With the recent cancellation of Norway’s equivalent to Fashion Week, three up-and-coming designers – Anne Karine Thorbjørnsen, Haik and Michael Olestad – take matters into their own hands by exhibiting through a new style of fashion week, named Smooth Runway. On Friday, they used this new platform to exhibit their Fall/Winter 2019 collections, but also to open the wholesale doors to the public, which has predominantly been for retailers.
Smooth Runway has proved to be precisely what the up-and-coming Norwegian designers needed. Anne Karine Thorbjørnsen, Haik and Michael Olestad sent down their explosive and endearing collections on the runway with a premier casting of men and women of all ages. An external outlet like Smooth Runway might just be the answer emerging designers should pursue in the future, distancing itself from the larger organised fashion weeks filled with futile and time-consuming events. Also, it’s important to contemplate what happens when an organisation merges big fashion houses and small, barely-there-budget designers within the fashion week cluster – someone will fall short in the end.

Distancing itself from other fashion weeks

On the runway, the show-goers could see vivid bright collections that stood apart but were very much synched. Is it a coincidence? Yes, probably. But, with them all being friends outside the borders of the Norwegian fashion bubble, it comes as no surprise that the collections can relate to each other, as separate beings, with mutual interest.
The shows in their entirety distanced themselves from the mayhem surrounding the pre-existing fashion week modules; what struck out the most from this first unorthodox fashion week production is the lack of familiarity from Paris, Milan, London or even past Oslo fashion weeks. There were no influencers. There was no streetstyle. People came to see clothes, and more importantly, they had the opportunity to buy clothes.
The wholesale experience is somewhat of a restricted realm and often appears to be a secretive operation, especially when considering mark-ups and minimum orders. For Smooth Runway, the designers gave the audience the possibility of only buy the clothes but also to touch and feel the garments from their soon-to-be-released collections, which offered a sense of the most sincere honesty.

Haik opts for an infomercial

The opening of Smooth Runway was orchestrated by Haik, the brand who has over the past few seasons worked closely with multiple local artists, performers and manufacturers. For their show, instead of opting for a chest-pumping beat, Haik went down the route of infomercials. Rather than buying some obscure ab machine, the product descriptions, garment composition, wholesale and retail prices were told poetically. “As a whole, we are working to expose mechanisms and what happens ‘behind the curtain’ in both production, sales and advertising in an effort to communicate with consumers who, in many ways, have been kept out and become ‘protected’ from all knowledge of these things. Ok, going political here, but let's face it, the world is changing and so must we”, explains Ida Falck from Haik.
The collection put Haik in a new category of designers. The brand that has heavily been influenced by traditional craftsmanship used this new wave platform and collection as a way to integrate a new line of products – heavily infused technical wear. “The collection was developed for and with two dancers and two musicians for the performance project called Flakkande Røynd. We learned during the collaboration that contemporary dance can be experienced and approached as a spectator (much like going for a walk in the woods) and from there, we began to play with the hiking-clothing expression”, explains Falck.
The garments were distinctly colourful, consisting of acid yellow, neon green, dark red and chocolate. These vivid bright elements were colour-blocked and material-blocked, creating the depth and dimension the collection would have lacked if it wasn't for Haik’s decision to merge these two together. While the collection relied heavily on its sporty nature, Haik managed to merge the relationship between future technologies and traditional knitwear techniques.
“All the garments are made with surplus material from the sportswear industry in Lithuania, residues that create this kind of colour-block frenzy, which also refers to sports and hiking as well as patch pockets or reinforcements, which also affirm the ideology of workwear”, said Falck. This, creating a bold bond between the sustainable and upcycling of materials, resulting in a strong collection filled with positivity directed towards the past, present and future.

Michael Olestad meets the expectations

As Michael Olestad’s collection hit the runway, the expectation roamed high – but the slits were most definitely higher. “After suffering a concussion in November, I had to take an unwanted break. Doctor’s orders were to stay at home resting in the dark. Inspired by, and shaped by these circumstances, my latest collection addresses a different state of mind”, explains the designer.
In opposition to his Spring/Summer 2019 collection, Olestad opted for a muted palette; a calm and collected array of blue, grey, green and beige were mixed with sudden jabs of mouth-watering peach. “Researching the concept of my repetitive days, I wanted to explore the concept of the uniform,” said Olestad, who has spent a significant amount of time diving deeper into his territory of knitwear, creating full knitted looks – that were in no way a nod to leisure wear.
“The different uniforms I had in mind during this collection also mimicked different parts of my state. The schoolgirl uniform represented all of the interns and assistants I relied on to answer emails and trust with developments and production. The generic everyday uniform represented each day closer to becoming myself again. The military uniform shapes the regime I am going through to get my health back.” The collection also offered his reworked Fall/Winter 2018 butterfly openings; this time, the unfolding front closure could be seen on his denim jackets and wool coats.
Speaking of denim, for Spring/Summer 2018, Michael Olestad introduced his indigo mayhem with complete looks in denim, which were now reworked and modified to fit the forthcoming Fall/Winter 2019 collection. One of the more fascinating aspects of Michael Olestad’s show was, in fact, the expansion of his accessory line. The show-goers could see their reflection in the bags, earrings and bracelets made of mirrored plastic. These hard, strong and lifeless elements appeared beautiful in contrast to the feminine and feather-light movement of his collection.

Anne Karine Thorbjørnsen continues to subvert the notions of tailoring

The collections from Anne Karine Thorbjørnsen have since her Central Saint Martins graduation been filled with somewhat of a religious obsession with folds, tailoring and premier fabrics. These elements have been key factors and guidelines through her artistic timeline, defining her aesthetic and taste for ready-to-wear. “The collection is centred around family (a unity of women) of females (a social construct). Activism for togetherness and unity, where cargo and pinstripe suggest unity – group and power. With hints of activewear as positive energy, mixed with hardware to add force, combined with soft drapes and romantic frills”, said Anne Karine Thorbjørnsen.
The line-up felt familiar, like something you would expect to see from her. The collection also carried key pieces from Thorbjørnsen’s repertoire with grey wool tailored sets mixed with frayed and exposed selvedge hemlines. For Fall/Winter 2019, the designer goes back to her roots and to her excellence: tailoring. “I had an urge to go opposite from the Spring/Summer 2019 Neo Baroque collection, which had an outward-reaching, nauseating need for grandeur and bigness, for a brave hope for a better future, to use big paraphrases.”
This explains the familiarity of her latest collection. It wasn’t new, but it most definitely appeared as a sibling to her past collections. “The Fall/Winter 2019 went inwards, to the core, to the family, to a foundation – of my practice, maybe. A regrouping, a gathering of force through unity and togetherness. A lot of the designs are built from previous ones that had been developed, trying to perfect them or make them stronger, recycled and reused at the ground to grow into something more mature or secure”, explains Thorbjørnsen.
It will be interesting to see how this journey inwards will pan out in future collections, as Anne Karine Thorbjørnsen continues to develop new feminine ideas for the future. “As always, each collection is a continuation and ideas develop, rewind and recycle. The idea of unity and togetherness has been part of my practice for a long time, and for the collection [Femme]ilien(nes), the family and its constructs were used as a metaphor for humanity – humans and how we manage to live together, or not, because of and despite our differences. A feminine force for the tomorrow”, finishes Thorbjørnsen.
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