Aure is a Copenhagen based design studio made up of four Norwegians - two siblings and two couples. The team share a passion for nurturing the timeless aesthetic employing their various creative skill sets in design, interior, communication, photography and clothing to create what they believe to be long lasting design. Filip and Johanne, along with their respective partners Sjur and Fredrik let us in to the Aure Studio to speak about their ideology as a brand and how collaboration has helped them to collectively achieve their dreams.
When and how did you get started in the creative field?
Filip - I’ve always had a big interest for design in general and when I was younger I wanted to study everything from architecture to clothing design and cabinetmaking to name a few. I could never point out that one specific thing that I really wanted to devote my life to. My old drawing books from when I was little is a good example of that. A chaotic and comic mix of sketches where houses, lamps, chairs and garments are all cluttered together. When I moved to Oslo 5 years ago I started to work at an interior shop where my sister was already working (we follow each other everywhere). I was allowed to be creative in a lot of different ways and it was there I learned to manage a lot of different tasks that made me more comfortable in not having that one very specific devotion.
Fredrik - Since I was very young I remember being interested in and inspired by almost everything “creative”, whether it was acting, instruments or art. I had a long period where music was my biggest passion in life and I dreamt of being a rock star. In later years my interests have moved more and more on to design, interior, photography and clothing. I also come from a family where fashion and design played a very big part (so I guess I had no chance).
Johanne - I think at a pretty early age I understood that I would end up in the creative field. Filip and me talked about starting up a company of our own when we were probably around 5 and 8. We used to dream about starting a clothing studio in this old beautiful flour factory/mill close to our childhood home. I’m still waiting for it to be put up for sale. But when I finished high school, I started working at a design shop in Oslo, with the most inspiring and encouraging colleagues, and it was here my passion and talent grew.
Sjur - I think my creativity is inherited from my mother’s mother’s side of the family. At my grandma’s house there was always room for being artistic. She had great love for beautiful things, for nostalgia and her own personal style was unique. I used to draw a lot as a kid. I probably stayed inside way too much with a pencil instead of being outside climbing trees. I developed a good eye, but quite bad coordination.
After moving away from home I studied visual communication and worked with graphic design for some years, mainly in advertising, before establishing my first brand back in 2007. Although the venture only lasted for a couple of seasons it was a great learning experience (sometimes overwhelming) that led me to apply to Esmod. I think I always wanted to work with fashion and learn garment making, yet for some reason I had hesitated to take the leap. I’m really glad I did.
How did you meet the other three members of Aure?
F - My sister Johanne and me are close in age and have always had similar interests and aesthetics. The two of us dreamt of having our own brand together since we were kids. Five years ago we moved to Oslo with Johannes boyfriend Fredrik who was studying business and innovation. Soon after me and Sjur started dating, he was completing his last year in fashion school at that time. The four of us found that we had similar ideas and quickly started playing with the idea of starting something together. Now some years later, with slow and careful planning and with more experience we finally made something out of it.
Fr- I fell in love with Jo at a music school in Oslo around 6 years ago. The next year we moved into our first apartment at St.hanshaugen, also together with Filip. At this time Jo was working full time with interior, while Filip and me were studying communications. Our small collective soon grew by one member, when Filip met Sjur. Already back then we were talking about starting a company, and ideas for future projects.
J - Well, Filip is my brother. And I met Fredrik, my love, at school in Oslo 6 years ago. We moved in together the next year, and have been working together for the last years. When Sjur and Filip got together, Sjur was just finishing his degree in Fashion Design. The perfect member to our future company, we couldn't be happier. Then a couple of years later we decided it was time for the four of us to combine our different skills in one company. It's been a slow and thoughtful process, but it's such a fun journey to be on with my three very best friends.
S - I met Filip for a beer in 2012 and we have been together since. As he was living with Johanne and Fredrik at the time, I naturally got to know them quite quickly. But it took some time before we started dreaming of establishing a creative business together, and we had to move to Copenhagen to take the final step.
Do you all collaborate on everything and what is your individual expertise?
F - We try to collaborate as much as possible. The main idea of our studio is to use each others individual skills to develop new products that we all think will fit with our common aesthetics. So even though Sjur is the clothing designer, we all have great interest and passion for clothing, this way we all collaborate on designing new styles. Then Sjur uses his expertise within the field to bring our collective ideas to life. At the same time we all know each other really well now and trust each other to make decisions without having to collaborate on every small detail. I would say my individual expertise is within graphic design, since I studied it back in Oslo. This makes it natural for me to take on those kinds of tasks, but luckily my tasks within our studio is not limited to only this.
Fr - We try to work together on most areas of the company as much as possible. This is not always easy, since we all work on other projects and jobs as well. Often we just have to trust each others decisions, and luckily it usually turns out how we want it to.
