In Norway today, I think there are a lot of opportunities and unexplored potential within our field. Both in terms of local production and local raw materials, and of technological innovation, which all are core parts of ESP’s values.
Norway’s fashion industry is not that large, which offers designers the opportunity to claim a space and have a voice. It also makes reaching out to new collaborators more accessible. For ESP, this allows us to create meaningful and long-lasting relations with local producers and organizations, such as our collaboration with Fretex (The Norwegian Salvation Army) last year, where we redesigned pre-used garments.
During my exchange year in London, I experienced how hard the competition was, and I think we are lucky here that there are still many areas to be explored, and a lot of possibilities for the future, if we make the right decisions now.
Perhaps there are certain values embedded in us, passed down by generations. Norway has not always been prosperous, and the development of long-lasting and high quality products was for a long time a necessity. Our closeness to nature, and active outdoor lifestyles, has also called for functional and durable clothing that can withstand our Nordic weather conditions. This has helped us develop an understanding of environmental factors, and brought upon values that are part of our cultural heritage.
As Norwegian designers we can bring such values as mentioned above, and our democratic values, such as equality and inclusivity, to the international community. These are values that influence us when designing, and through this we can contribute to challenge the status quo of the industry. By focusing on quality, local production and local raw materials, we can show new possibilities, and take a leading position by innovating in new business models and technology. Norway is still quite new in the fashion game, and rather than following the international lead, has the potential to take a disruptive and important role forward.
I wanted to show the real value of Norwegian resources - of production and raw materials, and the potential that lies in this, within fashion design and clothing production. I saw opportunities in contemporary collaborations to display this local knowledge in an international context.
When I overtook Lillunn I saw a lot of exciting potential to re-contextualize and revitalize the products, and wanted a free space and fresh start to push these ideas forward. I started ESP to be able to set my own agenda, to gain stronger impact and to work more internationally. It has been an inspiring and educational journey, where a lot of my initial goals have been met.
A typical day here starts with follow-ups on our in-house production, and of our interns, as we always have a couple of interns. A lot of time goes to answering emails, and to meetings on Teams or Zoom. Our studio is now part of Manufacture Oslo, a former factory owned by my company, now opened up to be a collaborative house and creative space/production facility for members of the Norwegian Fashion and Textile industry. The factory functions as a meeting place for the industry, and a typical day might also contain discussions on creative steps forward over a coffee with other creatives, such as my recent talk with Ali Gallefoss on how to use waste materials from production.
We always have a common lunch, where Gisle Mardal (Managing Director, Manufacture Oslo) often takes on the role as sous-chef, serving the most delicious dishes. Since there is an exchange of people working here, these lunches result in interesting conversations and sharing of ideas around the table, and across fields.