Norwegian ambitions
Oslo fashion and design industry strives to compete with its European peers
Published: Sep 06, 2017 05:43 PM

"Salmon, the fjord, Aurora Borealis, tall people, long cold winters ... " These are some of the general impressions of Norway most foreigners have of the northern country, this Global Times reporter realized while recently conducting random street interviews in Shanghai before departing for Norway to cover the Oslo Runway fashion show.

When asked what they think of Norway's fashion industry, most interviewees replied "Sorry, I have no idea about Norwegian fashion." Some European interviewees said that as far as Scandinavia is concerned, Sweden or Denmark lead in terms of fashion and style.

But Norway is catching up, and the capital city of Oslo is doing its best to make its name and brands stand together with Stockholm and Copenhagen. From August 22 to 24, Oslo Runway, the country's biggest fashion and design event, returned as its own company.

Ditte Kristensen, VP of Oslo Runway, was quoted in the official Oslo Runway newspaper as saying that becoming their own company was a major turning point and a vital sign of acceptance outside the realm of the fashion system.

Kristensen said that she felt truly honored to represent Norwegian designers' creativity, their competence and their general level of ambition which has increased noticeably from season to season. The organizers believe that Oslo Runway will grow alongside Norwegian fashion designers and their products.

Throughout the two dozen runway events, the Global Times discovered that Oslo's unique folksiness has led to a charming and witty creativity. Audience at the event appreciated the simple, clean, modern designs, which are hallmark characteristics of Norwegian culture and craft. Watching byTiMo in Theatercafeen of the Hotel Continental, you wouldn't realize that you are in Norway. Wearing new collections, the models showed off long, loose, feminine vintage styles as they sauntered through the aisles of a restaurant. 

Although an exquisite breakfast was served during the show, all eyes were on the models and their clothes, with live-streaming broadcasts, videos and photos being shot by media from all over the world.

Linda Hofstad Helleland (left), Norwegian Minister of Culture, speaks at the Bik Bok Runway Award. Photo: Feng Yu/GT

Norwegian freestyle

Following byTiMo show, IBEN at the Deichmanske Bibliotek brought audience into a wonderland to watch models walk down steps with marble poles and a bright blue sky in the background.

Anh-Marthe Storheil, founder of IBEN, wanted to combine innovative thinking and commercial awareness to create a brand with strong DNA. IBEN's tomboy mentality, a free and laid-back way of thinking, is the foundation for her choices and interactions. IBEN clothing supplies passionate, self-made women with the wardrobe they need to express their identity and way of life.

This Global Times reporter had to admit that the biggest surprise she got from the runway event was from the Fam Irvoll show. According to an introduction from the official runway paper, Irvoll started her own label while studying in London, where she also worked as an assistant for Gareth Pugh, Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood.

Her work focuses on fun details, three-dimensional creations and colorful, hand-drawn prints. Her designs and collections often have elements of humor and satire in them, which has attracted the attention of pop stars like Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Lily Allen and Rita Ora, who have all worn her designs on stage.

Both the reporter and the audience were a bit shocked to see that the models for this show were not young ladies with slim figure and long legs. Instead, they were quite common and ordinary; some might even say overweight. A few audience members wrongly assumed that they were for a warming-up prelude.

The climax came when one plus-sized model suddenly jumped to cling herself to an audience member sitting in the front row. Judging by the facial expressions of the guest and others nearby, we knew that it was impromptu. Netizens couldn't help asking, "is this the famous 'Norwegian freestyle' they've heard about?"

Models and designers at the Oslo Runway fashion and design event  Photo: Feng Yu/GT

Mixing fashion and history

Compared with most indoor catwalks, Tom Wood's open-air Salt venue and Cala Jade's show in Villa Stenersen gave another cool feeling, mixing fashion with modern society and historical heritage.

Even though it was late in the evening, the venue Salt was still illuminated in sunshine, along with a cool beach breeze. Seeing the models shuttled from one end to the other of Salt at sunset proved to be novel appreciation, as it made the models appear mysterious and holy.

Inspired by Scandinavian functionalism and lifestyle, Tom Wood launched its very first ready-to-wear collections for men and women in 2014. The clothing lines are intertwined like brother and sister, with several unisex styles. Tom Wood can be now found at more than 180 of the most acknowledged retailers worldwide.

Villa Stenersen is one of the main works of Norwegian modernist architecture. Originally planned as a private home for finance broker and art lover Rolf M. Stenersen, Villa Stenersen is now a meeting place for those in the fields of architecture and design. Villa Stenersen is a clear example of how he interpreted and applied the international architectural ideas of his time.

The Bik Bok Runway Award is an endorsement of young, talented designers. Bik Bok, a vital member of Norway's largest fashion company, has granted five young designers the opportunity to showcase at Oslo Runway. As a recognition of young talents' hard work and craft, Bik Bok wants to encourage new designers to pursue a career in fashion and support new prospects within the Norwegian arena. Michael Olestad stood out from Edda Gimnes, Kit Wan, Moire and Raske Rever to win this year's award.

Models and designers at the Oslo Runway fashion and design event  Photo: Feng Yu/GT


Models and designers at the Oslo Runway fashion and design event  Photo: Feng Yu/GT


Models and designers at the Oslo Runway fashion and design event  Photo: Feng Yu/GT


Models and designers at the Oslo Runway fashion and design event  Photo: Feng Yu/GT