There’s an air of excitement, energy and optimism in Oslo that’s so infectious. The Norwegian capital has undergone major changes in recent years, from the regeneration of rundown docklands to a revitalised shopping area with the first Dior shop in Scandinavia and historic department store Steen & Strom leading the way. The docklands district has been transformed into a chic new hub of apartments, Norwegian fashion brands and restaurants, including the three Michelin starred Maaemo. And overlooking the fjord are two new architectural gems: the impressive opera house with a sloping pedestrianised terrace that extends from the road right up to the roof and the incredible Munch Museum, the largest gallery in the world dedicated to a single artist.
Oslo has often been voted the greenest destination in the world and in keeping with the city’s sustainable credentials, the fashion industry has a forward looking, innovative ethos. The fashion industry is considered the second most polluting industry in the world with almost one third of every produced garment never finding a buyer. Norwegian designers don’t just “talk the talk” about sustainability in fashion, they are taking useful steps with production processes and made on demand initiatives, among other things. Annual fashion event Oslo Runway is a joyful celebration with knitwear for all seasons, raincoats designed to last a lifetime, sneakers dyed to order and jewellery made only from recycled metals.
Although Oslo Runway founder, Ditte Kristensen and CEO, Elin Carlsen would be the first to say there’s a long way to go before achieving a properly “green” fashion industry, their event is a shining example of sustainable fashion thinking. In a clever departure from twice a year, traditional fashion weeks around the world, the annual Oslo Runway each August serves as a timely reminder to us all to buy less garments, with a focus on quality rather than quantity. And from 2023, meeting sustainability criteria for all brands that want to participate at Oslo Runway will be essential.
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Oslo Runway launched in 2015 to show the best of Norwegian lifestyle, fashion design, art and culture, including emerging talents. Norwegian design schools Kunsthøgskolen, ESmod, Oslomet and Sofi School showcased their graduates in the DS Fashion Talent Awards, with Margaret Abeshu the winner this year. Part of the appeal of Oslo Runway is that every show is presented at a different venue, from the former Acne showroom, a historic department store to warehouses and The Plus, the world’s most sustainable furniture factory in the middle of a beautiful cedar forest. A highlight was seeing Oslo-based Cala Jade’s gorgeous handcrafted leather bags and belts shown at an oyster bar owned by famous Norwegian rapper,
The ESP catwalk in the historic former central library showed the best of designer Elisabeth Stray Pedersen’s locally produced knitwear and outerwear, made from lambswool from the crossbreed sheep that have been walking freely in the highlands around Gol in Norway. On the runway were timeless blanket coats, trousers, knit dresses and scarves in a color palette that ranged from camel and grey to mint green and fuschia. Elsewhere, in a popup at Steen & Strøm, ESP collaborated with preloved shop Fretex Arkivet to show a selection of Norwegian brands and exclusive made-to-order garments.
Knitwear understandably is big at Oslo Runway. On show at a gallery shop called Sorgenfri, knitwear brand Oleana shone. The family-owned company, based near Bergen, is one of the few textile factories remaining in Norway. Oleana was founded in 1992 as a reaction to other textile factories in Norway outsourcing their production abroad. With all production carried out in their own factory, they are highly dedicated to technical innovative production and luxurious handmade details. Their collection consists of statement-pieces and effortless knitted suits, designed and crafted for true longevity. By mixing patterns and styles designs are elegant and edgy, relaxed and fun.
One & Other showed their minimalist designs in the former Acne showroom, a gorgeous historic townhouse overlooking a pretty garden. Creative reinventions of wardrobe classics like cable knit sweaters and oversized coats, in a monochrome color palette were on show. “We are constantly improving our way of working and using sustainably sourced and certified products has been a fundamental part of both our design process and production, since the beginning. To us, the perfect garment equals high quality paired with a minimized footprint” says the brand’s creative director Lene Henriksen.
Envelope 1976’s edgy, seasonless designs were beautifully shown off against the stark white concrete walls and floors of a vast warehouse. Founders, Celine Aagaard and Pia Nordskaug’s design ethos is timeless yet fashionable, with a careful choice of materials, design and color palette – all eco-conscious and natural. Making garments that can be worn in multiple ways is key, since it’s not just the material that can affect the timeline of a garment but the design.
The Plus is a brand new factory in a cedar and pine forest about two hours from Oslo, near the Swedish border. It’s an idyllic setting for producing Vestre outdoor furniture that’s designed to last a lifetime. In addition to the lovely forest surroundings, the vast, light-filled factory features a roof terrace with a curvy slide on the side of the building that goes to the ground level. It was here that Oslo Runway presented two runway shows and a popup in the woods that featured other sustainable
AWAN (As We Are Now) is a comfort-first fashion brand based on circular principles. Male and female models strutted through the factory wearing silky soft, breathable garments made from Tencel TM from Portugal and designed in Norway. Waste is minimal as the brand produces everything in small batches on demand and only creates a handful of bestsellers in advance.
A second energetic runway show combined Kmoshon eyewear with Swims outerwear. A new eyeglasses sports model is made on demand using 3D printing at the closest 3D printer to the customer, thereby reducing the journey of products to reach customers and eliminating waste.
Elsewhere in the woods at The Plus, more clever eco-friendly ideas were on show at a popup with Varsity Headwear who make wonderfully soft caps and sneakers from New Movements who allow customers to bring in their old shoes to be rebuilt and Kastel who launched an on demand shoe with a minimalist design that can be dyed to order.
And down by the former docks, a pop-up jewelry showcased strong new Norwegian jewelry brands that only used recycled materials: Aur Studio, Boygal, Diawéne, Hasla, Liv Misund, Mold Atelier and Pearl Octopussy, displayed on ceramics by Nellie Jonsson. Each piece of extravagant jewelry in recycled gold, silver and perals by Pearl Octopus can be worn in multiple ways: bracelets and broaches as necklaces. This young brand started in 2018 is already stocked at Net a porter and Matches.
Showing what is possible with local production and made-to-order garments to reduce overproduction, Oslo Runway is a fashion showcase that’s authentically sustainable, both in theory and practice and it’s in a city to watch for inspiration.