We are very diverse in our strengths. Sjur has a long background in fashion design, while Filip is a graphic designer and also does styling and interior projects. Jo and me are both working within furniture and design and also have a big interest in photography and communication. We are all a part of deciding the overall expression of our designs and the direction of Aure, as well as coming up with new collaborations and projects.
J - We collaborate on most things, but we also trust each other enough to make our own choices within the company. The four of us are pretty like-minded people, and we share the same values when it comes to design and life philosophy. At the same time we have diverse skills, and we all have fertile minds, which I believe is essential to be able to grow as a company. I can't say that I have one individual expertise, as we do most things together. But I have a big passion for photography, objects, styling and communication.
S - I am mainly responsible for the garments. Idea and sketching, pattern construction and prototyping, product development both with external manufacturers and in our own studio, material sourcing and so on. Most creative decisions are done in collaboration, but we try to focus our time and energy on what we are good at. The creative process is normally quite fluid and effortless.
The timelessness of the Aure clothing collection and that concept is something that is starting to pop up more often now. Why do you feel we are seeing a shift away from trend based creation ?
F - I think it is a natural response to the high speed things are moving in, more and more people wants to live a bit slower, being more aware of what they buy and where they buy it when it comes to food, interior and fashion. If you buy something more timeless and of high quality there is a much bigger chance you wont get tired of it and buy something new already next week.
Fr - For me personally it’s about research and good stories. When I’m shopping for something new I like to spend more time on finding the special pieces that can last and give me a good story, instead of buying something new and seasonal every month or week. This way of thinking is beneficial in our work because we give ourselves the time we need in order to bring meaningful designs to the table, without having to worry about the constant push of trends, sales and seasons. I believe this will be the direction of more and more companies in the future.
J - I think that people are slowly starting to lose interest in what fast fashion has become and people seem to be much more interested in well-made, unique pieces. This is so much better for us, and the earth.
S - I think there are several reasons. The increased focus on sustainability in the fashion industry (and everywhere else) is definitely impacting people working in the field as well as the consumers. New brands are developed and existing concepts are adjusted to suit a more aware customer. It’s important for business, and – let’s face it – the only right thing to do for the planet at this point.
Also, as prices are pushed to a minimum and margins are disappearing you are forced to think differently in order to have a worth-while business. Producing garments of higher quality in smaller quantities makes a lot more sense to me both ethically and business-wise. We could never compete with the trend-driven high street brands and have no interest in trying.
Why is this form of design important for you and what do you enjoy about small scale production?
F - I want to be able to talk proudly about our products and I couldn’t have done that in the same way if we had a big scale production. The small scale production makes it possible for us to do things a bit slower and get connected to the whole process. This way we can make carefully thought out decisions that we can look back at and not regret.
Fr - Our first garment production, and also our prints have all been made locally in Denmark in a very small scale. In the beginning this provided us with a good insight into every step of the production. We were able to go back and forth easily when there were changes to be made, and we had good dialogue with all parties involved. We are very detail oriented (some may be say picky) group, so it’s important for us to be in control of the whole process.
J - It’s important to me that designs are well thought through, and within our own collection I think it is visible in both design and fabric choices. We spend a lot of time on these decisions, and often say “It should be more like this or that to be more timeless”, which I think is so important. Not only is it good for your self but also for the environment. Buy only things you really, really love and know you will wear for a long, long time.
S - I used to work as a designer for the Varner Group – a really great experience that taught me a lot. But after working very commercially for some years I had a yearning to create garments on a smaller scale – more hands-on. Producing small quantities and even made-to-order gives us the opportunity to talk directly with the customer. This is really valuable in developing the collections and improving the products.
How did the printed illustrations inspire the garment collection?
F - Our print collection was a really nice way of starting the brand. It made sense to start with something close to us. The prints are based on me and Johanne's grandmothers' drawings from when she lived and studied in Oslo during the second world war. They have a timeless aesthetic and feeling to them that we also strive to bring in to our garments.
Fr - I’m not sure, one or the other inspired each other, but both collections are based upon a lot of the same ideas, aesthetics and values that the four of us believe in. We are now working on some new projects within new fields, that will hopefully carry on this feel that we aspire to create.
J - The artworks are inspired by our talented grandmother’s drawings that she created in Oslo in 1941. 76 years later they are still so modern and timeless. We wanted to create garments which makes you feel the same way. Hopefully when we’re old we can look back and feel the same about our designs.
S - The prints were our first project together and they came about quite effertlessly and naturally. So although Aure’s general aestethics were already present, the artworks formed a basis to continue developing our visual expressions. The focus on natural, interesting textures and clean lines, all with a nostalgic air to it, is something we want to carry with us in the Aure DNA.
Where do you feel Norway fits in the realm of “Scandinavian design” and why the move to Copenhagen?
