Crooked Tongues publish a new interview that speaks with Scandinavian retailer and brand, Norse Projects. Gaining a massive amount of traction in the last few seasons, the Danish brand goes under the microscope in regards to their beginnings as a store, their inspirations and their overall strategy to both retail and the brand. Excerpts of the interview are below while the full interview is seen here.
Could you break down what Norse Projects actually is?
Norse Projects is a collective, which was started in 2002 by Tobia Sloth from Street Machine, Anton Juul who skates for Nike SB and Carhartt and myself—Mikkel Grønnebæk. We had an idea that Copenhagen needed a store for streetwear. I lived in London from 1999-2001 and watched what happened over there with The Hideout and Bond International and all the stores over there that had a lot of interesting brands, that you couldn’t get in Denmark. So when I moved back, Anton and I started a brand called Castle, which made caps and t-shirts—a lot of graphic stuff. Afterwards we got the idea to create our own store. And because Anton skated for Street Machine there was a natural connection to Tobia, who thought it was a great idea. So we started as a store and then it’s taken us four years to build our own clothing brand.
How has the experience been with creating your own brand in some difficult times for retail?
That has actually been great, because we’ve produced a small line of tees and caps in-store for some time, but it’s just recently that we’ve started selling out products to other shops. It’s been great because when you have a shop yourself you make the stuff that you miss from the other brands. Of course we’re very inspired by what’s happening in Japan and the States. But some of the Japanese goods are too expensive to freight home. And we felt that we’ve missed something, and why buy other peoples brands, when you can make your own stuff? Also the way we’ve done it is doing basic and classic products—all of it produced in Europe in very good quality and at a fair price. People have supported that, so it’s been a great time to do so, because there’ have been so many hype products and we feel it was better to go the other way and give people value for money instead of the hype.
Do you have a certain retail strategy for Norse Projects?
No, not really. Of course we want to be in the best shops around the world, but we also feel that if there’s a great shop in Roskilde (a small town in Denmark), why not let them sell our products. There’s no reason to be in five shops in Paris and five shops in Copenhagen and five in London and not sell to any other. You can’t live of selling to three high-end shops in the world. So our strategy is that if a shop is good and the buyers and sales people in the shop understand our concept and can convey it, then I can’t see any reason in not selling to them.
Where do you seek inspiration for your designs?
A lot of vintage shopping! Also old military styles and functional stuff inspires me. Styles from the work industry, for instance fishermen or factory workers or soldiers. It could also be English gentlemen mixed with tree huggers mixed with some street stuff. The inspiration for the colors comes from the nature. Also a lot of our styles is very Scandinavian—and the colors too is something you could find in the woods or at the sea. It wouldn’t fit Norse to do neon stuff—that’s not Danish. But we find inspiration in a lot of stuff—music, art, and other brands—whatever.
It seemed like 2010 was the year when Norse Projects blew the fuck up. Do you have a specific consumer in mind?
No, we’re four people who works with the collection and we’re four totally different types, so we all make something that we ourselves like and that means that the collection is very mixed. But we don’t have a “muse” or specific customer in mind. Our customers ranges from 15-year olds to 60-year olds. It’s hard to relate to just one specific customer. But to see two different persons in each side of the age scale or with different style wearing our products is very dope.
With your products are you trying to fill a gap in the market for a certain consumer looking for wearable pieces that aren’t fussy or stuck in the past either?
I like our idea about the products being timeless and long lasting. I don’t think we’re trying to fill a gap in the market, because there a so many brands out there, I just think that there are lot of stores that have carried Carhartt and Stüssy and other basic brands, that now wants some new brands…and as said earlier, we try to give the people “value for money”.
Sourcing the right materials globally seems to be a focal point for Norse—does that involve a lot of travel?
Yes. We go to 2-3 textile shows a year, where there’s around 700 exhibitors. That can be hectic, but you have to go to find the best materials. I would say that material sourcing is about 50% of the work for the collection.