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From high-end rainwear to woollen gold: The last few years a number of Norwegian designers have stood out in the international fashion industry. The key to their success is a mixture of Nordic aesthetics and Norwegian lifestyle.

Published: 19 April 2018

Not too many years ago, the only major Norwegian fashion designer to succeed outside the country was Per Spook. 

A solitary swallow, the Norwegian relocated to Paris in the late 1950s, where he worked as a designer for fashion labels such as Dior, Yves Saint Laurent and Louis Féraud. In 1977, he branched out on his own in the style metropolis.

After Per Spook – who is still active at 78 – there has of course been an increasing number of talented Norwegian designers emerging. But Norwegian fashion’s big breakthrough in the international design community only happened 4-5 years ago.

Sleek design for an active lifestyle

“In short, Norwegian fashion is very much a part of Scandinavia and still totally unique”, Elin Katrine Saunes, project manager at Norwegian Fashion Hub, says to Visit Norway.

A fashion cluster consisting of more than 40 of the nation’s leading fashion brands, Norwegian Fashion Hub aims to bring together, build know-how and develop the Norwegian fashion industry. Among the cluster’s members are designers of all categories, from streetwear and accessories to children’s clothing, jewellery, rainwear and luxury brands.

We Norwegians

We Norwegians.
Photo: We Norwegians

“The relaxed and clean aesthetics characterizing Scandinavian design is garnering more international attention each day, resulting in the term Scandi Cool. In Norway, our climate and lifestyle are even more crucial as to how we dress.

Saunes elaborates:

“We expect the design to complement an active and modern lifestyle, and at the same time meet the demands of our climate. Our clothes have to both look good and feel comfortable, regardless of the weather or occasion. That’s why the Norwegian fashion industry has perfected design that looks sharp and feels good.”

A showcase for Norwegian culture

The success of Norwegian design and fashion abroad – economical as well as reputational – has to do with more than just design, Elin Katrine Saunes tells Visit Norway.

“An important aspect is the brands’ increasing professionalism when it comes to business, branding and internationalization. In addition to Norwegian Fashion Hub, a viewing platform has been provided through Oslo Runway. So there’s a new focus both politically and with regards to the consumer.”

Holzweiler

Holzweiler.
Photo: Holzweiler

Corresponding with the fashion boom, there is an increasing global interest for other sides of Norwegian culture, from music and TV series to cuisine and outdoor life. These things tend to influence each other, Saunes points out.

“At our arrangements, our goal is to combine Norwegian food, furniture, fashion and music. This obviously creates an interest in what Norwegian fashion – and Norway itself, really – has to offer.”

An investment in quality and sustainability

When we ask the project manager about some of the most impressive entrepreneurial stories from Norway’s design scene the last few years, she responds swiftly:

Swims, We Norwegians, Tom Wood, Holzweiler and Norwegian Rain are all great examples of fashion brands being recognized abroad and connected with big and important clients”.

Saunes is particularly fond of the brands that manage to combine sustainability and quality with a cutting-edge design.

“That way you get to invest in interesting clothes with a long life that can be used many times.”

Norwegian Rain

Norwegian Rain.
Photo: Norwegian Rain

What is the road ahead for Norwegian design and fashion? Has it reached its peak? Quite the contrary, Elin Katrine Saunes predicts.

– We believe the Norwegian design brands will continue to grow. Norway’s fashion industry is gaining confidence and developing solid brands with a national and international appeal. So there’s no reason to believe the Scandinavian wave will be broken anytime soon.

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