Copenhagen-based menswear label Norse Projects is all about functionality paired with a subtle style. Their knits and outerwear are perfect for both the long Danish winters and our climate here in Australia. We talk to Tobia Sloth, creative director and founder of the brand, about the deeper levels to his creative process.
Where in the world are you at the moment?
I’m writing this from our showroom in Paris, where we are presenting the AW16 line for the men’s market week.
Can you tell me a little about Norse Projects, how did it start?
Norse Projects started as a creative studio and art gallery in Copenhagen in 2004. It came together as a unity of interests at the intersection of art, contemporary culture, and design.
How big is your team?
The creative team is still quite small but given that we’ve been growing as a company, we now employ around 50 people across areas of retail, administration, marketing, design and so on. We also have many interns and young people coming from all corners of the world to be part of our team for different lengths of time. We strive to create an international-minded work environment for our employees by having people from different cultures who represent our outlook on the world.
What was the first product you designed?
The very first product was an artist collaboration t-shirt. In conjunction with our exhibitions at the first Norse Projects space, the first print on a t-shirt was by a Danish artist, Husk Mit Navn, whose work is renowned throughout Scandinavia and the world.
What was your favourite item of clothing as a child?
My mother recently gave me a yellow fisherman’s hat and a blue, long-sleeved t-shirt that I apparently wore all the time when I was a 7-year-old at sea in the Pacific Ocean. When I was a kid, my parents brought me with them to New Zealand, where we joined a band of young hippies that were protesting the American and French tests of nuclear weapons in the Pacific Basin. The ship was an old, Danish schooner from 1921 and the crew was a completely diverse group; none of us knew how to sail but we were brought together by the unifying idea of stopping the dangerous nuclear testing that took place in the coral reefs of Moorea, next to Tahiti. My childhood experiences with this young band of idealists formed my own viewpoint of life and drives a lot of the intent within Norse Projects and what we engage with.
How would you describe the Norse Projects man?
I think Norse Projects attracts people who sense our holistic personality as a brand; something we aim to transcend into everything we do, whether it be product design, photography, or art direction. I think we attract people who want to be a part of something more than just a clothing company.
Do you think perfectionism is important in fashion design?
I think it’s crucial to align whatever you do with your convictions. It’s not as much about perfectionism as it is about the need to express both subtle aesthetical design points and functional requirements in a unified way. To do that well, you need to be completely focused on your product.
How important is functionality, as well as aesthetics, to Norse Projects?
It’s extremely important. Our design language is one that references both the past while hinting towards the future in a subtle manner. We try to integrate what we feel is relevant for the time into our collections while continuously developing new ideas and exploring the uses of technology and innovation wherever it can make a difference.
How are the brand’s designs influenced by the Danish climate and surroundings?
The Danish weather changes throughout the year; we have long spring and fall seasons with rain, wind, and heavy weather, punctuated by a few fantastic weeks of summer. Naturally, that has an influence on us aiming to create durable, long-lasting products. However, I’d say we are even more influenced by the sociocultural state of the Danish and Scandinavian mindset. Even though Denmark is a small country, both it and Copenhagen alone has blossomed a lot over the past 10 years. Copenhagen is small and accessible and the large majority of the population travel by bike. We have 1 million bikes in the city and most roads have been converted to prioritise bicycle paths as opposed to that of cars, which is really great.
Danish men are admired for their style, what do you think is done so well?
I think it has to do with our cultural values, emphasizing a certain degree of restraint and awareness about one’s actions and choices. We apply those same values to our choice of clothing as we do to our cultural and social outlook, which end up influencing fashion.
A lot of the range is suited and made for the outdoors, do you spend a lot of time in the wild?
Not as much as I’d like to! Running a design company requires a lot of time and it’s quite hard to take some time out to go exploring. This is one of the reasons why we choose to do our campaigns in nature: it allows us to go on trips and explore our own backcountry while still being creative. It’s really the best of both worlds. This also ties in with our ideology of being activists, which is something we hope will inspire others to go out and do the same. The trend across the world is that people are migrating from the less densely populated areas to the cities. We are facing major challenges of overpopulating the planet and levels of consumption that are higher than the planet can bear. It’s a way of life that is not sustainable in its current form and nature is suffering as a consequence. We really want to inspire people to appreciate the majestic, incredible beauty of our planet and be conscious about it, especially the new generations who will have to deal with the problems and consequences to a far greater extent than we have seen up until now.
Do you travel a lot outside of Denmark? Where have you been lately?
My mother’s family is from Italy and I recently spent a week in Tuscany. I try to go there at least two or three times a year. The Italians have an amazing approach to combining work and life so it suits their particular, individual outlook on life. You’d never see an Italian running to catch a train. They just don’t. They aren’t in that much of a hurry. They have the ability of turning even the smallest things into a great and enjoyable moment. I get inspired every time I go there. It resets your values and reminds you that every moment of daily life is important and to be enjoyed. Everyone should be a little more grateful for what they have in life. I think the world would be a much better place if we all felt that way once in a while.