Bigger, better, more

In just three years, Oslo Runway has become the main showcasing venue for the Norwegian fashion industry. Now, new forces are joining the team for a major upgrade.

by Ida Eritsland Photo Karoline Smådal

Gathering the Norwegian industry as well as key international players, creating synergies and awareness of Norwegian fashion worldwide, Oslo Runway has grown into the primary venue for exhibition and promotion of Norwegian fashion.

-“Oslo Runway has existed for three years and we’re immensely proud of how far we’ve come in such a short time”, says Ditte Kristensen, partner and founder of Oslo Runway.

As the local industry has seen major developments with the growth of several successful brands and designers, new opportunities and needs have surfaced. The founders, together with representatives from the industry, started to think about the next step.

Industry-owned. Initiated by PR-firm This Is PR; Oslo Runway was separated from the agency last year, and has now been strengthened to become a new and independent company. This is also why Oslo Runway has decided to broaden and professionalize its scope and organization.

The founders of Oslo Runway; Ditte Kristensen, Ida Jordet Lamond, Katrine Kvalsund and Kristina Nordbæk, are being joined by three new co-owners:  Norwegian Fashion Hub (NFH), the interest organization for the Norwegian fashion industry, premium activewear brand supplier Active Brands, and fashion retailer and manufacturer Varner. This new structure is created to boost stability and include a broader field of competencies and knowledge into the operation.

–  “We realized a need for a stronger foundation, which our new co-owners have given us”, Kristensen says. “We can now expand to the B2C-market across multiple industries, and rise to the next level together.”

The largest clothing manufacturer in Norway, Varner, is becoming a bigger part of Oslo Runway, following the success of their partnership on the Bik Bok Runway Award, initiated in 2016.

– “We think the work Oslo Runway does is very important, and as a major actor in Norwegian and Scandinavian fashion, we want to contribute further; financially and professionally. We’re very excited to see what we can accomplish together”, CEO and owner Petter Varner, states.

The new ownership structure will ensure broad representation from the industry, and secure that ownership remains in the hands of the brands and industry itself. In addition, a new executive board has been established, with Sandro Parmeggiani as chairman. Parmeggiani is an experienced businessman who previously spent eleven years as secretary general of aid NGO Plan Norge.

–  “Even if my background is from other fields of business, I am the son of an artist and grew up around culture. So personally, I’m more of an aesthete than my professional background suggests”, he says. “Also, my entire career has been focused on thinking outside of the box. I’ve understood that to be a reason why I was asked to take this position, and I’m very excited to contribute to Norwegian fashion reaching an even bigger audience.”

Creating new commercial opportunities and involving consumers directly will be top priorities for the new Oslo Runway team. The will set up a task force of representatives from the industry which will ensure the platform answers to the industry’s needs.

– “To fully take advantage the opportunities in the industry, there’s a need for cooperation and joint efforts. We’ve built Oslo Runway with the ambition to create a platform to develop Norwegian fashion for the long term. We saw that joint ownership across the industry was the way to go”, explains Ida Jordet Lamond, a broad member, co-owner and founder of Oslo Runway.

– “We need an international approach to generating interest, establish connections and develop the larger field. The industry is also changing internationally, so it’s key that we pay attention and contribute to set the agenda, at home and abroad”, says Elin Kathrine Saunes, head of NFH.

Norwegian Fahion Hub (NFH) is an industry cluster consisting of 40 members – all Norwegian textile producers and fashion brands, collaborating with a large portion of the designers who show during Oslo Runway. Their mission is to build expertise and stimulate the development of the Norwegian fashion industry, while also catering to each brand individually. With NFH at the table, the brands will have direct access to processes and developments within Oslo Runway, today and moving forward. And what comes next? Is the fashion week format itself ready for an upgrade?

Art and commerce. For the better part of a century, fashion shows and fairs have operated in a familiar format: as industry events and commercial platforms. The “big four”, New York, London, Milan and Paris, has been joined by countless ‘Fashion Weeks’ all over the world. The local flavor of events has grown stronger; creating week-long industry festivals everywhere from Lagos to Sao Paolo, Stockholm and Berlin.

