MR Q: Moods of Norway

by Elise Diamantini

Making their grandmas proud: Moods of Norway makes happy clothes for happy people.

Moods of Norway

Moods of Norway celebrates its 10 year anniversary this month with a fashion show in Oslo. The quirky Norwegian brand was founded by three friends—Simen Staalnacke, Peder Børresen and Stefan Dahlkvist—who met during college in Hawaii. Their humorous take on menswear (with bright pops of color and bold patterns) is, as they say, “happy clothes for happy people.” We chat with Stefan Dahlkvist as the trio sets their sights on international expansion and their main goal: making their grandmas proud.

So what’s new?
We just moved our flagship store in LA from Robertson Boulevard to Melrose. The new space is about the same size (about 2,200 sq. ft.), but now we’re closer to more men’s brands like G-Star and Nudie. We’re also gearing up to launch our third store, at the Mall of America in Minnesota. There’s a large Scandinavian population there, so we’re excited to see how it will be received. That store will be 2,000 sq. ft. It will have both men’s and women’s, but like our other stores in NYC and LA, the focus is on men’s (about 80 percent).

What are some current best sellers?
In the U.S., we’re selling a lot of tailored pieces (suit jackets $349 to $599, pants $149 to $249) and woven shirts ($129 to $149). Tailored pieces are sold as separates, and in some styles we offer three-piece options.

Tell us about the spring 2014 collection.
The theme is the Norwegian pop factory: it’s all about ’60s pop art mixed with Norwegian heritage. We incorporated some Norwegian inventions (like the spray can and the paper clip) as T-shirt graphics. And we’ve played with those images in an Andy Warhol pop art way. The collection is filled with bright colors like yellow, pink and blue. They’ll appear throughout the line and in our bottoms/chinos, pique polos and shorts.

How have you seen the contemporary market change over the past 10 years?
The contemporary market has grown up a bit. When we launched, we had more casual wear like T-shirts and hoodies, and we started to see stronger growth in woven shirts and tailored pieces. So as the contemporary market grows up, we’re also growing up as a brand. We offer about 20 slim suit styles in various blends; some are half canvas, some are unconstructed, and some are more formal. We also see an opportunity in trying to add some interesting fashion bottoms, not just jeans and chinos, but tailored pants in different fabrics.

What retailers are doing it right?
Fred Segal always keeps things interesting as a Los Angeles anchor. We’ve noticed that Nordstrom is taking a different buying approach than they have in the past. They’re moving towards more collection buying rather than item-driven buying. This gives brands a better opportunity to show more face in the stores. [Chicago-based online retailer] Trunk Club is also doing something really cool and different. We like to see the retailers who go out of the box and try new things because that’s what we think our brand does. Barneys is another example of this. As far as online flash sale retailers, MyHabit is pretty good with presentation.

Was it difficult to get the U.S. market to buy bright colors and bold prints?
Similar to how we started in Norway, we began as more of an “add on” collection. Retailers test a smaller portion of the collection and as they see the strong sell throughs, then they start buying into the more conservative offering. We feel that the vintage, washed-out look has been done over again for so many seasons now. Moods of Norway had a good opportunity to come in and give a fresh take. We’ve always loved colors: our first season we came out with a bright pink suit and we always want to keep that spirit.

What’s next for Moods of Norway?
We launched e-commerce in November. We’re also looking at international expansion and finding strong interest from retailers in Moscow. We’re working with Podium on a shop-in-shop concept in two of their stores. However, the biggest push outside of Norway is the U.S. and Canada. We’re seeing growing interest from Canada. GotStyle in Toronto is one of our biggest accounts.

Any other exciting things happening?
Yes! We just designed the Olympic collection for the Norwegian Olympic team (for last year’s games in London and next year’s winter games in Russia). It’s exciting because all of the athletes who represent our country in the Games will be wearing Moods of Norway. It’s more conservative than our commercial line, but we’ve managed to add fun details like notes on the inside pocket that say, “Please remember to bring back lots of medals.” We hope that little reminder helps them!