Tobia Sloth on the new Norse Project womenswear line

As if running a menswear brand with two seasonal collections, multiple collaborations and a multi-brand online store wasn’t enough, Danish lifestyle brand Norse Projects have just announced they’re now also doingwomenswear from Fall/Winter 2015. Over the years, Norse Projects have come to define a new Scandinavian aesthetic, a modern and contemporary version of the classic Nordic minimalism. Not just obsessed with being plain and simple, co-founders Tobia Sloth, Anton Juul and Mikkel Grønnebæk were instead looking for functional pieces with a refined quality. It’s neither streetwear, workwear nor high-end fashion. If anything it’s a healthy mixture of all three, with a hint of that Danish sensibility.

Anyway, beginning next season that Scandi design DNA will also be made available for women. By now, over a decade since its inception as a gallery space and select retail store, and six years since the launch of the menswear line, it now seems the Copenhagen-based brand is secure enough, not only in its design and fundamental aesthetic, but also in its factories and fabrics, to take the next step. You get the feeling Norse is very much an organic brand, relying on a slow maturing process before making such a decision. And, considering how cutthroat womenswear can be, that’s a wise route. It will be interesting to see how the new female line develops. But, as Tobia Sloth, explains here, Norse Projects is not going to rush it.

Why start up a womenswear line now?

We had been talking about creating a women’s line for quite a while but had been too busy with other projects and learning the skills required for developing menswear on the level we wanted. Finally, after five years, it felt like the time was right to approach a women’s project on the same level as we had with men’s. We were also selective and patient in finding designers with a background in womenswear and an aesthetic sensibility that we felt fit our DNA and philosophy – a team that would be able to design clothes they felt they needed for themselves, much like how we approach the menswear line.

Is it menswear altered to fit women?

No, we didn’t want to make a literal translation of the men’s line, but perhaps more ideologically a collection that is designed for how (some) modern women think of themselves today, expressing both feminine and functional, daily aspects of modern life.

What inspired the Fall/Winter 2015 collection?

Paul Klee was chosen for inspiration for this first collection as his work spanned a great amount of research, especially in color, technique and form. His painting, ad Parnassum, sums up the approach of gradual evolution and process via exploration, layering techniques and how all things link and are related. Paul Klee also worked with abstract expression but was inspired by existing forms, which eloquently reflects our philosophy as a design company.

The first collection is sort of a mixture between those fundamentals – a purist approach expressing the the ongoing search within the realm of art and design that can be done within a more constrained design language, which in turn can lead to a nuanced expression with a poetic subtlety rather than the “big brush strokes.”

Is there any connection between the men’s and women’s design?

The anchor is that both lines seek to define the point between where utility and form meets style and function as applied to modern life; where you want to feel dressed for the occasion at all times, not necessarily changing your outfit to each social interaction. One feels best when in a garment that is at once functional and expressive of one’s nature.

Norse, maybe because you’ve only done menswear so far, feels very masculine. Is that why the clothes aren’t too feminine?

I actually feel they are quite feminine, but its all a matter of perception. As this is the first collection we did, we didn’t want to come out and shock everyone with a very feminine expression, and instead focused on the links between the men’s and women’s collections. The collection will, of course, explore a different design language as we evolve, but our underlying values will not change as we feel there are enough other brands exploring that side. Time will tell if there is a need for what we make.

Do you find girls are less interested in functionality and practicality?

I think it depends who you ask and how it’s designed. Confident women know how to dress creatively and navigate functional and aesthetic requirements of daily life based on how they live. They do it for themselves – not to fit someone’s idea of how they should look or act. You see this expressed in Copenhagen where many women are currently touting minimal sneakers and are very “dressed down” while still combining a feminine expression and personal style. Lots of women are adopting a more functional approach to dressing and mixing it up with subtle styling cues to create an individual look that expresses their unique personality. Much like good design, it’s the nuances that count.

What are the key pieces from the collection?

This being the first collection, our focus has been on adapting some key functional aspects of the menswear line such as knitwear, rainwear and shirting and creating some interesting pieces via creative use of materials and cuts that are at once geometrically beautiful and functionally adapted to each piece. The main constituents are materials that embody their own personality and contribute to the expression of each piece.

How would you describe the look?

I would say it expresses our values, sort of a naive and playful simplicity that is in fact not simple at all to achieve, but masks a great deal of consideration behind each garment. We have considered each item to make it unique to how women would wear it. The inspiration is a juxtaposition of crafts-based techniques and fabrics, where tactile expressive elements are combined with modern techniques and materials, combining Japanese and Italian materials, each chosen for their particular property.

Tell me about the lookbook setting and the concept behind the shoot, with its interior design theme, etc.

We had previously worked with Fritz Hansen on the “stoflighed” project curating furniture by Paul Kjærholm (launched at colette last year) and it felt natural to follow it up with our women’s launch. In order to explain our philosophical roots and the brand’s ethos, we shot the lookbook in a space filled with the spirit that embodies those values and it felt like a natural fit.