A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO, SOURCEBOOK WAS INVITED TO OSLO BY THE NORWEGIAN FASHION INSTITUTE AND THE NORWEGIAN FASHION HUB TO GIVE A BREAKFAST SEMINAR ON ‘GARMENT PRODUCTION IN THE DIGITAL AGE’.
Before an audience of about 40 textile businesses, fashion brands, lecturers and students, our own Marte and Olof gave a presentation about the future of our industry and how Sourcebook and other tech driven businesses can take part in shaping it. But we also had time to track down some awesome people in Oslo and meeting up with some of the most driving designers, academics and initiators. Here are some impressions:
Norwegian Wool on the rise again:
First night in Oslo we met for dinner with Tone Tobiasson, director of KRUS – a Norwegian-Scottish research project about wool and tweed. She is also editor of NICE – an online resource to further sustainability initiated by the Nordic Fashion Association.
Tone told us that there are very few manufacturers and mills in Norway left and that even the last mills, that are mainly working for the production of national costumes (called Bunad), import their wool from New Zealand. To try to change this, Tone’s team developed a number of fabrics made from Norwegian wool that is now used by two emerging fashion brands: Elisabeth Stray Pedersen and Haikwithus. They re-established a fabric nicknamed ‘Viking Gold’, originally used for the oldest tunics of the Vikings, and then shared it with a number of Norwegian and Icelandic designers. These pieces are currently exhibited in Norway’s Museum of History. We were excited to see modern use of the ancient sheep-breed wool (pigmented spæl sheep) and the possibilities of contemporary designers utilising this raw material, spun and woven in local Norwegian mills like Sjölingstad Udvarefabrik in Mandal, Krivi or Varp og Veft.
Support for Norwegian designers:
After our talk we were able to sit down for a short interview with Gisle Mariani Mardal – managing director of the Norwegian Fashion Institute. He gave some valuable insight into the fashion and textile industries in Norway.
The textile sector isn’t the most important one, Norway having only 5 million inhabitants, but there is a real rise of young designers, traditional textile craftsmanship and local manufacturers. The Norwegian design sector actually grew 44% in the last years, fashion being its driving force. The large public sector, committed to sourcing 30% sustainably, is generating as much as 50% of the domestic market. Besides the success story of Norwegian Wool and the traditional and increasing importance of the Bunad (70% of Norwegians own a national costume), here too, digital tools create new potentials for the local brands, i.e. Motei.
Closing the generation gap:
In the 50ies styled café and interior gallery ‘Fuglen’ we met for coffee with Elisabeth Stray Pedersen – a new generation designer with a great vision. While running her own premium women’s wear brand ESP she was offered to take over an old garment manufactory, ‘Lillunn’, which she now runs. Their focus is classy nordic interior and fashion items made from Norwegian wool, based in the suburbs of Oslo. The former owner, who took it over from her mother, put her faith in Elisabeth carrying the torch as an important preserver of cultural heritage in Norway. The match is perfect since they share the same values and so the same atelier team as before is still using materials from local manufacturers while implementing modern technology and international distribution carefully. She feels blessed to work with a number of experienced seamstresses since finding technically skilled people in Norway is one of the biggest hurdles for fashion enterprises, Elisabeth says. We think she’s a pioneer and a role model for young designers the way she thinks globally and acts locally.
Atelier visit #1: Haik With Us
Haik With Us is a bubbly collective of fashion designers that collaborate with a number of artists, manufacturers and craftsmen around the world. The word Haik is Norwegian for hitchhiking – a reference to the many people they bring along for the ride.
They started in 2012 with a Showroom in Paris and are running their Oslo atelier in a former prison factory, with the old looms and machinery still in place as if the inmates just recently got up and left.
One collaboration example is a project with Franz Schmid who runs another weaving workshop that was closed for decades before he started to establish it as a museum, laboratory and education studio. That place houses a wide range of unique spinning and weaving machinery from the early 1900s.
For the Spring Summer 2017 season, Haik With Us is collaborating with artist Toril Johannessen from Hordaland Kunstsenter who developed traditional Ghanaian wax print fabrics with quite surreal patterns. Each rollup print is 1,5km long and printed from 2 sides, which needs months of processing. We are completely in love with the colorful shirts, jackets and trousers they created with the fabric.
Atelier visit #2: Black Rat
Right on the main shopping street in Oslo city center, the famous ‘Karl Johan’, we visited Siri Sveen Haaland, the founder of Black Rat – a sustainable fashion brand inspired by and dedicated to Norwegian underground culture. Black Rat shares the studio with Sidserk – a national costume brand and Siris second business that she runs with her mother and grandmother. ‘I have kind of a split personality’ she says, ‘I love both worlds’. On one hand making made-to-measure Bunads and training people in traditional textile techniques such as embroidery and silver decorating with a wide range of details – the individual designs reveal were about in Norway your family is from. And on the other hand creating an independent and urban clothing line with an androgynous approach made from natural, mostly organic materials with manufacturers in India, Portugal and Lithuania and sold in for example Topshop, London. If you doubt that preserving traditional craftsmanship and contemporary design can go together, Siri is living proof.