Why a Norwegian fashion brand calls itself ‘Anti Sweden’

Article published on Oct. 18, 2010
Article published on Oct. 18, 2010
The rebellion is turning Swedish flags upside down and burning Swedish jeans, in a warped recognition of their elevated status in the fashion industry. Creative director Kjetil Wold, 37, co-founded the black jean collection in April 2009 with Kenneth Pedersen, 36 – making sure everyone on the Scandinavian continent knew they were there from the get-go. Interview

cafebabel.com: How did Anti Sweden come about?

Kjetil Wold: We founded Anti Sweden as part of developing a business model driven by our design company Anti. Anti have experience from developing edgy brands, lifestyle, technology and web-development, using this first-hand knowledge to introduce a new fashion label seemed like a clever way to control the brand development ourselves.

cafebabel.com: 'Anti' is an acronym for 'a new type of interference'. You said Sweden's collection of jeans 'need challenging'. Why go there?

Kjetil Wold: Scandinavian design is a well-known expression in the rest of the world. When it comes to apparel and fashion, especially jean brands, the Swedes have recently dominated the market. As two countries historically known for our friendly neighbouring rivalry it was only natural to challenge their position. At a creative session we questioned what could be a genuine Norwegian brand, how would we be able to define a concept that we as Norwegians could take ownership to and label it as a Scandinavian brand.

cafebabel.com: Is it seen as a political statement? Should there be more room for that in fashion?

Kjetil Wold: It’s political in the sense of how nationality seems to label the brand experience and pre-defining it. Using the word ‘Sweden’ generates curiosity on different levels than Levis, for example.

cafebabel.com: Did it offend the Swedes, or does it fit in with Scandinavian mentality?

Kjetil Wold: It is a gold idea to promote a Norwegian brand by naming it with Sweden; it’s totally illogical. It feeds off the fact that many still believe that Norway is a town in Sweden. We had one angry Swede visiting our store because we use the Swedish flag outside our store (upside down). Swedish national television made a five-minute interview where they claimed we sacrificed Swedish virgins…other than that we have sold a lot of jeans to Swedes. They get the story!

cafebabel.com: Have you seen something similar elsewhere, or copycats of your ideas - such as the Czech Republic versus Slovakia?

Kjetil Wold: I have not seen similar brand stories. It works well for us because we are two countries that have very similar beliefs and history. It would be far more dangerous to name a brand something like this if the nationalistic climate had a history of war and religious disagreements, but it would probably sell!

cafebabel.com: Who are your customers in Europe? Who identifies with your brand?

Kjetil Wold: Our customers are people who often bring references from either punk, black metal or the underground fashion scene with them. Musicians are of course fans of a black jeans with devilish illustrations in the pockets but it also appeals to people who just wants to wear something limited and unique. We have clients from Indonesia who buy our jeans as collector items, not for wearing them. The drummer in The Killers is using them on tour. The feeling of rebellion is a quality that attracts our customers.

'The Norwegian equivalent of the BNP decked out in gothic garb'

cafebabel.com: Is there an 'anti-Finland' or 'anti-Denmark' in the pipeline? What defines these neighbours in terms of competition?

Kjetil Wold: There are no plans to launch an Anti-Finland or Denmark, though Anti Sweden is very popular in Finland and Denmark is also a potentially great country. We’re more interested in adding limited editions with themes that we find interesting and somehow represents interference and darkness.

cafebabel.com: What tips do you give to other companies who want to create their own marketing brand?

Kjetil Wold: Spend time on developing a genuine brand. What differs your jeans from the rest of the crowd? There are thousands of new jeans pushed out to the market. Why will I remember yours?

cafebabel.com: What are your plans for the rest of 2010?

Kjetil Wold: We are a project label and we have two very exciting new projects. One includes burning Swedish jeans in a Norwegian town called Hell, and the other one is a co-lab with one of the most influential bands in the world today. We are excited about the next half year!

cafebabel.com: Finally, something nice to say about Swedish competition?

Kjetil Wold: Swedes are very updated on fashion. They don´t hesitate once they find an item they like - they’d sell their soul to get the right wardrobe. Or they could sell it to the devil at Anti Sweden.