Marketplace: We Norwegians comes to Main Street
There is a little bit of Norway on Main Street.
We Norwegians, a brand from the Scandinavian country, recently opened its first U.S. store in Park City. The retailer, located at 675 Main St., sells its knitwear clothing and other Norwegian brands.
We Norwegians was launched in October 2014 by Tove Grane and Oyvind Lauritzen. Grane had been working in the fashion industry since 1996, but she was dissatisfied with the production process. She saw the amount of air and water pollution being produced because of the clothes she was helping to design. So, when the ski brand she was working at downsized and laid her off, she decided to try her hand at starting her own fashion brand.
With her husband, Lauritzen, she created a clothing company centered on sustainability.
Lauritzen had his own set of skills he brought to the table. As an entrepreneur, he had experience creating several brands and getting them off the ground. Grane said he took care of the business side so she could focus on designing the clothes and the overall brand.
Grane opted to use merino wool for her clothing because the fabric tends to have less of an impact on the environment. She got to work searching for sheep ranchers who were sustainable in their water use and who treated the animals ethically. She found a company in Italy to buy the wool from and a factory in Denmark to make the fabrics. Along the way, she said she made it a priority to provide fair pay to every worker in the production chain.
She found ways to cut back on waste as well, such as reducing the amount of dye used to color the wool and recycling the dyed water. At the end, she had a product she could confidently put her name behind. “When I started this brand, I wanted to be genuinely proud of it, and not have to hide any skeletons in the closet,” she said. “Something that I could really say that, ‘This is a good product. I know for sure, 100 percent.’”
She feels like she finally has that brand.
Jana Vaksdal, director of sales in the U.S., said the company’s ethos was what convinced her to join the company after Lauritzen, who was an old friend, asked her to be a part of the team. She helped the brand expand into the U.S., where We Norwegians sweaters and sweatpants have been sold for years.
Now, Grane said, the U.S. is the biggest market for the brand.
Last year, Alexis Rice, managing partner for the company, mentioned the possibility to Lauritzen of a We Norwegians store in Park City. She was based in Salt Lake City, and she thought a Park City store would be the perfect location if We Norwegians wanted to have a bigger presence in the country.
When Lauritzen said, “OK,” Rice almost did not believe him. The brand only had two locations to date, and both of them were in Norway. One store is in Voss, where Grane is from, and the other in Oslo, the nation’s capital.
But the team quickly got to work, searching Park City for the perfect location. They found it last winter, and partnered with Norwegian companies to create a space that Grane said represents the brand perfectly. She worked with an architecture firm in Bergen, Norway, to design the Park City store and found Norwegian brands to sell in the store: DB Equipment, ESP, Scandinavian Edition, Livid Jeans and Greater Than A, the brand from Norwegian Olympic skier Aksel Svindal.
The store, which is also the brand’s North American headquarters, opened on Dec. 6.
Grane said the store screams Norway with its design, and that is exactly what she wanted. She chose the name We Norwegians to celebrate her Norwegian heritage and show that she is proud to be a designer from Norway. Seeing the brand and its Norwegian name gain popularity in the states is beyond words for her.
“It feels amazing, I have to pinch myself,” she said.
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