FWSS's ideal lies in the brand's name; Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer. Clothing inspired by and adapted to the Norwegian seasons. No, I’m not talking about big parkas to keep you warm in the Nordic winter, or shell jackets to protect from the cold mountain wind. FWSS are about the beauty and rawness of our dynamic and sometimes unpredictable seasons, and clothing that can be worn and loved season after season. But as a brand they have proven to be just as durable as the most advanced mountain gear. I spoke to CEO Linn Christoffersen about the brand's success and the responsibility that comes with it.
I would confidently call you a veteran in modern Norwegian fashion, with FWSS soon closing in on a ten-year anniversary. Have you seen any major change in our local industry in the past years?
Compared to when we started, there is now a very prominent scene of brands who are making great products, and market them well. When FWSS combined design and production experience, with sales and distribution power, I believe we paved the way for a new way of thinking. Brands have now been able to establish themselves outside Norway and the Nordics, and for niche brands, that is quite essential. These combined forces are about to grow into an industry, which is gratifying.
If you boil your brand philosophy down to one sentence, what would it be?
FWSS is about awareness of what you wear and a sense that our garments will stay with you for a long time.
Is FWSS at the point where you thought it would be in 2020?
We have had our share of challenges, and we are definitely not where we thought we could be, four-five years back. At the same time, we are on a healthy path to where we want to be in the future. 2020 is a step forward but at the same time the most challenging year for our generation. We have never worked as hard.
You peg 2020 as a challenging year, and I could not agree more. But despite financial uncertainty and a clouded view of the future, has anything positive come out of this time for you?
I think 2020 will establish many new ways of living and doing business. We will rediscover habits and appreciate new simplicity. For us, it boils down to focusing on our core values and strengths and an appreciation of Oslo, and all its qualities.
Speaking of the year 2020, we’ve also experienced a new awareness of systemic racism and the lack of diversity in the fashion industry as a whole. How are you navigating these industry-wide issues? Do you feel pressure to be political?
The choices we make stem from our moral compass, which is arguably a reflection of the state of the union at a given time. Our natural way of working with people is based on personality and qualities, but we realize that the systematic defaults exist and that we are all part of the problem. We think the current raise of awareness is important. The pressure to be political is there for everyone at this point. Missteps or misunderstandings are blown up like never before, which may be the reason that many are silent. Then again, there are no fine lines. We are all the same. For us, this year has been like a storm, and our capacity has only allowed us to keep the boat floating.
Despite substantial international success, what keeps you connected to Norway?
Norway is in our veins, in our DNA. It's in our name, the four seasons that make this country so beautiful, yet sometimes harsh. It's a matter of quality of life, and being close to nature.
Why do you think Norwegian design has become so much more important on the global market? What makes our industry unique?
In broad terms, I think its a matter of culture and quality of life. We are not that many people in this young industry, and we need to allow ourselves to try and fail. There are very few industry veterans to lean on, no one did an international journey before, and there are very few merchandise talents who can draw clear guidelines for designers. Thus, we need to find our way, and that makes the road a little longer. At the same time, many Norwegians value the work/life balance, and a small fashion scene allows for more freedom. London or New York would eat most of us for breakfast when it comes to competition, with non-stop work, and the endless row of people in line for your job. Maybe this provokes more continuity, and hopefully more attention to the way we work locally.
What measures are you taking to promote and improve sustainability?
For a long time, we’ve been driven by quality through choices of materials. What is the use of this garment, and what materials are best to fulfil this use? Is polyester the better-suited material? Then, we work with recycled poly. Could we buy deadstock materials, instead of producing new fabrics? Yes! How could we work with fur without compromising animal welfare? We introduce our animal-friendly shearling, which is sheep wool knitted into a polyester backing. All of this is part of FWSS Fall 2020 and is a work in progress. We love material insight, which at the end of the day, will ensure that FWSS products lasts longer. To use our products for a longer time is one of the most important choices we can all make. Then, our collection overall is less trend sensitive, and more about modern basics, than ever before.
Where in the world - and on what people - would you most love to see FWSS?
Our products are in a sense universal, catering to both creatives and career women who care about what they wear. As we are based in Norway, and our products follow the seasons, FWSS is best suited in similar markets. Canada, The US and Scandinavia, and possibly even Japan.
If the Norwegian fashion industry was a meal, what ingredient is FWSS?
I think we could be in any meal that is based on great ingredients, with pure and natural flavours. Not too much sugar, but a little. You need some of those ingredients that make the chef shine also.