more medical. These products in combination with good skin care routines were crucial to help Emma get a bright and fresh complexion.
Back in Sweden, Emma had her breakthrough in 1991 with the dairy company Arla’s campaign for skimmed milk. She had been taking dancing classes since the age of 12, and was often booked since she liked to move in front of the camera.
“In the commercial for skimmed milk I had to jump around, and then I was able to continue jumping around in Elle and other fashion magazines.”
Emma starred in several music videos, among other Vanessa Paradis’ Tandem (1990) and George Michael’s Too Funky (1991).
In the early 90s Emma worked extensively with the legendary French designer Thierry Mugler whose fashion shows was something out of the ordinary at the Paris fashion scene. Spectacular clothing and crazy creations. His shows included everything from catwomen to supermodels, porn stars and pop artists.
Someone who loved this madness was the pop star George Michael. Therefore, Thierry Mugler was asked to direct and design the choreography for the video Too funky.
“I was one of many models who participated, dressed in my hand molded robot suit and motorcycle corset, creations that both Lady Gaga and Beyonce have used in their music videos”, Emma recalls.
Towards the end of her modeling career Emma also worked some years as an actress in France. Who can reject the director Luc Besson when he calls and offers a large role in a movie? Emma was 30 years old when this happened, and at first she did not believe the Frenchman at the other end of the phone. He was looking for a tall blond German who could play the role as the police Petra in the Taxi movies.
“I understood that it was for my looks, since I’m not an actress. Petra is a real super woman, a tough police officer who can speak all languages, has a gun, and masters karate.” The movies, a series of four, were a great success.
After her acting years Emma received several jobs as a TV-hostess, one of which was in the series Baby-boom which suited perfectly since she at that time had small children of her own. She also hosted several galas, such as the Elle gala in Sweden, and worked as a columnist for several magazines.
After 12 years in the modeling industry, Emma moved back to Sweden. For five years she worked with the clothing retailer Lindex and then took a degree in Business Administration at IHM Business School before she founded Emma S. together with Nora Larssen in 2009.
She had had in mind to launch her own brand for a long time before she in 2009 founded Emma S. together with Nora Larssen.
“It’s so much fun to run your own business. It suits my personality to have my own business and to be in control. But it took some years of reflection before I was brave enough to push the go button.”
The self-confidence that she needed to start her own business had evolved over time. The combination of her background as a model, studies at IHM Business School, sitting on the board of the fashion retailer Lindex and getting to know her friend and business partner Nora, made Emma take the plunge and found Emma S.
“The first few years I studied and worked with Lindex, at the same time as Nora and I developed the ideas and the business plan during the evenings. We are such a good combination, she has a finance background and is a businesswoman, and I have knowledge about products, the brand and pr. We have had a great deal of respect for each other since the very beginning.”
Emma’s strong interest in creams and beauty has been the driving force when she started her own brand, to be able to work with what she enjoys the most.
She has been inspired by other beauty entrepreneurs, both Swedish such as Gun Novak, and international such as Bobbi Brown and Linda Rodin.
“Linda Rodin is amazing! She started with an oil in which she believed herself. If you do not believe in what you sell, it will not work. You always see if a product is authentic. If I did not use my own creams myself, I would never sell them.”
Emma lives in Stockholm together with her husband and two children. She enjoys being busy, to be on top of things and loves good routines in her everyday life.