Torrential rain. Blazing winds. Flurry Snow and cold mist. The North can seem overwhelming when under its wintry spell. Its ruggedness paves the way for innovative sartorial solutions, allowing us to defy the pounding elements. Shelter can be functional and layers can bring utility. On a recent visit to the old parts of Copenhagen, I passed by an unique four story townhouse, hidden inside a historic courtyard. Its slim silhouette, long boxy rooms, steep creaky stairways and functional patina, making for a unique backdrop for a chance encounter. Its inhabitants? The composed team of HANSEN, Åase and Per. Over deep black coffees, placed on a barren wooden table, I got to explore Åase her take on Norse values, honest craftsmanship and exploring democratic manners when creating.
Åase, a pleasure to speak with you. Lets begin with your humble beginnings. Could you tell me about your path and how did you get to where you are today?
Well, I started HANSEN together with Per 5 years ago. At first, we decided to do a small collection of menswear based on our Nordic traditions, values and clean esthetics. At some point, we received a grant from Statens Kunstfond (ed. Danish Art Foundation) and the decision was made. From there, we started to work with retailers, which we believed would share our values. In a way, we are like turtles – taking our time – growing steadily without any brooding desire to build empires.
The North. As a true Nordic citizen, its nature has a profound impact on the collections. How unique is your connection to the North?
Indeed, as a Norwegian-Swede, currently living in Denmark, I have a good understanding of the equality and differences between the Nordic countries. It is always part of an exploration of these Norse values. Central to me, is this constant longing for the ruggedness of the Norwegian West coast. Its harsh climate dominated by nature in all its beauty, often inspires me, when I craft the collections.
HANSEN is known for its tailoring and resilient functional fabrics. How do you build and construct the collections?
When I craft anything, I am determined to follow my heart (guts or conviction), and not to be limited by so-called price pyramids. The quality of make, fabrics and trimming are central to our concept. Every time, I select fabrics and colours, it is like composing a painting. Each collection, needs to be balanced, both in structure, weight and light and darker tones. Furthermore, I always do need some dissonance to keep it all interesting.
When it comes to silhouette, I can observe a connection between workwear, japanese traditions and modern outerwear. How do you see these elements as part of Hansen?
In my work, I am influenced by many genres. I want to bring back the idea of the ‘Sunday Bests’ (ed. dressing up properly on Sundays) and I indeed love traditional work wear. Both elements are represented in our collections, making it possible to wear the garments in many different ways, versatility is key here! When it comes to structure, I use a lot of Japanese fabrics, simply because I find them very close related to the Nordic esthetics.
Film and Photo. You are also a creator, also when it comes to visuals. Who inspires you and how do you craft the images for HANSEN?
Interesting faces are fascinating. For the campaigns, I always use people I know, people I cast on the street or in a bar, even family, as their images have a sense of meaning to me. As a creative, I do love to photograph and have a great affection for some of the early 20th century’s photographers that appeal to my slight state of melancholy…To mention some: Josef Koudelka, Vivian Meier, August Sander
History. How do you connect artisanal values with modernity and vice versa?
To make a good product you need to have knowledge of the craftsmanship… For me, this comes after over 6 years of education and over a decade of experience. To develop yourself as a tailor, you need to invest in conductive research. For HANSEN, we work with very uniquely gifted suppliers and fabric makers. The collections are made in a quite traditional way. We develop all our patterns by draping them and thereafter delineate them on paper. All fabrics are always hand picked. For me a close connection to what I create, also allows the garments to be functional and suitable for modern lives.
HANSEN also has a feeling of openness towards its audience. How do you connect to your customers and clientele?
To claim that we do timeless or/and democratic clothing, perhaps can be abstract – but I think I would like to say we do. We have a very wide audience – our clothing does appeals to men from all walks of live. Of different age, habits and societies. Much more than initially we set out to do. Perhaps, this has to do with the fact, that our designs are rather straightforward and uncomplicated. We make it seem as if we are not ‘trying too hard’. This way, we keep our conversations with clients relaxed and effortlessly open.
Future. We need to support new generations of talent and graduates. What advice would you give to future designers and creators?
Trust your gut feeling.
Do not simply try to please your teacher.