They take inspiration from the former Nordic workwear and mix it up with organic materials and contemporary silhouettes. The result: Danish brand Hansen Garments. The brand was founded in 2010 by designer Åse Helena Hansen, who worked for fashion brands and focuses a lot on the colors, fabrics and construction and her companion Per Chrois, CEO of the brand. Fabrics are sourced from Japan, Italy, Portugal and Denmark and everything is cut and sewn the EU, and some of their garments are even made locally in Denmark. The label provides two collections per year containing around 70 pieces and offers a limited stock service. Hansen is in a mid-to-high-end price range: Retail prices for shirts start at €145; jackets and blazer start at around €300; vests and trousers start at €185. Since its birth in 2010, Hansen Garments has grown from a home-based operation into a brand with 70 retailers worldwide including 14oz (Berlin), Tenue des Nîmes (Amsterdam) and Unionmade (California). And since August 2016, the brand operates a store in the heart of Copenhagen. Besides Hansen’s full collection, the shop also offers well selected European heritage brands. The brand will be presented at Berlin’s Selvedge Run in July. Here, Åse Helena Hansen gives more insight into the brand’s philosophy and design process.
When and why did you found Hansen Garments? Please give us a brief history of the brand.
Back in 2010, we drove from Copenhagen to Southern Spain and back on motorbike. That’s when we decided to start our own company.
Hansen Garments is co-founder and CEO, Per Chrois, who has a professional background in international development as well as film and TV production, and myself as the designer. I have a professional background in design and experience as head of design for another brand.
We launched our first collection for the Spring/Summer 2011 season, and the brand has evolved steadily since then, and it’s becoming what we intended it to be.
Why did you name the label Hansen Garments?
‘Hansen’ is one of the most common surnames in Scandinavia. It’s like ‘Smith’ in the UK. Hansen is also my family name. We thought the name was very straight forward, honest and personal, like the clothes we wanted to create. For practical reasons, though, we couldn’t name it just Hansen, so we added ‘Garments.’
What distinguishes Hansen Garments from others brands? What’s your USP?
Even though some see Hansen as a niche brand, it actually appeals to a lot of different people. More than we expected.
The brand is different things to different people; we do not dictate one certain style and, as a result, we fit into many different contexts and styles.
It’s also important for us, and for many of our customers, never to compromise on the quality of our fabrics and trimming, and all our products are made within the EU.
Tell us about the design process. How is it like? What inspires you?
The fundament of all Hansen’s collections is the same. Like a dogma or a set of rules. We are inspired by our past, grounded in Nordic design traditions, and driven by our ambitions to make effortless and timeless expressions.
The design process is ongoing more than a seasonal. I focus on functionality. It’s often more about reducing the number of elements than adding them. I strive to design with longevity in mind.
I start with a composition of the colors and the fabrics. Like painting a picture. And all collections match each other as a long continuous story that constantly evolves.
What consumer do you have in mind for your designs?
If we have to narrow it down to a buyer persona, it’s a creative professional or an artist.
What material you are working with?
We mostly work with natural fibers such as wool, linen and cotton. Once in a while, a nylon or a polyester fiber also appears. But it’s not the composition of the fabric that’s most important, it’s how it fits into the collection as a whole.
How many items does the collection contain and what are the key items?
There are quite a few signature pieces in our collection, such as our Jonny shirt and … . Many also recognize us by our three-piece suits. They’re designed so you don’t have to wear them together, but many do.
Our very first collection contained about 20 items. Now, seven years later, we are on the plus side of 70 pieces per collection. We keep the collections quite tight to honor the buyer’s selections best possible, and to avoid cancellations for production.
You are currently serving 70 POS worldwide. What kind of stores are you currently/ do you want to be sold through in the future?
We focus on independent multi-brand stores because we believe they can best represent our interests and communicate who we are.
Personally, we also prefer this branch of the retail sphere. It’s much more personal; the brand mix, the store decoration, the service and customer guidance. It’s stores like these that make the areas they’re located in interesting, and we want to support that. These are the people we have chosen to work with and build our business for.
In terms of the future, more of the same would be an easy way to put it. We get a lot of pleasure out of the work relationships we have and more of that would be great.
At which shows do buyers meet you?
Currently, for SS18, we are showing at Pitti Uomo, MAN Paris and MAN New York, Selvedge Run in Berlin and finally in our own showroom in Copenhagen. This will be the case for the next AW18 season too.
Do you have agents abroad or do you operate the whole distribution over your HQ?
We take care of the European market ourselves. Actually, we attend all trade shows in person to meet as many of the retailers we work with.
In the US, we work with an independent agent; in Japan, we work with a distributor to ensure that these markets are well serviced.
What plans do you have in terms of expansion? What are currently the most promising markets?
The North American and the Asian markets are very promising for us. But in general, we’ve grown steadily and organically, and we continue to do so.
Since the beginning of 2010, we’ve wanted to retain full ownership of the company, and be able to control all the processes. It’s an extremely personal thing; it’s really an extension of who we are.