When I first met Lars Terje Gudem Hansen it was during his second year at the arts academy and he was in the middle of developing a showpiece collection. Supervised by Anne Karine Thorbjørnsen, the development process focused on her methods of working and the students learning deconstruction and construction. The students analysed and worked with art, industrial design and drew on inspiration from their trip to Tokyo to develop their pieces. Unbeknownst to me, Lars was really down on his own stuff, hating his previous collection and the showpiece ended up being something new and exciting for him. It was a time when he started to have fun as a designer and the tailored detailing he explored during this collection is something that has stuck with him as he finds his niche in the market.
Entering into the higher education system Lars had ambitions to work for something big, though was unsure where to place himself. This uncertainty continued throughout his schooling and up until the final weeks before presenting his graduate collection. Admittedly, there was little focus on the production and industry side of fashion and a larger emphasis on ‘Who you are as a designer’ which made it tough for him to see the outside world. During a long and tedious run of full fashion immersion and design, Lars started to trust himself, stop listening to the teachers and develop a collection and profile he was proud of. The dream of being a big fashion designer still exists, however, the vision of who he wants to be as a designer has become more refined.
‘It is always weird talking about KHiO now because the experience has started to fade. But it is also nice to have that distance in a way’
It was also during his final year that NRK begun filming for the documentary series THIS IS IT. The show follows Lars and his classmates as they build up to their graduation show and gives viewers an insight into the life of a fashion design student at KHiO. Lars laughs as he tells us the story about the audition interviews - ‘I didn’t know what the show was, what we were talking about and it sounds like I hate everything. But, they put that on TV in the first episode and I got to do some advertising for Christina Ledang which was nice’. Although agreeing to be in the series and receiving a new iPhone to film snippets of his life, Lars again laughs as he says ‘It was a hassle to say the least’. The crew followed the students through their bachelor collection, joined them on a trip to London and followed them home, an experience he describes as ‘Nice, but not something I am interested in doing again’.
Following on from his education Lars became involved with the design collective Designers In Oslo (DIO) which came about at just the right time. ‘If you want to be a designer you have to prepare to do something after school’ he says. ‘When I was approached and asked if I wanted to be part of a designers collective, I thought it was interesting and it felt good getting that question. I was thinking of making a winter collection already and it was fresh in my mind. It felt natural to get on board with them’.
In summer 2018 DIO showcased five designers at Den Gamle Skobutikken in central Oslo. This was the second show for Lars as part of DIO and he was happy that a lot of people, especially those from the industry, showed up. The collective has received a lot of positive feedback and it is something that is important for the development of the Norwegian fashion scene. Grouping together gives the opportunity for young designers with not a lot of budget a chance to participate in an off schedule showing during Oslo Runway and get some visibility. ‘It was funny as I was the only one from KHiO in that group and the others are from ESMOD. Their background is production and the image of KHiO is artists, but, the thing is, when you see their collections they are full of colour, with so much going on. My stuff is so simple, classic tailored pieces. That is kind of funny given our opposite backgrounds. It is a good way of showing how KHiO can produce that kind of work as well’.
‘It wasn't until I started my work at F5 that I experienced what commercialising and being in commerce actually is. How you can make your own design, alter it, have it produced and then it is fashion and a brand’
The fashion scene in Oslo continues to strengthen, however, there is still a resounding lack of menswear brands and menswear designers being shown during Oslo Runway. In a class of seven he was the only one doing menswear and thinks the situation in other schools is similar where people end up pursuing womenswear because it is easier in some way. Lars tells us he also started his design career making womenswear, but realised he could not relate to any of it. ‘You end up making dresses and these beautiful things, but there is something about the process we learn which, I think, makes it difficult to learn menswear. Even the big designers do womenswear for a long time before they move into menswear and it is a point of conversation as to why. Jacquemus, for example, has just made the move to menswear and even then he showed jeans and shirts. Really fucking simple, but it works’.
One reason he cites that could be contributing to the lack of menswear designers is the lack of menswear designers coming to talk and teach in the education system. Menswear is different in the way that it has to be easy, yet well done and functional. It is a proven model - ‘Guys still want a shirt they can wear for every occasion’ and ‘Jeans with functional pockets’. Lars has previously explored menswear, taking away those ‘necessities’ as a critique on male clothing because he thought it was a problem that it was like that. He had a thought that he would be making pieces no one would ever buy or wear… At this point he pauses and laughs... ‘That ended up being the most stupid thought ever… Why would you think like that?’ In the end, as he discovered, that mentality and mindset towards design is not really fun. ‘The path of being “An artist” and making clothes that are half finished is exhausting. It doesn’t work like that, at least not for me. I have come to terms with the fact that I don't sew that much myself anymore, I would rather do the designing and have someone else manufacture. I want to make complete clothing’.
In the Norwegian market, where he has ample room to play, Lars is still deciding where to place himself as a designer. His ideas on brand development is based on his experience and what he sees missing in the market from his platform at F5 Concept Store where he works part-time. For him it is nice to have the opportunity to be working in a place that is helping to push and support young Norwegian designers and a place where he can see his potential in the market realised. This environment gives a bit more purpose to his work and has led him to the realisation that; ‘I don't buy clothes if they don't have a purpose, so why should I make clothes that don't have a purpose’.
Lars will be bringing out his collection piece by piece at F5 Concept Store this fall, starting with shirts and working towards a capsule collection including pants and sweaters. Lars has also spent time working with Elisabeth Stray-Pedersen in her Oslo based factory where she designs and produces wool garments. It is another dream of his to make outerwear in collaboration with her, produced here in Norway. Something we think is very good idea.
Interview photography by Ronja Penzo
Lookbook photography by Stian Tjernsmo