Sunday, September 23, 2012

Viking Talks Fashion with Siv Elise Seland

The September issue of Viking features Norwegian fashion designer Siv Elise Seland. After sharpening her design skills in Milan, she launched iiS of Norway, a company that adds a touch of glamour to traditional Norwegian knitwear—some made from eco-friendly fabrics. (To learn more about sustainable fashion in Scandinavia, check out our cover story in the February issue of Viking.) Here’s an extended interview with Seland by Megan Willett.

Viking: When did you know you wanted to have a career in fashion and design?
Siv Elise Seland: Around 20 years old, I had a “stage” with a local designer. I was her secretary when she had just started her company. I was her right hand—doing accounting, some modeling, and followed her very closely. That was very interesting to me, and I think that’s when I knew I wanted a career in clothing design.

V: Why did you go back to Norway instead of taking a position with Versace?
SES: Going back to Norway happened some months after the offer. I was hoping to go to Tokyo or Paris, but I wanted to have a family. I had to make a choice because if I had children and was working at a national fashion company, I would not earn that much money. I would work for several years just to have a position as a fashion designer, and that’s if you’re sacrificing a lot. I really wanted a family and the chance to create my own dream. And my mother had started a fashion company (Davina) some years earlier, so there was so much already lying there to work with. I decided I wanted that life more, and I wanted to see what I could develop on my own and together with my mother in Norway.

V: How did you become interested in sustainable fashions?
SES: Right now just a small part of my collection is eco-friendly and produced by Recycled Rule, which is a producer in France. I think this idea grew from when I was studying in Denmark. There was a lot of information at that time about sustainable fashion and we had a lot of people talking about how conventional cotton is grown and how polluting and damaging it can be to farmers, the environment, and also for people. When you’re wearing the materials, there’s still a lot of pesticides and bad stuff in the fibers. I think that was an eye opener for me, and I believe there could be a lot more information about this available for people to read. I think a lot of consumers would react if they really knew how bad it is, because growing cotton especially is very damaging to the environment. It’s a future goal for our company to have 95 percent of the whole collection produced with eco-friendly fabrics. We are very eager to make this goal a reality because we view it as our responsibility as a growing company.

V: Where did the idea for your clothing line, iiS, come from?
SES: We wanted to create a fashion line that was mainly about knitwear because we had a lot of experience in traditional ethnic knitwear. We wanted to make the regional, traditional knitwear fashionable again, and make it cool and available not only for Norwegian mountain youth, but also to wear to work or to parties. We added sequins and designed it to be more glamorous, or more so than the traditional wool fibers. We wanted to make something beautiful and something that had a strong identity to our Norwegian culture.

V: How has Norway influenced you and inspired your aesthetic as a fashion designer?
SES: Quite a lot. It’s the basis of each collection and is a great inspiration for me. I chose to come back to Norway because I love my country a lot. I love nature. I love the cleanliness and the space that we have here. I’m kind of an urban girl, and I love staying in Milan and going to big cities, but I think I need both city life and nature to feel a little bit more balanced.

V: What’s your personal style?
SES: I think it’s very eclectic. I love to mix different styles and I’m not so concerned about what’s in or out of fashion. I dress how I feel and how I want to dress. I like mixing second hand stuff, my own stuff, designers’ wear and chain store wear.

V: Where can we purchase your designs?
SES: We have a web shop where you can purchase them ( We ship worldwide.

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