Meet Norway’s kings of rainwear

The design duo behind Norwegian Rain, Norway's award-winning fashion brand, tell The Local how making rainwear that is both functional and stylish is not all grey skies.

Meet Norway's kings of rainwear
T-Michael (left) and Alexander Helle of fashion label Norwegian Rain. Photo: Norwegian Rain

The brand from Bergen is the fusion of creative director Alexander Helle and designer tailor, T-Michael.  Since the launch of Norwegian Rain five years ago, the label has dedicated itself to making some of the most innovative rainwear available.

T-Michael and Alexander, how did your collaboration begin?

AH: I have been a big fan of T-Michael’s unique approach to tailoring for many years. We both lived in Bergen – one of Europe’s rainiest places. I simply asked him to help bring my rainwear project to market – and he said “no”!

TM: I was approached by Alexander some years back. He wanted me to help him design raincoats. I declined. Alexander came back a couple of times and I took the time to explain to him why I would not, at first, get involved. I also explained to him the basis of my work and my ethos and principles. Finally we did join forces and shared the same vision to make raincoats that do not remotely resemble the traditional raincoat and where the technology is hidden in the garment.

How did rainy Bergen help your work creating functional but fashionable rainwear?

AH: Bergen was a natural laboratory for a rainwear project. You know it will rain and rain hard here. If not today, it will rain tomorrow. A perfect place to really stress test our products. Our starting point is not fashion, but problem solving: How to make the best life in the rain.”

TM: In Bergen it rains two out of three days. How do you maintain your style during those two wet days? That was where our project begun.

What success has Norwegian Rain had so far?

AH: Over the past five years we've won many awards, including "Talented Newcomer 2010" by Vogue Italy and "Designer of the Year Norway" in 2012. It has been surreal to have launched a little brand in Norway and ended up at the grand palaces and fashion parties around the world.

Alexander, how did an economist become one of Norway’s top fashion designers?

AH: I wanted to work, earn and live from my creative ambitions. So I needed to understand business and attained my Masters degree in economics. My business training allowed me to make my work profitable.

T-Michael, have you always worked as a tailor?

TM: I set up my tailoring studio eighteen years ago and it opened on my 30th birthday. I made tailoring my life from when I was around 25-years-old. I took a three-year tailoring course and opened my studio soon after.

Beside the rain, what or who else has inspired your designs?

AH: Japanese fashion is a big part of all Norwegian Rain's designs. We borrow their sense of harmony in our work – like black and white; wet and dry; tradition and innovation. We don’t like to look at what other designers are doing because it does not foster innovation.

TM: Norwegian Rain fuses tradition and innovation. Anyone or any brand that supports or inspires that way of thinking inspires us. The Japanese culture is packed with this way of thinking. Appreciating the traditional manufacturing techniques in clothing, architecture, design, yet encouraging innovation. Preserving the old in new exciting ways.

Norwegian Rain design quality rainwear for both men and women. Photo: Norwegian Rain

What are you views on the state of Norwegian and Nordic fashion?

AH: In Norway right now, there’s a lot of talent. I can’t say we have a fashion industry yet. It is not like Denmark or Sweden, but it is coming. Norway is a blank canvas in the world of fashion.

TM: It is a "work in progress."

Any advice for emerging designers who want to work in the fashion industry?

AH: In Norway, we have funding opportunities like the government agency “Innovation Norway” who helped us. They can help kick-start your career, but it is hard to get the funding. Tenacity always pay off in the end. Also, teaming up with others can be a big help. When you launch a brand today you compete with the world. In this industry you need people around you. Your task is to make your competence as good as possible and not dilute yourself with low-value tasks.

TM: Find what makes you unique as a designer. The way you perceive things and the way you think plays a vital part in finding that uniqueness. Cultivate it and do it again a million times. That's a difficult thing to achieve, but it's easiest if that uniqueness is you just being you.

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