You couldn’t have written a more appropriate script that morning. The skies above were bulging with thick grey clouds and throwing down horizontal sheets of rain. I was on my way to talk with Alexander Helle from Norwegian Rain at the T-Michael & Norwegian Rain store in Oslo, oh the irony. Alexander Helle and T-Michael are the creators and driving force behind one of Norway’s leading exports, Norwegian Rain. This cohesive partnership has spent the last 6 years establishing a brand that represents more than just fashion.
Their impeccable execution of tailoring, combined with a forward thinking functionality has seen this Bergen based label steadily gather pace since its conception. This is largely in part down to a meticulous attention to detail which is not only reflected in their designs, but the way in which they conscientiously assess every detail in this project. The fact that no investors are involved has undoubtedly thrown up its challenges, but it’s also allowed them to have a firm control on steering the brand through its infancy.
As individuals you’d be forgiven in thinking that this partnership looks a little like master and apprentice, but don’t be fooled. There is no evidence of a commercial vs creative struggle here, but a partnership that shares the same visual and inventive ideals. T. Michael’s 18 years of experience in tailoring and business have certainly attributed to how the brand is developing, but Alexander Helle’s fresh perspective and inquisitive mind often challenges that experience to defend itself, which in turn, keeps this project on its toes.Inspired by the Japanese way of life and their respect for the environment, they’ve adopted this mindset and incorporated them into their own ideals.
They have both just recently returned from a trip to Tokyo and by their own admittance, far overachieved their expectations and that’s saying something. Having achieved a life long milestone in a pop up project at the world renowned Ginza store, the trip unravelled to be a real cultural adventure, which I’m told is the norm. They both took part in the tweed run. This quirky and eccentric event was established in London in 2009 and involves men and woman dressing up in their finest tweed outfits and cycling through the streets on mass, a kind of Tour de Catwalk. Inspired by a material discovered at Ceri vintage in Florence, T-Michael produced a unique uniform from an original 1975 tweed fabric. So, on a warm sunny day in Tokyo, 9 members of the Norwegian Rain team took to the streets of the Japanese capital and what a sight it must have been. Tokyo is no stranger to quirkiness, but I’m told heads were turned by this two wheeled entourage of impeccably dressed whacky racers.
Experiencing a country through its creativity is something they both feel attached to and this love affair with Japan and its culture goes way beyond the fact that it’s their biggest market. This project has numerous connections to Japan, some premeditated and others born out of coincidence, but undeniably, these events have gone on to shape Norwegian Rain’s progression in the last 6 years. This understanding and appreciation of this culture has enabled them to balance tradition and innovation and enabled them develop a product that pushes the boundaries. Inspired by the Japanese way of life and their respect for the environment, they’ve adopted this mindset and incorporated them into their own ideals.
Inspiration comes from the experience of living in Bergen, surrounded by nature, the mountains and this clean scandinavian minimalism, but always being aware of the necessities of leading a modern life. The focus has always been to reinvent the way we think about the rain coat, an item of clothing that has been neglected for some time now. The design concept is two fold, firstly to produce a piece of refined rainwear that can be worn all year round and secondly, to incorporate a functionality that disguises its technology through its seamless designs. Behind every tiny detail, every stitch, there is a thought process in how to maximise the efficiency of their products.
They are now working with the Norwegian Fashion institute on its “Arena” program. This homegrown funded project has brought together a group of fashion designers, enabling them and their brands the opportunity to progress the Norwegian fashion industry to the next level. They’re understanding of the importance of collaborating alongside other creatives has a familiar feel in all areas of their projects. They’ve embraced the possibilities of working in conjunction with others, feeding off of the inspiration and building momentum from a community that reciprocates their thoughts.
In a climate where large corporations dominate the market places and competition is extremely tough, smaller emerging brands are required to think of new and innovative ways in which to build a reputation. Combining forces can be one way to combat this and by creating a united cultural movement that encompasses the essence of its traditions, certainly has its advantages. They are currently teaming up with several designers all over the world and some of the collaborative projects include working alongside British designers, Ally Capellino (Bags) and Grenson (Shoes). They’ve also reached a project long ambition in launching at Barney’s in New York and a pop up at the Ginza store in Tokyo.
The last 5 years have thrown up its fair share of challenges and experiences at Norwegian Rain. Their relationship has been solidified through a common belief in tackling these challenges head on and embracing the negative has made them a lot wiser for it. They’ve also adopted a stance to relinquish a certain amount of control within this project and this foresight has seen them carefully select certain specialists to have an influence in key areas of the business, adding value and diversity. Perhaps the thing that resonates with me the most, is this mindset of constantly feeling that they are competing against the rest of the world. This fearless approach has allowed them to push their creativity to its fullest and has placed them in an ideal position to maximise opportunity.
For most of us, opportunity comes along frequently and it’s only our inability to prepare or a lack of self belief that stops us from grabbing it with both hands. Their focus on preparation has seen them seize key opportunities which has seen them build a head of steam and steady momentum.
Norwegian Rain stand for more than just a fashion label, it’s a cultural movement that encapsulates the core values of life and relays them through faultless innovative design. Norwegian creativity has never looked so bright.