Luxury is on the rise in Oslo. In recent months international brands including Gucci and Bottega Veneta have opened their first freestanding stores in the city, joining Hermès, Mulberry and Louis Vuitton. However, amid their growing appetite for such renowned labels, Norwegians are not forgetting the plethora of talented designers from their own country. From classic design to avant-garde alternatives, Oslo’s concept stores are showcasing the best of Norwegian fashion.
Norway’s new focus
The F5 Concept Store is the perfect place in which to get acquainted with Norway’s established and emerging designers. Alexander Marthinsen founded the shop with his two brothers and a close friend last year. ‘The philosophy behind F5 Concept Store is that it is quite hard to make it as a fashion designer in Oslo, but that it will be easier to accomplish if people combine forces,’ he says. ‘We believe that there is room for more Norwegian fashion and design, nationally and internationally.’
After perusing the first floor of the store you will see why. Marthinsen only stocks labels with a unique point of view and the highest standards of craftsmanship. These include F5’s own brands Graa and Arctander. Graa, which means ‘grey’ in Norwegian, is a menswear label inspired by workwear, with edgy but beautifully constructed pieces. Arctander caters to men and women with more formal, contemporary pieces: its leather tote bags, including one in coffee leather with brass fittings and white threading, are particularly popular. Designers from both brands are based on-site and visitors can see them at work in the basement.
Mardou & Dean excels at knitwear. Its oversized turtlenecks and braid-knit sweaters come in colours such as ‘dirty pink’ and a glorious crimson. With a focus on making knitwear contemporary Mardou & Dean’s designs fuse comfort with style. For something more experimental, consider Haik. Among its highly conceptual creations is a ‘blanket sarong’ in navy with royal blue trim, which covers the entire body. Shoppers who seek Norwegian couture should consider Haaning & Htoon, whose classic and sophisticated dresses have appeared on runways from Copenhagen to London.
Collective of cool
One of Oslo’s quirkiest concept stores is hidden in a larger venue. The Designerkollektivet stocks independent labels on the third floor of GlasMagasinet, one of the oldest department stores in the city. The thriving design collective routinely hosts book launches and social events in the evening, and Oslo’s most fashionable women visit during the day. They come in search of unique hats and pieces they won’t find anywhere else, including underwear from Vera & William. This label has gained recognition throughout Scandinavia for its hosiery and underwear which are crafted from natural fibres including silk, merino wool, angora and cashmere.
Other labels emphasise local sourcing. The designers at Bine work with cowhide, sheepskin and wool from traditional Norwegian breeds and turn them into stunning handbags, vests, dresses and jackets. The designers only source from farms which raise animals ethically, and these often include organic farms.
Among the Designerkollektivet’s most talked-about designers is Siri Berrefjord who creates eye-catching jewellery. Each piece is handmade and even when crafted from the same materials and in the same style, no two pieces are identical. She works with materials including translucent plastic, old silver, ribbon and lace purchased from markets and thrift shops throughout the country. From tangerine earrings to lime green brooches, her bold creations come in a vibrant colour palette.
Because of their proximity to the Arctic Circle, Norwegian designers have mastered the art of creating clothing for extreme climates. It’s no wonder that visitors flock to concept stores which stock Norway’s leading outdoor labels. Dale of Norway has at times dressed the Norwegian national ski team. Its production facilities are based in the village of Dale in western Norway where artisans clean, comb and stretch raw wool before dying it in countless colours. Knitters, many of whom learned the trade from their parents and grandparents, then create incredibly soft zip-ups, pullovers and sweaters. The wood timbre of Dale of Norway’s Oslo concept store helps make it as cozy as the clothing.
Shoppers in search of a more modern take on outerwear should head to Norrøna. The Norwegian maker of high-end outdoor clothing and sports gear recently opened a glittering concept store in downtown Oslo. Spread over two floors, it stocks down jackets, parkas and sweaters in vivid primary colours – a fluid combination of style and function. Norrøna’s outerwear supplies warmth without the bulk and comes in urban cuts, so you’ll look stylish whether on the slopes or in the city.