But as much of the fashion industry has become more accessible and “democratic”, fashion shows and events have remained closed to the public. The ‘industry only’ policy has effectively barred the public from taking part, and with that limited the relevance of the events to the cities, their inhabitants and visitors.

This is a top issue for Oslo Runway going forward. ByLarm, a music festival and international industry conference that takes over Oslo for a week each winter, is an inspiration. Board member Linda Refvik, co-founder of NFH and creative director at Varner brand ‘Days Like This’, invited ByLarm’s founders to share insights, and says they will be working towards a similar model.

– Can we expect open venues, exhibitions or pop-ups stores to be part of this upgrade?

–  We do see Oslo as a hub – both for the city and commercial actors – to start a new tradition. These days, the consumer needs to be included in every decision; and we still believe in the shopping experience. Whether that is in traditional brick and mortar, digital or both. We also want to enhance the aspect of a larger immersive experience. We can f.ex stream live to Narvik or Stavanger – the opportunities are endless.

–  “We think Oslo Runway is a very important as it opens up to engagement from press, buyers and end-users, as well as creating a venue for experiencing the industry up close”, says Elin Kathrine Saunes, head of Norwegian Fashion Hub.

“It’s so important to increase the interest and pride in Norwegian fashion to the consumer. As a contribution to the cultural field, butalso to help the brands reach their commercial potential, we see that working towards developing a strong local market is key.”

 Next season will see the new format in full bloom, but we already see glimpses of what’s to come: Varner’s walk-through exhibition of their role in the Norwegian fashion and manufacturing history, venues open to the public in between shows, and a bigger off-schedule program.

–   “I hope we can create a bigger awareness and increase the knowledge and familiarity to the quality of Norwegian fashion brands and retailers”, Refvik says. “It’s also about educating our audience, properly including educational programs in Oslo within fashion and retail and last but not least; show and build on the immense talentwe have, in the industry in general. We need innovation, we need to join forces and pull in the same direction. We’ve been through a process where we see the need to adapt to the fast changing consumer shopper patterns; sustainability, accessibility, circular technology, personalization and technology and we want to build Oslo Runway, and Oslo, as an even stronger arena for the fashion industry. Oslo as a city is in the forefront of urban development, so it´s only fitting that we as a fashion industry will be as well.”

Elin Kathrine Saunes; Managing Director, Norwegian Fashion Hub
The new Oslo Runway creates a broad and well-founded ownership within the industry itself. NFH is owned by its members – our mission is to build expertise and stimulate the development of the Norwegian fashion industry. With Varner and Active Brands also on board, we have an organization that spans sports, retail and the various brands represented, engaged in a mutual effort. Our experience is that to strengthen and develop the Norwegian fashion industry even further, collaboration is key.

Øystein Bråta; Managing Director Nordic, Active Brands
We’ve chosen to join Oslo Runway because we want to contribute to an even stronger activewear and fashion industry. The divisions between activewear and fashion are minimal, and it feels natural to us to be a part of this joint effort. It’s important that Norwegian brands cooperate and learn from each other to be able to compete internationally. Oslo Runway is an opportunity for this type of collaboration. When it comes to internationalization, the Norwegian activewear industry has perhaps come further than the high-fashion industry, and in other areas it’s the other way around.

Linda Refvik, creative director Days Like This, Varner
Varner has partnered with Oslo Runway and will contribute both financially and as an active partner for a three year period. We think it´s important to create a platform in Oslo, and want to support and cheer on Norwegian fashion brands. Instead of competing, we can stand strong together. As one of the leading fashion houses of Scandinavia, we look forward to sharing Varner´s insights with the rest of the industry – among other things, we’re in the forefront of both sustainability and environmental issues as well customer service, and we strongly belive in the shopping experience. For years, Varner has been renowned for a winning mentality where people always cheer and support each other, this has been vital to our success and the background for our new concept “Heia”, which translated into English means to cheer.