The weaver of the 21st century — and his 80 years old loom
Rising Danish designer star Nicklas Skovgaard on how to create a business, thanks to Web 2.0.
By JOHAN MAGNUSSON
We meet Nicklas in his studio, located in a basement in the quiet, family-friendly neighbourhood of Østerbro in Copenhagen. He moved to the city after a childhood spent on the small island of Thurø, connected with the bigger island of Fyn by a bridge. The early years, he explains, heavily influenced him — both personally and, later, as a designer.
— Growing up in nature was amazing and there were sheep and sheep farms all around the island. Part of the wool that I’m using is from Fyn and whenever I go to visit my mother, I pass the sheep pastures where it’s from.
Three years ago, he worked in the interior industry — and felt that it was completely wrong.
— I really had an urge to try something else. So, I quit my job and then, two days after, the Covid situation turned up in Denmark and everything closed down. I didn’t apply for any new jobs because no one was hiring — I was really fortunate to have made savings so that I could go through a year.
Even though he’s always loved fashion, it was never his intention to start a brand.
— But I thought that it would be a nice change and got a small studio space with some other people. To begin with, I bought a very small child loom, from Brio, in a thrift store on a vacation. It was for children and very cute and very small and I thought that it was really fascinating, the ’analogue’ feeling of how fabrics have been made from the very beginning, with a loom. So, I tried it for several times and just made different colour combinations, experimented, looked in old books and YouTube videos and on Instagram, and used different types of yarns to see how it would work. And it really felt amazing that I, with my own hands, could create a fabric that I could potentially use for a piece of clothing. I then came up with the idea of buying a bigger loom where I could create bigger fabrics in order to make a vest or a jacket — instead of just a pair of gloves.
We see a bigger loom here, in the studio. How did it become yours?
— I bought it from an old lady on an auction site, like a Danish equivalent of eBay. It was really cheap, like 200 Danish Kronor (around €25), and there are tons of them for sale. And, it’s very analogue! says Skovgaard. He continues:
— For me, this loom also has so much history to it. On the box that I got, it says that it was made in 1939, so 80 years old and not that innovative at all. However, in the industry of today, it might be seen as innovative. When I’ve told people that I’m weaving myself, they usually ask: ’How do you do that?’ or ’What machine is it?’. And I’m like, well, it’s not a machine, it’s more four pieces of wood put together and then, I am kind of the machine doing the stuff. So, as I said, I think that this somehow is a bit of innovation in a very fast-paced industry. They’ve found looms that are from the Bronze age. They’re super old! It’s really amazing that, in these times, with so much technology, I’m sitting at a loom, creating fabrics in a very old-fashioned way, and with clear similarities to something really old.
Skovgaard and his bigger loom moved to a new studio and the brand slowly developed. After the trials, it came quite naturally to evolve the weaving into a bigger scale.
— I tried to make bigger stuff and quickly found out that I could do a vest, a top, and a skirt, before moving on to a jacket, a longer jacket, and a dress. All of a sudden, there was a full collection where everything was woven in the studio. More and more people started to reach out and show interest in what I was doing. For the past year and a half, it’s really been growing into a brand with more of a vision and a strategy of where I’m going. It’s more structured now and not the same brand as it was two years ago but I think that it all comes back to a real love for something that feels really crafty. What I personally like, when I go and buy something at a flea market or a thrift store, is when I can see how things have been made. For example, when you open up a jacket, how the lining has been made and all the small details in the garment after a human hand has been part of the process.
The beauty of the imperfection.
— Yeah, exactly, and I think that’s also what happens when you create garments yourself. There will be small imperfections and I really see that as a nice thing.
The first pieces were completely made of a hand-woven textile. Eventually, Skovgaard realised that evolving his brand also meant certain sacrifices.
— I figured out that those fabrics won’t work for everything — it gets quite heavy and a woollen fabric is much better for a jacket or a coat than for dresses or skirts. So, now I’m combining wool with other, much lighter fabrics in the pieces. I’m also very much into combining two opposites — a ’crafty’, woollen look together with something maybe a little bit more ’artificial’. It could be silk that’s really shiny, a cotton that’s treated in a certain way, or a synthetic fibre.
Up until just recently, you didn’t have a website and you still don’t have a webshop, but selling your garments through Instagram and retailers. Who’s your client?
— It depends very much on the certain style. At the moment, I can see that I have two different kinds of clients. Take Holly Golightly (a retailer in Copenhagen, Ed’s note), that sells my garments and from what they buy, I see that it’s for a specific customer. While on Instagram, the people who are reaching out and want to buy my stuff from there are different. All of my work is through Instagram and it’s been like that from the beginning — I couldn’t have done this without it.
”I would never have started a fashion brand if it wasn’t for Instagram”
Web 2.0 in a nutshell.
— Yes, and I think it’s just so amazing to see so much new talent coming through Instagram. People who normally wouldn’t have a voice or had the required money to create a brand can show their stuff on Instagram. This includes me — I would never have started a fashion brand if it wasn’t for Instagram.
We move into the atelier and Nicklas sits down by the loom and demonstrates a fabric to be created for his new collection.
— So, the yarn goes through here and then, I push it together, and this fabric, made of alpaca, mohair, wool, and cotton, doesn’t have a lot of texture already, so I try to brush it with a metal brush which sort of ruins the fibres and make them fluffy…
— Yeah, especially since it obviously needs to be done for every centimetre of the fabric. For my new collection, it will be mixed with polyester and mohair yarn. I really like the contrast of mixing the very crafty of this wool with a polyester-like yarn thread. And again, if this piece would have been made of only wool, it would have been quite heavy. It’s beautiful when you have a mix between wool and silk and wool and cotton.
Next week, you’re one of four finalists in the Wettel & Vett Fashion Prize. If you would win, you secure the opening spot of the next edition of Copenhagen Fashion Week in February. Would that be your first show?
— Yes. I’ve been asked, but I think it needs to be the right time and needs to feel now. I want to challenge the normal runway show, and much rather do a presentation or exhibition. It’s so much about how I want people to experience my clothes. There are so many nice fashion shows, but they’re also just ’in and out’ — 10 minutes and 25 looks. I think it conflicts with the crafty idea — I really want to challenge that. Going forward, what I need to think of is: How can I present the clothes? says Skovgaard.