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New on the block

A select group of Danish design and fashion products was exhibited at the high-end Takashimaya Department Store in September, 2007.

L-R: Gitte Pedersen, Gar-de-robe; Rita Isaksen, Isaksen Design; Nickie Isaksen, Isaksen Design; Camilla Liedner, Norlie; Carsten Schlamovitz, CEO Casch Copenhagen; Kirsten Norgaard, Norlie; Gro Abrahamsson, Casch Copenhagen. Photography: Henrik Olund
Coinciding with Danish industry event ‘Creative Nation’, a group of the featured designers met up with us at the store on New York’s Fifth Avenue for a portrait and a quick talk after a champagne reception with the Danish Royal Crown Prince couple, who was in town for a week of activities.

Gitte Pedersen

How did you get started?
I started out quite late -I was 45 years old but I felt there was a gap in the market for clothes that I wanted to wear. So I choose as my target group the modern adult woman, both because I identify with her and because I saw there was a business opportunity.

Who are you designing for?
My clients want comfortable versatile clothes made out of the best material. Clothes women can use when going to the theater, but also when picking up children from school.
I say everything is in the details, the sublime touch that just elevates the look of the outfit. I experience that women notice my clothes when I walk down the street... not an in-your- face look but discreet and classy.

What is your career highlight?
Getting picked out to come here to Takashimaya is definitely a turning point for me. I have only had my own collection since 2003, so to be here today at one of the most prestigious department stores in the US is really quite a dream.
I actually don’t think I understand how big this is since I don’t know the US market that well, but every time I tell someone they are really amazed. This is the place I want to be in the US.

What would you like people to know about you?
I started out quite late, especially in this industry, but it just shows how it is really never too late to go for your dream.
I don’t want to be a big world famous designer. I want to continue doing what I love, to make clothes I find beautiful, to have close contact with my customers and to really have a very nice interesting life where I feel that I use all the skills that I have.

Kirsten Norgaard and Camilla Liedner

What was it that triggered the start of your brand?
We both had children and couldn’t really find clothes that we wanted to dress them in. Although Denmark is very big when it comes to children’s clothing (Danish children’s fashion week - CIFF Kids - is now Europe’s largest fair for children’s clothes), we thought that all the clothes where too bright - both in color and pattern. What we use are more neutral, natural colors like brown, purple and grey and most importantly, extremely good materials.

Describe the brand:
It is high-end children’s clothing, with the focus on natural materials such as wool. In a way it is simple but very high quality. It can be practical but also dressed up. Since it is high-end, many clients save it for special occasions, but the most important thing is that we focus on soft materials that the children actually want to wear. Particularly our wool knits are very popular, and they are great for the Scandinavian winter.

They say success is a journey not a destination, but has there been a moment that you really felt that you had made it?
Well we were of course delighted when the Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark chose to dress her children in our clothes. That was fantastic PR for us and really made us feel that we have hit our target customer.
Also to be chosen to be here at Takashimaya is of course a tremendous stamp of approval. We hope to grow into other high-end department stores here in the US as well as in Europe and Asia, so having Takashimaya as a client is really a great start for us.

Isaksen Design
Designers: Nickie and Rita Isaksen

How did you start out?
My mother Rita and I grew up in the world of crafts. My mother, who was born in Greenland, used to be a seamstress and an upholsterer, but was always interested in design. So for me it was just natural to make things from a young age. We began working together as a team in 2000.
What’s special about your design?
Our materials. We work with high-quality boiled wool, raw silk, and lambskin. And our cut is unique: It’s graphic, yet feminine.
What’s your career highlight?
Being here at Takashimaya is definitely a career highlight. That we have succeeded together as a family - we’re very proud of being a tight family and we feel we’ve put Greenland on the map.
Tell us something surprising about yourselves.
Well, we’re a mother-daughter team and we come from Greenland. There’s a traditional Greenlandic meaning behind the main three colors we use – red is for the blood of life, black is for the world of spirits, and white is for the ancestral bones. When we’re not designing, we help our husbands, who have a building company together, by coming up with solutions for their interior design!
What’s your goal with Isaksen Design?
To protect what’s unique about us. To keep it on a level that people can feel they get something unique. That’s why we don’t go out aggressively with sales; for example, we hand pick what we want to do and are careful of our identity.
Isaksen Design is available in the U.S at Takashimaya.

