Following our coverage of Copenhagen and Stockholm we ventured a little further up north to Oslo, to find our latest fashion feature.
While sister countries Sweden and Denmark show promise internationally as a ‘fashion capital’, the Norwegian fashion industry isn’t entirely visible, and there’s no real fashion identity to speak of either. It’s not to say the country is immune to broader fashion trends. Commercial and independent fashion magazines are rife with ideas and local designers. Luxury stores, like Hermés, sits alongside high street chain shops. The problem, perhaps, is that there’s little middle ground; where do you shop if you’re not a fan of mass market or mass luxury?
While local commerce is working hard on internationalising the industry, in a bid to turn Oslo into another Nordic capital of fashion, two guys are not-so quietly revolutionising the local scene.
Freudian Kicks is a concept, first and foremost, created by friends Simen and Stian. It’s quite new to the city, having opened in early 2008. Their story is an unlikely tale, with neither previously working in the industry. But with their respective communications and finance backgrounds, coupled with an eye for good design, these guys have turned a single idea into a platform for ideas. Freudian Kicks, nestled in Prinsensgate in the city centre, is Simen and Stian’s modern ode to the fashion store.
Just like the fashion show has become a multi-faceted, visual savoir-faire, the boutique has too become a sensory experience. Freudian Kicks is following this trend. The store’s alliance with the city’s youth, driven by an energy for something different, something directional, is bringing about a change to the local scene. There’s the store, and the online store, the agency, the designer collaborations, the parties. And now their eponymous fashion label. It’s as much about a lifestyle as it about fashion.
CANVAS: Can we trace yours and Stian’s history first. Were you friends before the Freudian Kicks adventure?
Freudian KICKS: It’s mandatory [in Norway] to be conscripted for military service so we met [during duty].
But following service, you both pursued paths that weren’t at all related to fashion. You started in communications?
Well it was more towards communication planning but it was quite broad, and not really concerned with one specific area.
Worked in finance, trading stock.
Wow. So from white collar industry into creative. Quite the sea change.
We are both really interested in design. And a lot of the fields that relates to fashion were very close to us, I think you have to have an eye for how things work together, not only colors, shapes and fabrics but how music, art and other currents in society work together. Fashion is something we grew into once we got going.
Was it difficult to start the store without having any previous relationships [with designers, agencies]?
That was one of the easier, and fun, parts because, I think, with the current market many labels are happy to find new shops they can sell to. So while there are certain policies [for placing an order] they are not that tough when it comes down to business. And I also think they [designers] find it interesting to be able to work with people that have an interesting concept. We have a different background, not coming from within the industry, which has given us a different perspective.
Let’s talk about the very beginning of Freudian Kicks. The store, the online store, the agency, the label; which came first?
The online store and store opened simultaneously, but the showroom came about in the beginning with only a few labels. Ones that sold really well. When we chose the name [for the business], we wanted it to have character. We [also] wanted it to be compatible with the idea of using it as a platform for doing different kinds of stuff. So it would have to work as a store name, label name, agency name, and so forth. It was just a way of starting on two feet, I guess.
So the initial ambition for Freudian Kicks was what, exactly?
To sell globally. To sell labels that maybe didn’t have a good representation online, and also to double the revenue, realistically. Two shops [online and in-store], one product base.
And the Freudian Kicks showroom; what labels do you represent?
Surface To Air and Uniforms For The Dedicated. They’re a young Swedish label, a really good label. They have a very distinct style, their own style, and it’s really brilliant. And we have Odeur, another Swedish label.
So it’s a streetwear style you champion?
Yeah, it’s street but it’s also a little bit…not really avant garde, but artistic in approach. I guess we have a Scandinavian angle on it. We like it clean, subtle – good lines and details, but not too much clutter.
Before opening Freudian Kicks, was this kind of fashion available in Oslo?
No. Definitely not. None of the labels we began with, except for Acne and Cheap Monday, were available. We chose those brands [Acne and Cheap Monday] because we needed to have labels that people recognised, but we also wanted to introduce labels that no one had ever heard of.
Did it take long for people to respond to your ideas? Sometimes people shy away from whats new in favour of the norm.
Not really, because we would have gone bankrupt straight away! We are lucky to have a following, because there’s hardly any pedestrian traffic along this street. So Freudian Kicks is really a destination store. And the store got a lot of press, nationally and internationally, in its first year which helped boost our profile.
Let’s talk about the designer collaborations. Danish label Soulland was the first?
So when you talk about of a collaboration, how equal is the design relationship? Do you dictate what you want it to be, or does the designer come up with something to sell exclusively in the store?
It’s certainly not our design. With Silas [Adler, designer of Soulland] he made a fedora. We loved it and sold so many of them that we wanted our own hat.
So is this something that you will continue?
Oh, there’ll definitely be another collaboration with Soulland. Ideally we would like to do something new each season. And not necessarily fashion. We did a collaboration this summer with a Norwegian music festival. They [the festival organisers] wanted to make a vintage-style tee. So we made this washed shirt, and we washed it so many times to get that vintage feel, and to get that soft feeling, and we did a print of the inside.
And the Freudian Kicks label?
We put our first collection out, May 2009. It was a small range of hand-made pieces. Stian and I direct the collection but we have two designers that actually do the design. Both have years of experience in the industry. And interestingly, they approached us. They had heard about the shop and they really wanted to work with us. We tend to think along the same lines so it worked out really well.
So is the label sort of space filler for the racks, or do you intend it to become something bigger?
We want it to become the main focus of the store. It’s not like we only want to sell Freudian Kicks but we can easily imagine selling a lot. I mean, the first range sold out in a ridiculous amount of time. Without doubt, it’s our best label, ever, in terms of performance.
Are there plans to expand the label into other markets?
In time we plan to sell our label to other markets but for the time being it will only be stocked in Freudian Kicks.
And there’s also a series of exhibitions and in-store installations?
In the beginning, we did a lot. It was part of our strategy to get people into the store, because as I said, it’s not a busy street. When we opened we started with an exhibition with a local artist/author and he created a piece that ran along the entire wall. We dedicate the entire wall to art and clothing, and we try to do something [along the wall] four times a year. In between, we have a few photo exhibitions and we turned the store into a nightclub a few times. We have quite a vibrant electronic scene.
So you’re very involved in youth culture. You’re kickstarting a scene.
I think we’re certainly contributing to creating a scene. It’s not a scene that you would find in Stockholm or Copenhagen, because those two countries have a culture for fashion. They have a fashion industry. We don’t really have a fashion industry here [in Norway]. There are very few designers that sell in high volume, and it’s very difficult for a designer to make that leap between creating something for themselves and putting it into production. So there’s not really a culture for investment in fashion. When we started out we wanted to be like a building block to creating a scene. It’s a long term goal, being able to take Norwegian fashion in a different direction than what’s been done before.
Any more feathers to add to the Freudian Kicks cap?
Four is enough. The shop, the label, the agency, it’s more than enough. So now it’s all about making everything better.