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Tradition & Trends By Svanhild Strøm

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Three years ago designer joined dale of norway. She had previously worked for various streetwear labels. Here the 34-year-old talks about the new focus of the collection and about knitwear inspiration.

Dale of Norway is a company steeped in tradition. How is the transition to embodying a young and modern brand statement being carried
out?

We are aware of the fact that we have a huge customer base. Of course we want to keep our customers that we have already, but at the same time we also want to extend our core group of customers and address new people with Dale of Norway.

And what is the best way of doing that?

For fall/winter 2013-14 we have decided to split our collection up into five categories for the first time: “Tradisjon,” “Reworked,” “Eventyr,” “Sport” and “Outdoor.” We offer women’s and men’s outwear and tops in all categories, plus accessories such as caps, scarves, legwarmers and headbands. Except for Eventyr, which is Norwegian for “fairy tale,” which is for women only. The various categories allow us to direct our message to new customers and retain our existing customers.

And what do the individual categories stand for?

With Tradisjon we emphasize the heritage and originality of Dale of Norway. This collection is mostly geared to customers who know Dale of Norway from earlier and appreciate the brand because of its tradition. The pullovers are cut a bit wider and offer more space. You have to remember that everybody has to be able to put it on, from skinny girls to older gentlemen with a pot belly. Reworked is designed to attract trendminded customers–those who like to wear a knit sweater with skinny jeans.

We had to do a lot of work on the cut in this category. It had to be far narrower and longer than with our pullovers until now. The colors are more radiant, the patterns are broader and the wool is not quite as heavy. We did a lot of marketing to promote Reworked and the response so far has been positive.

What motivated you to create a women’s collection again with Eventyr?

We have a large group of customers who were interested in lighter knit sweaters. I know that from talking with our agencies and retailers. There was especially strong demand for merino apparel. The pullover in our Eventyr collection has a very feminine cut emphasizing the waist. It contrasts with the Sport and Outdoor lines completely. In those areas we also use merino quality a lot, but the most important garment there is our windproof and water-resistant knit sweater. These products are for people who enjoy spending time outdoors in nature such as fishing and hiking. The demand for these pullovers is especially strong at sportswear and outdoor gear retail outlets.

Where do you take your inspiration, or in other words, isn’t it a bit of a challenge to constantly come up with new ideas for knit sweaters and jackets?

Actually, no. We try to track the latest trends by attending the Premier Vision in Paris, for example, or going to other trade shows around the world. We also have a gigantic library here at the company. I have found many old patterns in our archives. I simply combine that with the most recent trends such as color blocking or tone-in-tone and break it down for our needs. A lot of designs work via decorative elements such as buttons or edging. However, we don’t choose to emphasize fashion colors because when our customers buy a pullover, they want to wear it for quite some time.

Because we only bring out one collection a year, we take the time needed for that. There are so many small steps until the product is complete. I would say that the  production of a knit pullover, like those Dale of Norway makes, is unique in the world.

The History of Norwegian Knitwear

Dale of Norway has the small village of Dale on the Norwegian west coast to thank for its name. Located about 40 minutes by train from Bergen, founded a combed yarn spinning mill and hydro power station there in 1879. At first Dale of Norway gained its name as a producer of wool. The company only became more widely known in 1956 when it supplied the Norwegian national ski team with the Cortina sweater at the Winter Olympics in Italy. This tradition as an official supplier to the winter Olympic team has continued. Dale has officially outfitted Norwegian national teams with its signature Norwegian knit pullovers ever since. After a few years of crisis, in 2009 Hilde Midthjell became an investor in Dale of Norway. With an 80% stake, she is the majority shareholder.

In 2011 became the managing director and CEO. In 2012 the company generated around €11 million in sales revenue. Its primary sales markets are Norway, North America,and Europe. Dale of Norway states that it is the world’s only producer of knitwear which sources all materials and manufactures the apparel all in one location. In the main season, up to 600 pullovers are manufactured in Dale.