A trip to the suburbs of Oslo is always a welcoming experience and we were lucky enough to be invited out to the home of designer Siri Findal from Since Oslo. Siri had recently returned from participating in ScandiCrush during Paris Fashion Week and spent the morning with us introducing her brand and giving insights into creativity and the development of Norwegian design. For two city kids getting inside an actual house is a treat in itself and the location of Siri's property overlooking an ocean inlet made it easy to see why she enjoys having a home office so much.
Where, when and how did Since Oslo´s journey start?
I have always had a love for shoes and when I was shopping here in Norway I thought the selection of footwear for women was quite bad. Also, the amount of Norwegian brands making shoes is very limited and it got me thinking that maybe I can do something here. I think there are many good Norwegian fashion brands who do well, so why not try and create something else that I can do with these brands. Rather than as a competitor, I am someone they can work with and can be part of shows like Oslo Runway in a collaborative way while still doing my own thing.
I had never made shoes before, but have been studying and working in fashion design for a long time before the interest in becoming a shoe designer sparked. I decided to take education from a college in Sweden which helped me to pick up the extra skills I needed when making shoes and from that point I started the communication process to my agent in Portugal.
What motivated you to leave behind the steady career to build your own company?
Honestly, having worked with clothing for so long I was sick of it. Working as a designer for the high street you don't necessarily get to be as creative as you like and the turnover of products is so frequent. I have also always loved shoes so I thought why not. I think it is interesting and exciting, there are not many Norwegian shoe makers so it is nice to do my own thing.
What is important for you in the creative process?
I typically have lots of photos that I send to my agent in Portugal and then he does the research for me. I try to take all the trends around and see what I like, it can be materials or colour or the heel shape and I then try to stick to a theme because this is what the press want to hear, “What I am inspired by" which makes a good story. In reality it is more what I'm feeling at the time and I will figure out the theme in the end. This is the opposite from what is taught in the design schools where you need to start with a theme and then work from there. I like it the other way. I think about the girls and what will they wear and this makes it commercial. The theme may not be so commercial and can end up as pieces that are more like art or only for runway but that is okay.
The campaigns and marketing are very important to the brand and I decide everything myself, with some very good help of other individuals to translate my work into their own styling. It is really exciting to work with good people and see how they translate my work as well. The last fall collection started with a little bit of inspiration from the barcode buildings here in Oslo which could be seen as heels and I used leathers to get the look of these buildings. Suddenly, I was then influenced by the 70's and what we ended up with was 70's style photos in our campaign. I don't think its important what the theme is, what is important is that you like the products and the whole package, not where the inspiration came from. I think schools use too much time on the inspiration, you should follow your feelings.
And in the production process?
I think many factories can make the same type of shoes, my agent tries to find what suits me and what factory can manage my small quantities. The big quantities will come later. When you produce high volume, you have a lower price from the manufacturer and everything is better when dealing with the factories as they prioritise you. It is tough to be small, the big customers get priority and it messes with my delivery dates so you need to keep on top of them. I have learnt lots and lots from setting up Since Oslo, especially from my mistakes!
I think my agent is really good at translating my ideas into shoes and it is really important to build a good relationship from the beginning. I want to make shoes for all women, some for going out, parties, day shoes, tall girls who want flats because they don't want to be taller than the boys, short girls who want a big heel. Some want sexy, some want edgy, some want bold, round, pointy. I try to make something for everyone but at the same time I have to want to wear all these shoes. It is always exciting to get the samples and see what exactly it is that i made!
Where do you feel the challenges lie for Norwegian based designers?
We receive lots of contacts from other countries enquiring about the brand which is good but I still think the focus here in Norway is still quite local and we need to be more visible outside of Norway. Norway is a small country, however many are looking to Scandinavia these days and we need to understand that this is happening and be able to show ourselves to others.
Norway is so much smaller than Denmark, for example, and Denmark's location is more continental Europe so it is a natural centre. In 2-3 years it is possible for Norway to become an exotic place for fashion and I think it will have a peak soon, then another place will become more intriguing and take over. I do think there will be a time where Norway has something different to offer and if the rest of the world thinks that then they will come here. We will never be the new Paris, but the world doesn't need a new Paris.
"I have been comfortable working as a designer here in Oslo, with the technology we have we can access all parts of the world. We can work from everywhere now. 30 years ago it was bad to be in Norway as a designer but, for me now, its alright"
What are the plans for Since Oslo?
Outside of Norway we currently sell to Japan, Italy, France, Belgium and Sweden. I think I have to go slowly on my road and take it step by step. I need to be settled here in Norway with my brand before opening up the doors in other countires. I think Europe, America and Asia can be very interesting for us. But at the moment it is day after day, week after week. I don't have a bad time taking it slow and I like to think about every little thing I do and that takes time. If I try to move too fast I may end up losing control of the brand and what would I do if we have to suddenly produce all these things in limited time? Then I'm back to where I was as a clothes designer. I need to keep the brand where I want it to be with the image and everything so we stay on the right path. Eventually I would love to have my own boutique here in Oslo and be able to make the interior and everything to show the collection as I envision it.
For now I will continue to make shoes for women. Clothing these days is not that different from women to men, but the shoes are. What women are thinking and wearing is completely different to men. I am much more comfortable and have much more fun making women's shoes. Maybe later on I will make a mens style but…I have no plans for that. Women need shoes for many occasions so its enough to keep me busy!
All photography by Ronja Penzo