Moods of Norway, with its trademark tractor logo, has chugged its way over rugged terrain to billion-kroner sales and two US superstores. The fashion house that began life in Norway’s rural Nordfjord was celebrating its 10th anniversary in style this week.
Norway’s top fashion house has won over consumers both at home and abroad with its quirky mix of what it sees as typisk norsk (typical Norwegian) alongside sometimes outlandish patterns and colours, and strong doses of irony. It’s a lucrative combination that’s got the average Norwegian splashing out cash on new clothes.
Contrasts play an important role for the brand, according to founder Peder Børresen. “Old and new, town and country, Norway versus the rest of the world, a tractor and shocking pink … we looked at Norway from the outside, and also how fantastic the country is,” he told newspaper Aftenposten.
It’s this unique blend of helnorsk (totally Norwegian) with unorsk (not Norwegian at all) that has won it so much attention, and customers. Sales in Norway have increased by 1300 percent since 2008. And most of the shoppers don’t come from trendy areas of Oslo but from more rural remote areas not traditionally associated with being especially fashion-conscious, or for spending a lot on clothes.
“The Norwegian countryside is not what it once was,” and people living in more rural areas like the brand because it has a store in Los Angeles, according to designer and head of the School of Fashion Industry (SOFI) in Oslo, Kari Torleifsdottir Søreide.
The company is also big in the US, where Moods has 70 distributors and a superstore on LA’s chic Melrose Avenue, as well as in New York.
Humour and patriotism
The clothes mix patriotic touches (they rolled out a suit collection in red, white and blue, in time for Norway’s Constitution Day celebrations on 17th of May last year), with humorous play on the stereotypes of Norway as seen by outsiders, particularly Americans.
Each label boasts that the item is made in Europe by “Really Really Pretty Blonde Girls,” playing on how Norwegian women are often perceived abroad, and the website says that the company’s aim is “making our grandmas happy (and to) make happy clothes for happy people around the world.”
With another touch of irony, one of their staple pairs of jeans, called “spending pants” (a play on a Norwegian expression for someone who picks up the bill for others) has back pockets embroidered with a line graph showing the price of oil since it was discovered in Norway, while store changing-rooms look like a row of the kind of (basic) outhouses located on the grounds of old-style Norwegian hytta (cabins). New store openings have been celebrated by serving waffles, although Moods own attempt at selling waffle irons ended with a recall.
Roots in Stryn
Moods has travelled a long way from its humble beginnings in a basement in the mountain district of Stryn, in the county of Sogn og Fjordane in Western Norway, described on their website as “a magical place known for glaciers, salmon fishing and one newly opened escalator.” It’s still the biggest and only chain store in the area, which has fewer than 7,000 inhabitants,on the picturesque Nordfjord.
Founder Børresen remembers that his grandmother helped sew together some of the trousers for their first fashion show, and how they had to transport rolls of material themselves by bus from Istanbul.The company now has around 500 distributors in Norway and produces everything from hats to glasses, perfume to sports clothes and cocktail dresses. None of it, unsurprisingly, made in Norway.
But it’s the boxer shorts and t-shirts that are really driving up sales. Just a t-shirt can cost NOK 600 (around 100 USD), which could partly explain why the profits from last year were almost NOK 50 million (around USD 8.5 million), according to estimates from business newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN).
The company that was voted Company of the Year by Innovation Norway (Innovasjon Norge) was celebrating its 10th birthday this week with a big party at the Oslo Spektrum arena, and will host the closing show at this autumn’s Oslo Fashion Week.
Fashion experts believe the brand will continue to grow and diversify, and some even predict that shoppers may soon be seeing Moods of Norway furniture, nightclubs and even ski lifts in the not-too-distant future.