Welcome to Heart Made, the podcast where you can listen to insightful conversations with founders, CEOs, and creative directors on how they build unique brands that combine excellence with personality. Or as I like to say: craft with glory. My name is Siems Luckwaldt, I am a Germany-based writer and 20-year veteran of luxury and lifestyle reporting for publications such as “how to spend it”, the Financial Times Deutschland, Robb Report, Capital, Business Punk, and many others.
If you like what you hear please subscribe in your favorite podcast app, give me a five-star rating and tell your friends and colleagues about this show. Thank you! You can also drop me a line anytime on this website to let me know which interview guest I should invite for future episodes. But now to today’s guest, brand, and story.
This episode of Heart Made that could be headlined „It’s raining, men“ takes us north on the globe, way, way up. To Norway. There in Bergen, Europe’s rainiest city – it pours for 231 days every year – begins in 2008 the story of a unique brand with a more than fitting name: Norwegian Rain. An outerwear company like no other in the world.
Founded by a bespoke tailor who bridges the gap between high-quality craftsmanship that would make a British label from Saville Row proud with an almost Japanese approach toward design and visual sensibility. While never sacrificing the performance and water-resistance much needed in its place of origin. Also at the creative helm and steering the business side of their joint endeavor is Alexander Helle, who was born in Antwerp. Apart from the extraordinary sturdiness and aesthetic appeal of their collections one must also at least briefly mention T-Michael’s rise to fame on the international fashion week and street style circuit, becoming one of the most photographed style icons of the legendary Pitti Uomo menswear fair in Florence, Italy.
„The essence of every founder’s journey is: There will be blood. Small things, that you don’t take care of, balloon into bigger things very rapidly. But even with the utmost care, stuff goes wrong. Be prepared, survive and be stronger for it. The obstacles make us better in the end. Though it might not seem like it at first. Trust in the process. We started in the financial crisis of 2008/2009, we know.“
So what makes Norwegian Rain’s coats, parkas, and jackets so special? In their own words, I quote: „The philosophy is simple. Hardcore functional and waterproof outerwear that does not compromise on stylistic preferences. The hi-tech is hidden”. A great example is one of their bestsellers, a versatile raincoat with a cashmere-lined collar. It is not only timelessly elegant and subtle in its design but also waterproof, windproof, breathable, has real horn buttons, a satin lining, a water tunnel, defined shoulders, a detachable storm flap, detachable hood, and many more cleverly packed-in features. Probably the only coat a man needs all fall and winter in an average European climate. The brand also has cozy warm garments for those frosty peaks of way below zero temperatures. As they tend to have in Bergen, Norway.
The impact of T-Michael and Alexander Helle’s work can not only be seen and felt, it stretches way beyond fashion. They try hard to reduce harm to the planet in every step of their product’s living cycle: From using a high percentage of recycled materials to abstaining from fluorocarbons (often used to make textiles waterproof) and fighting overproduction where they can. In short: Slow fashion for the urban or great outdoors.
What fascinated me a great deal about the successful duo was that they rely on the Norwegian concept of dugnad, doing something voluntarily and for the common good. And I know that I have probably hopelessly butchered that pronunciation. Wherever possible their approach towards business and brand building is a collaborative one, oftentimes joining hands with other experts in their respective fields like photographers, web designers, and storytellers.
So, in a nutshell, this brand is pretty extraordinary in an otherwise quite crowded, uniform, and booming sector of outdoor wear. No wonder T-Michael and Alexander Helle could in the past collaborate with creatives and labels such as Japanese designer Miharayasuhiro, Florentine hatmakers SuperDuper Hats, Britain’s Grenson shoes, and Amsterdam-based denim designer Denham. Enough said, let’s meet those guys!
Check back soon or subscribe in your favorite podcast app so you won’t miss future episodes of this show. Until then thank you very much for listening, getting the word out there about HeartMade and feel free to provide feedback and your ideas for my guest list anytime on craftandglory.com
Links from this episode:
- Norwegian Rain [eco statement]
- the brand’s website and Instagram account
- more on the mentioned Japanese concept of Nana korobi ya oki
- the mentioned speech by Norways King Harald
Theme: „Honey and Milk“ by The 126ers / YouTube Audio Library
Background music: „Meet Again“ by Emily A. Sprague / YouTube Audio Library
Cover art: Jack Moreh / Jooinn.com (illustration); Bent René Synnevaag, @notbent (photo); Siems Luckwaldt (design)