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Ingrid Bredholt started her journey in fashion ten years ago. In 2007, together with Patrik, her partner at that time, they founded Mardou & Dean, a brand focused solely on denim. Now, a decade after, Ingrid is running her business alone but with more commitment, decision and pulse than ever: not only has she expanded the product range of the brand, but also she’s founded a second, more luxurious one: Souterrain. We chat with her about the keys to success, the ups and downs of her career so far, and what are we going to wear next season. 
Mardou & Dean was founded in 2007 by Patrik Rosenfors and you. How did the idea of creating a fashion brand come up? 
It was more like an urge, my fingers were itching. I was then studying fashion and later industrial design in Milan. I think I knew from a very young age that I would work within art and design fields – I thought about studying architecture, since many of my relatives have. Patrik, my partner at that time, and I had a very strong collected idea about what feeling we wanted to create. I guess a fashion label was born somewhere there; we were very much on the same page. I believe that this naivety combined with ambition gave us a lot of strength.
The brand originally started as a label focused on denim. However, after five years, it has expanded its range of products and offers womenswear, menswear and accessories. How have you experienced this changes and evolution (both personally and creatively)?
We made the first two Mardou & Dean jeans, Dean 1 and Mardou 1, in 2007. The brand developed in 2010/2011 as a jean label taking on stockists, we were still studying and working. It was after opening our first store in Oslo that we got pushed to hold a show and develop a full ready-to-wear line in 2013. And now, last season, we officially launched Souterrain, which is the more exclusive line embracing the showpieces. It was always meant to develop in this direction. I love denim, and it’s very important to the brand’s philosophy from both a sustainable and an aesthetic point of view. The evolution into a full ready-to-wear label and furthermore, into art projects, has been necessary for the label’s – and my personal – growth.
One of the most challenging parts has probably been to get in good relationship with factories and to get on top with the production and manage to meet consumer demand. A big part is of course the actual administration with employees and paying taxes. It can be challenging to handle both the commercial part and to create avant-garde design and take forward thinking choices, but I’ve learnt so much. I like when things are difficult (for example, I did all my studies in Italian even if I didn’t know one word when I started); I have run the company alone since 2014. Besides the actual design process, the interesting part is all the people you get the chance to meet and work with. It feels like I have achieved to move closer to the goal of building a label that people want to work with and to be associated with.

The Fall/Winter 2017 marked the tenth anniversary of Mardou & Dean. How do you feel when looking back at such a long path?
Sometimes it feels like it’s been too many years, but at the same time, shocking that it has gone so fast! So much has happened, I’ve met so many people. But at the same time, I feel like I am starting to get on the right track just now.
Could you highlight one of the best and one of the worst moments for you during this journey?
Oh, that is hard. I do feel every month has something unrealistically excellent and something lost. Production in general is really tiring because everything can go wrong and as a small label you are not very prioritized. The most exciting things must either be good press coverage or getting feedback from people / places that you really admire and respect. Also to create or sew something that gives you the courage and drive to continue and to be better (there are always some pieces in the collection that I love so much that I hang them up on the wall so I can watch them over and over again.) One of the best moments was to get awarded in Norway for best design label when we only did jeans was huge compared to where we were at the time.
After having shown in fashion weeks like Copenhagen, you came back to Oslo for the brand’s anniversary. What does this city mean to you (personally) and to Mardou & Dean?
I am from Oslo. I don’t know if you have been there but if it weren’t for the very long, dark winters I would really love and recommend this place. It feels pure, clean and safe. You have many opportunities in Oslo, and I don’t think the creatives of the city have felt challenged enough. But it’s now changing and you can feel the pulse is stronger. Mardou & Dean was born in Oslo, but the label in itself has no distinct roots, or is very much influenced by all places visited. I am not very nationalistic myself. The reason I chose to show at Grand Hotel in Oslo is because some of the absolute first pictures we shot with photographer Oda Berby were taken outside this hotel. I love those pictures a lot because we managed to capture some kind of international vibe, making it hard to see where in Europe they were taken. And the spirit is so free. Showing in Oslo was a very obvious choice to me because of the launch of Souterrain, also.

