IN CONVERSATION WITH NIKOLAJ STORM
Interview by Dean Sanders
Danish designer Nikolaj Storm, launches an exclusive capsule collection with Zalando. Nikolaj Storm was the winner of the Zalando Sustainability Award Spring/Summer 2022. The collection is accompanied by an Evaluation Report conducted by sustainability consultancy Anthesis providing transparency on the four phases of the product life cycle. The genderless collection consists of seventeen items and is exclusively available at Zalando
Have you always been interested in fashion design? How did you start?
I actually always have. When I graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, my parents made me a scrapbook from my educational life from kindergarten and onwards and in 5th grade we got this assignment about the future, what we dreamed of and what we wanted to become, and I just wrote with big letters “DESIGNER” So I guess it has always been in the cards. When I was young I loved to redesign my moms old clothes and fabric scraps and turn them into garments that me and my sister used for our show which we performed in front of the family. I have always had this urge to create.
Right now, you are in Copenhagen, do you have dreams of maybe moving the brand? Or is the city of Copenhagen an important part of your brand?
Coming from the more rural parts of Denmark, the small villages to the west, it was always a dream to move to Copenhagen. For me the metropolises are my home. The busy everyday life, the people, the inspiration there is always something new to discover, always something new to see and someone knew to inspire me. With that being said I have played around with the idea of moving the brand (and me of course) to a bigger city. Paris, London or maybe Stockholm. You never know where the journey will take you.
Your collection with Zalando was inspired by the circular design criteria, which is not an easy thing. What was the hardest challenge in this process?
In this process with Zalando and to develop the collection within the circular design criteria, the biggest challenge was for me to obtain all the right certificates to get approved. When you are a quite small brand looking for smaller amounts of recycled/organic materials, that needs to be certified down to tier 3 which is the yarn manufacturer it is quite a challenge. A lot of bigger companies are maybe eligible to be certified, but because of the high prices on certificates this requires the brand to buy thousands of meters per year, which is not really possible when you are a single person company. But with great assistance from the circularity team at Zalando we managed to work with new suppliers and obtain the certificates needed. I would also say that this process also limits some of the fabrics I could use, which ended up being a lot of black and since the brand loves color it wasn’t the greatest match. But I think with the prints and inspiration in the Berlin Underground Techno scene it was a perfect combination.
It is visible you get inspiration from the (queer) nightlife, what makes this such a big part of your work?
It was actually never my intention to draw my inspiration from the queer nightlife, as I didn’t want to label the brand as such as it should be for everybody. But as a queer person myself, I do think it’s just something I have in me. The queer nightlife is always a safe space, a place of wonders and smiles which is very much the vibe I want to present with the brand. In the end I think it’s because there are a lot of similarities between the brand and queer nightlife that we connect the two, but it is more about these similarities than the generalization of queer nightlife. In general the brand is also very much bound to the night scene as it is a place of wonders and dreams, it’s where you dress up, you want to look good do a bit extra, and that is what Nikolaj Storm can do for you. That little extra, that something new. The beginning of the brand was an investigation of how to make menswear formal but yet comfortable, trying to move men away from the suit as the only option for a formal attire. I want luscious silk co-ords, I want lace suits and glitter, something that people do not expect from men to show up in.
What is a typical NIKOLAJ STORM silhouette?
The typical silhouette is for sure the oversized fit. Our chaco pants with snap buttons down front in a regular/loose fit, an oversized skater tee and then a big overshirt on top and you are ready to start the day, to go out or go to work. I do a lot of the same styles in different materials so you have the signature silhouettes but can switch it up depending on the occasion.
Colors like pink and blue come back in the collection, where do these colors come from?
Colours have always been a big part of my life and my brand, even though I am color blind and probably see the world in a different colour spectrum than everybody else. The blue color which is also our logo color is always in the collections as I see blue as the most universal colour there is, a bright cobalt blue always looks good on all skin tones, hair colors, and genders to me it’s the new black. For the Synthesiser collection the colors were drawn from the nightlife and technoculture. I wanted to portray colors you would find in Neon lights, hence the bright blue matched perfectly and the pink color as well. The harmony between Blue, pink and black is just impeccable right now.
Do you think more brands should use a wider seam allowance to promote longevity?
When we talk about longevity I don’t think wider seam allowance would be the best place to start, I think it is more about starting to educate or share the information to the customers on how they can use their styles longer which includes new focus on care and repair. Back in the days if you have a great wool coat and the lining was worn out, you would go to your tailor to get it changed and the coat would be almost as great as new (if the material is selected for longevity). Nowadays as soon as there is a hole or something breaks we just throw it out and that is the main issue. Wider seam allowance taps into this problem area as well, because if you do wider seam allowance you also give your customer the possibility to keep the product longer if their body grows a bit. For me it is for sure to inform customers on the value of the products and why we should repair more and demand that from brands as well.
What is something you would like to tap into more in the future, and what can we expect to see from you? (Fashion or not fashion related)
Nikolaj Storm is not just a fashion label. I have always dreamt about expanding into other universes as well, creating experiences and workshops both on sustainability, wardrobe identification and creating a new generation of fashion shows for customers to have the full experience of the Nikolaj Storm Universe. There is so much to come but first my small label needs to grow, so I can keep doing magic for all of you!