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Off The Road


Norwegian fashion label gives expression to northern beatnik lifestyle.

When traveling in Scandinavia, it sometimes feels like you are in a fairy tale by the Grimm brothers: There are the two mean stepsisters, Copenhagen and Stockholm, who tend to stand out because of their great collections and trade fairs. And Cinderella is sitting at home, unnoticed– her name is Oslo in this story. The capital of Norway need not blush or hide its face at all–the people there have taste (after all, they are Scandinavian), money (oil riches) and an extremely dynamic, multibrand store environment and developing design infrastructure.

The very latest retailer to make a splash is the high-end concept store Yme (see page 28). And that brings us to our topic.One of the pioneers of fashion made in Norway is the Oslo-based Mardou & Dean label, which was founded by Ingrid Bredholt and Patrik Rosenfors as a premium denim brand in 2006. The 30-year-old Norwegian earned a fashion design degree in Italy, and her Swedish business partner has a background in economics and medicine–a productive mixture given the way their business is going. “But I was always a denim fan,” says Rosenfors. “I’ve got about 150 pairs of selvedge jeans at home.” The two gained their knowledge about denim together at the source. “We spent several months at the Martelli laundries, more or less living there,” explains Rosenfors.

Mardou & Dean expanded from its denim base and now offers complete fashion looks for men and women. Denim and leather play an important role. As Rosenfors puts it, “In addition to our vision, we work with artisans from all over the world mixing old traditions
with our interpretation of the zeitgeist. We create pieces that can live with the owner in materials such as denim andleather that become more beautiful with time. We want to make pieces which are better crafted, of better materials and of more beautiful nature–this together contributes to sustainable fashion, which has been lost for some time and is a big focus for us.”

Sustainability and circumspection– these values also apply to the pace at which Mardou & Dean wants to grow. After all, things have developed in gradual steps so far, starting with the first two jeans models the two brought along to a meeting with Oslo’s top
department store, Steen & Strom–which were an immediate success. The label also has its own retail store in Oslo. The second one is about to open at the end of November 2014 and features 90 sq. meters (969 sq. feet) of retail space in the old Aker Brygge port district. “After a few years in the business, we were thrilled to receive a lot of international interest and amazed by the prospect to be launched into stores you dream of as a designer. However, after a few seasons in London, Milan and New York, we realized that handling sales, PR,design, marketing, as well as conquering the biggest fashion capitals in the world was a little too enthusiastic considering we were only two people. That’s why we have focused on our home market recently and established the brand and a key customer base,” explains Rosenfors.

Nevertheless, in London is one of their key international luxury accounts: “There is a positive response to the collection and that’s exactly the way we want to win over more customers,” says Rosenfors. “We also plan to open more Mardou & Dean stores and in five years time be well established in a number of key European cities.” The label’s team is made up of 7 people and the charm and passion they bring to their trade is striking: Mardou & Dean is well on the way from being a newcomer to being an established label, and with the amount of dedication and professionalism they show, may just pull it off. That the Norwegians are still a dark horse on the fashion map can be an advantage or a drawback. But we all know what happens at the end of the Cinderella story.