“I think that in our times, where celebrities and influencers are having so much impact, it feels right to detach my work from a face or personality.”
The brand is very linked to art, music and traveling. In what ways do you reflect these influences in the final pieces/garments?
It’s probably in everything. To have the privilege to indulge in art and be part of it, create things that inspire others. It’s necessary for your heart and soul to travel and experience, this will reflect on everything you do. The influences in the final pieces can be either very imaginary or more like a feeling. I think all of the arts belong together. To most people music gives some kind of euphoria. To me too, but I also have that with beautiful clothes and advanced tailoring.
Collaborations are also a strong part of Mardou & Dean’s identity: Broslo, Massimo Leardini, Bryan Adams, Kask, Aldo Fallai, etc. How does the process of collaborating with other brands and artists work?
I love working with others. Not necessarily physically sharing a space but more mentally developing ideas and projects together. Sometimes it can be ideas that have been present for months or years and then finally the time feels right and I reach out to that person/label or they cross my path somehow. But very often it can be more of a meeting – random or assumingly random. And it clicks. I often find artists very easy to get a fast and easy flow with. The idea is often very clear from the start. I think freedom of thought is very important, so in most collaborations, ‘I’ and ‘them’ occupy different parts of the project so we can work freely and make the ideas intervene with each other naturally and avoid too many rules and conformity. I have done some bigger collabs with more commercial names, then the process feels very different, but then again usually the final result has a bigger impact and reaches many more. 
Let’s talk now about the recently presented Spring/Summer 2018 collection. I can see that you present faceless models, which is kind of weird because our recently launched issue, METAL 38, is titled Faceless, precisely. Is there something in the air, in the zeitgeist, about anonymity? What’s your aim in presenting your models with their faces covered?
The collection features two anonymous individuals masked to keep the focus on the clothes. I dressed and styled them to give illusions about textures, layers and new shapes. I think that in our times, where celebrities and influencers are having so much impact, it feels right to detach my work from a face or personality. I too often know a brand because of who is part of it, selling it, presenting it, and more and more often have no clue about what is the brand actually doing. I just wanted the clothes to be the main focus. I hope anonymity is a trend in fashion, I think it would be healthy for the industry.

In addition to the iconic denim, I can also see the juxtaposition of metallic fabrics, lace, tie-dye and even patchwork. How do all these textures and techniques converge in the collection? What’s the thread uniting them?
I love working with textures and surfaces, and developing new fabrics. I hand-dye a lot myself, weave or paint the samples. I experience that a fabric changes a garment completely, going from high fashion to streetwear or vice versa; an interesting texture pushes the garment to become a more progressive piece.
With this collection, my starting point were optical illusions in the shape of 2-D prints that look like 3-D surfaces, or garments worn differently than expected that twist the mind and make it believe that it’s something it is not. The result is that people think they know what they are looking at but they actually don’t, so they re-experience the clothes the second and third time they see them.
As an example, I took a photograph of a well-used selvedge denim and printed it onto a draped shiny silk dress, repeating the print on a box-shaped jean jacket made in suede. The effect was completely different. The jean jacket I repeated in glossy leather with a checkered optical twisted pattern, inspired by The Checker Illusion by Edward H. Adelson.
I mixed two aesthetics within the fabrics: Victorian-inspired, handcrafted beauty combined with potent futurism like metallic coated denim, shiny bubble shirts and pastel coloured Lycra. This as a parallel theme to the two developing labels: Mardou&Dean, with ready-to-wear, and Souterrain with the label’s showpieces. The latter brings attention to the label’s approach towards art. 
Just out of curiosity, I spotted a ‘decorative’ element both in the Fall/Winter 2017 and the Spring/Summer 2016 collections: handcuffs. What do they represent? Are they linked to the social and political moment we’re living in?
Yes, absolutely. Maybe more so a symbol of what we must achieve and work towards. It’s probably quite far away from where the world is today. But we should work together towards free speech for everyone. The open handcuffs are meant as a symbol of freedom.
Just to end, how has 2017 been so far? And what future projects are you working in?
2016 was a though year I think. But 2017 started well just because the sun came to Oslo quite early. I already travelled a great deal and will travel much more the next months, which I enjoy a lot. With Mardou & Dean and Souterrain I am going to new and very exciting places. I can’t talk so much about collaborations and projects yet, but I’m starting up work relations with people I really admire. I also have had the chance to work with stylists and photographers, both heavy weights and fresh faces. I have made my first official bag line and jewellery line in stores this summer, which I’ve been very eager to show. And then METAL wanted to talk to me, so it’s been pretty good so far!

Words
Arnau Salvadó

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