F - There is a lot of exciting things happening in Norway now when it comes to art, interior, architecture and clothing design, I follow it with great interest and pride. Me and Sjur moved to Copenhagen wanting to explore something new, and Oslo is only a short flight away. Of course my sister and Fredrik had already moved down here and we missed them like crazy!
Fr - I feel that Norway has a good spot in the realm of Scandinavian design. There are so many young talented designers and craftspeople, with great projects going on. Jo and me moved to Copenhagen a little over two years ago, and in only those two years there has been so many things happening within the Norwegian design scene. We try to stay in touch with a few Norwegian designers based in Oslo and will hopefully get to work with some of them very soon.
We moved to Copenhagen because we felt we needed a change of scenery and Copenhagen seemed like a natural next step for us. Very early on we met some inspiring people that helped us a lot in “creating” our new life in Denmark. The move has opened a lot of doors for us when it comes to exploring new fields and going further with our design interests.
J - When it comes to contemporary Scandinavian design, it tends to go to Denmark. While Norway’s design identity has been a bit shy – But it’s really, really exciting to witness the attention Norwegian design is getting in recent years. There are so many talents showing. At least once a month I hear a Dane saying “there is a lot happening in Norway lately” – and I couldn’t agree more. The reason we moved to Copenhagen was simply the lust of a new place. Copenhagen is so close to home, but still being a “new country” felt safe and good.
S - Norway’s role in Scandinavian design has been substantial for a long time. Especially within product design and architecture. We should maybe be better at aknowledging this, more proud of ourselves and each other. The fashion scene has been suffering from some kind of common inferiority complex for way too long. But this is definitely a closed chapter. Oslo seems to be very confident and inspired at the moment.
The move to Copenhagen was about kickstarting a new chapter in life, and I felt I had to change scenery to do so. Some of us get a bit too comfortable living in Norway. To me, challenging comfort and habits is a good way to get fresh inspiration and perhaps some new perspectives. Plus it’s not too far away from home.
There is a growing scene of Norwegians doing cool things creatively in Copenhagen, is this a close community at all?
F - The creative community is very mixed here when it comes to both nationality and what kind if creative field you are in. A lot of the conversations goes in english because there is almost always someone from abroad in the group. You feel very stupid when you suddenly are standing in a group with only Norwegians and figure out that you have all been talking english to each other for five minutes.
Fr - The Danes call us the Norwegian mafia… Haha. The Norwegians we hang out with in Denmark are mostly our friends from back home, not to say they are not creatives. When it comes to work and projects in Copenhagen we’ve actually been working mostly with Danes and people from other parts of the world. I think there are more than enough Norwegians already within Aure.
J - We hang out with a lot of cool, creative and inspiring Norwegians here. But it's not like Norwegians in Copenhagen only hang out with each other. Copenhagen is full of creative people within the design field, and it's a pretty small city, which makes it very easy to find like-minded people to be friends with.
S - I am not part of a Norwegian scene and not even sure if there is such a thing. Norwegian creatives have been coming to Copenhagen for a long time. One of the best things about the city is that it is so international. To me this is definitely Copenhagen’s strength.
Compared to Copenhagen,for example, where do you think a city like Oslo can do better to continue to push local creatives?
F - I think one of the most important things is to use and buy from the local independent stores. I also find it important for the independent creatives to support each other and not have a competitive mindset. We should share experience, network and information with each other in order to grow. I also find it meaningful to use local craftspeople to make things I need instead of necessarily buying something new. When we first moved down here I had a local blacksmith make us a steel shelf where we could place our bathroom mirror. It is really nice to put your own ideas to life and have someone who really knows their craft to make it.
Fr - I feel there are already some great things happening in Oslo to further creativity, and also some great people pushing new Norwegian design out in the world. A great example is the exhibition Norwegian Structures fronted by our friends Kråkvik & D’Orazio. I hope and think that we will do some projects in Oslo in the near future.
If I have to say one thing, I experience that Copenhagen might have more of a relaxed vibe in general, where trial and error is not a very big deal. This gives room for more people showing more of what they do, without “fearing” criticism.
J - A local jeweler in Copenhagen once told me to "buy you're bread at the bakery, buy your vegetables at the local corner store, buy your flowers at the local flower shop..." and she really gave me an eye-opener. Spread your money locally, to independent stores and designers, instead of getting all your stuff from one chain store. Support your local, hardworking creatives.
S - Continuing to create a strong sense of community and supporting shared platforms (like F5, Røverstaden, Sentralen, Oslo Design Fair etc.) I think is the way to keep moving forward. This is the responsibility of the creatives themselves, but just as much up to politicians, property owners and investors seeing the value in design as an industry.
The Danes are good at celebrating their own, at showcasing local design and making it accessable for their people. Visit a restaurant in Copenhagen and it will most likely feature some Danish-designed chairs, lamps, cutlery or other items.
All photography by Joakim Heltne