Casch Copenhagen
Designer: Gro Abrahamson
Managing Director: Carsten Schlamovitz

How did you become involved with fashion?
CS: Well, Gro was a graphic designer but always had a passion for fabrics. I’m not as fashion driven as her, but I am hooked on what she creates – it’s absolutely inspiring to me and I am a big fan. When Gro came to work for my company seven years ago, the company took on a new direction thanks to her design.
Do you have a favorite style?
GA: I like good materials such as cotton, silk, and wool. I also like to use more experimental materials. Right now I like boiled wool, for instance, because it’s so easy to work with and so much fun!
What do you like to make?
GA: I like to make clothes that compliment the body. A piece of clothing can be out of proportion and completely different but will work if it compliments the body.
What has been the high point in your career?
CA: When Gro and I first did a show in New York six years ago. We only had six square feet to work with, and it was very hectic and hysterical but also very satisfying and a tremendous success. We got fifty orders in just a couple of days!
What’s your favorite pastime?
GA: Oh, I design all the time, it’s my favorite thing to do – my work and my hobby! I get ideas constantly and always walk around with a sketchbook.
What’s you goal with Casch?
Our main goal is to keep producing high quality clothes without compromises. We like to work organically and it doesn’t matter if it takes longer time to do so.
Casch Copenhagen is available in the U.S at Takashimaya, Really Great Things, Fred Segal and Anthropologie.

Takashimaya New York
Executive Director: Liz Conover

Why Danish fashion?
Well, just like lemmings we all go to the same shows in London and Paris…but it’s always so unorganized in Paris; too much time and money is spent, so we were looking for something else. It never occurred to me that the Danish fashion could be as interesting as the Danish furniture, which is known all over the world. But somebody said: Go to Denmark! So first we researched the stores to see if the stuff was really good and it was! And then we went to Denmark in February of this year, and picked up several lines, and then we went back in August and picked up some more. Now we have around fifteen Danish lines ranging in price from a sweater for $250 to a coat for $2,000.
What do your customers think of Danish design?
They like it! It’s very downtown, very art gallery – very New York, I guess. I think there’s a general intelligence about Danish design: Danes care about the environment and appreciate good fabrics. I also think Danish fashion is unique because each designer is his or her own, they’re all nice, work well together and are easy for us to work with too. There’s a nice sensibility about Danish fashion – just as there is about Danish furniture. The sales here at Takashimaya have been amazing and we’ve even had to hold back a bit.

The designs of Noir, Ivan Grundahl, Bitte Kai Rand, Casch, Norlie, Isaksen Design and Gar-de-robe can be purchased at Takashimaya as a result of a visit to the Danish Fashion Week in Copenhagen organized by the Danish Royal Consulate of New York. The consulate’s export advisor on fashion, Arnold White, had this to add about the future of Danish design in the USA:
You are the bridge between the Danish designers and the US fashion market. What challenges are you facing?
Well the US fashion market, because it is so big, can be very hard for new, unknown designers to be noticed by the important people in this industry.
You can’t just come here and say, “Here I am, come and buy my clothes.” It is all about connections and knowing the right people.
Then when you do get through to most important buyers and editors, you can’t waste their time. You have to catch their eyes straight away with very professional and stylish look books and sampling.
So what I do is work very closely with the designers to develop their strategy and public face, in order to ensure that they are successful in the US.

What are the reactions from the US market so far?
It is going very well. Some of the brands here today are top sellers at Takashimaya, which is really one of the most prestigious accounts to have in the US market.
And I think this is only the start. When I was in Denmark for the CPH fashion week, I discovered a whole range of designers that I think are ready for the US.
We just need to be sure that we are working with them to create the face and identity that will work here.

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