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Happenings on the Oslo fashion scene

Things are starting to happen again in Norway’s fashion scene. Oslo Fashion Week has joined a new Nordic Fashion Association. Oslo Fashion Fair will make a big comeback after being away eight years. And the industry will be united for the first time in a newly created Norwegian Fashion Council (Norsk Mote Institutt). Even Keira Knightley is wearing Norwegian.

This is promising news for a country not readily associated with fashion. One of the big names to come out of the country is Moods of Norway, a brand launched by Peder Børresen and Simen Staalnacke that uses Norwegian traditional designs in its line. Its latest season, for example, was inspired partly by traditional rose painting patterns found in the children’s room of the legendary violinist Ole Bull.

Oslo Fashion Week
But there are more up and coming designers getting attention, thanks to the efforts of Pål Vasbotten, model agency owner and founder of Oslo Fashion Week. He decided in 2004 to create a special event for Norwegian designers because he felt nothing was happening in the branch. Two of the traditional showrooms, Oslo Fashion House at Fornebu and Norsk Mote Forum at Sjølyst, were running trade fairs during Norway’s February and August fashion weeks, but there was no special event for local designers.

“There were few who respected or accepted Norwegian design,” said Vasbotten. “But I saw there were many designers out there and that there was a need for focus on Norwegian design.”

Oslo Fashion Week (OFW) runs a four to five day show in February and August, the same week as the two Norwegian trade fairs. OFW showcases about a dozen Norwegian designers each time and draws an audience of up 20,000. Even Moods of Norway has showcased at Oslo Fashion Week. Among some of the new names to come out of the past Oslo Fashion Week events are Batlak og Selvig, Peter Løchstøer, Ingunn Birkeland, Elton & Jacobsen, and Fam Irvoll.

Oslo Fashion Fair
However, Norwegian and international designers will soon have yet another new venue in Oslo. Oslo Fashion Fair (OFF) will re-open its doors to a three-day trade fair and fashion event on February 13-15, 2009 at a new site, the old Freia chocolate factory in the trendy neighbourhood of Grünerlokka. OFF was forced to close down eight years ago. It is starting up again with a focus towards hipper brands, such as James Pearse and Juicy Couture, and a younger crowd, said Danielle Lebourg, Oslo Fashion Fair accounts manager. Moods of Norway was one of the first Norwegian brands to sign up.

Michelle Orme, Norwegian trend researcher.
© Det Tredje Øye by Maiken Woll Eide


Responsible, Ethical & Sustainable Production
The other big news this year was the creation of the Nordic Fashion Association between Oslo Fashion Week, Danish Fashion Institute, Swedish Fashion Council, Iceland Fashion Council, and Helsinki Design Week. One of its current key projects is NICE, short for Nordic Initiative Clean & Ethical (NICE), which aims to lead the Nordic fashion industry towards a stronger focus on responsible, ethical, and sustainable production. NICE has planned a Fashion Summit 2009 conference that will take place in parallel to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in 2009 to help spotlight the social and ethical challenges in the fashion industry.

One designer who has incorporated this message into its line has been Per Åge Sivertsen, the Tønsberg creator behind FIN (Norwegian for nice). He has introduced into his autumn/winter collection for 2009 a “wild non-violent silk” that does not require the killing of the silk moth at the pupae stage, as with conventional silk production. His Eco Lux concept also includes organic cotton, organic baby alpaca, fair trade and “carbon neutral” in which FIN buys climate credits to offset the level of CO2 emissions from the production of its garments. FIN has listed Keira Knightley and Kate Bosworth among his fans.

“FIN is huge abroad,” said Michelle Orme, a Norwegian trend researcher. “It is one of the players in the fashion scene that has actually been ahead with its ecological, bio-dynamic and ethical, fair-trade (line).”

Nasturtrium Collection wrap dress
in 100% wild silk.


Norwegian Fashion Promoted Abroad
But it is not so easy for Norwegian designers to make a big splash abroad. So the Norwegian trade and industry ministry has recently given a grant to create the country’s first fashion institute, Norske Mote Institutt, starting February 2009. NMI’s main goal will be to promote Norwegian fashion design in Norway and abroad and make Norwegian fashion a recognizable brand.

“Norway has not been able before to create international trends, so we are really small in this business,” said Thor Husby, NMI Project Director. “But we now see a new generation of designers. The members of the institute are quite confident that we can export Norwegian fashion.”

The institute will work by bringing all aspects of the branch together, from buyers, designers, and manufacturers to trade schools. It will create a new network for the fashion industry, act as a competence centre, provide marketing support, and cooperate with the government on industry measures. The institute will help everyone from super-brands such as Helly Hansen, which has had big success abroad with its sportswear line, to smaller, independent designers like Peter Løchstøer and Anne Cecilie Rinde of Vera & William.

“We are trying to get a synergy effect out of working together with everyone,” said Husby.

Find out more about Fashion in Oslo:
Oslo Fashion Week: www.ofw.no
Oslo Fashion House: www.fashionhouse.no
Oslo Fashion Fair: www.oslofashionfair.no
Norske Mote Forum: www.moteforum.no
Norsk Mote Institutt: www.interprosjekt.no

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