ART / FASHION

Oslo Fushion Festival highlights Norway’s flourishing art, fashion, and tech scene

”By gathering and collaborating with several creative actors during the festival, we want to highlight a breadth of Norwegian designers both nationally and internationally,” says CEO Elin Carlsen.
By JOHAN MAGNUSSON
August 20, 2021

Oslo Runway merged with Collective Oslo in 2019 and launched a brand-new fashion and art festival under the wordplay Fushion. The initiators saw how the fashion and art world was changing, and that there was a demand for display platforms that were more open and less controlled, tells CEO Elin Carlsen.

— It’s an annual fashion art festival and conference that focuses on intersections between fashion, art, and culture, acting as a meeting place for the creative industry and a space where you can experience some of Norway’s most exciting design talents. Fashion and art have a strong influence on each other, and by fusing several expressions, we want to contribute to a fashion culture that goes beyond today’s consumerism. We, as a society, must start looking at products as investment objects, something we must take care of and use for a long time. In this case, fashion has a lot to learn from art and interiors. By gathering and collaborating with several creative actors during the festival, we want to highlight a breadth of Norwegian designers both nationally and internationally. The mix of fashion brands and slow fashion designers, the open talks, exhibitions, webinars, screenings, presentations, and an exclusive pop-up offer the audience different perspectives on fashion in modern culture.

Tell us about this year’s edition.

— The theme is From maker to change maker. In the midst of the disruptive forces driven by the global pandemic, climate change, and social and political movements, we want to lift forward the creatives contributing to shaping new mindsets and practices for more inclusive, equal, and sustainable fashion cultures, says Carlsen, continuing,

— As a part of the festival, Oslo Runway will once again present both physical and digital fashion shows. The lineup includes ESP, Livid, Oleana, Avenue, and Envelope1976 — all with a focus on designing long-lasting products. We’ll also present a special jewelry exhibition. There has been an enormous development in Norwegian jewelry design in recent years, and we are impressed with the level. It is also nice to see that most of them place great emphasis on sustainability through the use of recycled materials and jewelry that is made to order locally here in Norway. It’s an exciting breadth of designers, from the traditional brand David-Andersen that has designed and produced jewelry in Oslo since 1876, to Hasla Jewelry, Crystal Haze, and Diawéne (top picture), which are starting to become well-known names here in Norway, to up and coming Mold Atelier, Aur Studio, Boygal, and LilleLi. Jewelry are personal products you keep for a long time, and if you want something new, precious metals can easily be melted down into new objects. So, when we now launch jewelry during the festival, we want to show them off as the art objects they can be. We are therefore extremely proud to have artist Ali Shah Gallefoss with us to curate the jewelry art exhibition.

— Another highlight is the annual outdoor exhibition with Collective Oslo, which celebrates how creative energy can drive change, and how the collaborating artists enrich and transform our perspectives on inclusivity and diversity. Some of the exhibiting artists are Extraweg, Jesse Draxler, Arcin Sedgic, Vitaboy, and Berglind Rognvaldsdottir. And we are introducing a new branch of the festival this year. The exhibition concept Sorgenfri Artwear presents Norwegian designers working in the intersection of fashion and art, highlighting influential voices within slow fashion — pursuing the fact that a garment can also be seen as an object of the arts.

When it comes to tech, the festival also presents the annual Fushion Conference 2021, inviting various personalities from the creative industry to conversations about fashion and design’s transformative role as change agents in modern culture. 

— There are a lot of interesting things happening in Oslo right now in fashion tech. Manufacture Oslo, for example, is a mini-factory in Oslo where companies and entrepreneurs including ESP, Tom Wood, and Holzweiler have access to new design and production technology, infrastructure, and equipment, and expertise to develop collections, test prototypes, and small-scale productions. The factory’s manager, Gisle Mardal — who’s also head of development at the Norwegian business cluster NF&TA — is moderating three panels about fashion tech, innovation, and sustainability in the fashion value chain, tells Carlsen, adding,

— I think it is important to not only talk about material and tech innovation in fashion, but also better understand fashion culture and our use of clothes as identity creators, whether it’s a physical or a digital outfit. How can we create innovative fashion solutions that fulfill our need for renewal and self-expression with a much lower impact on climate? This is a topic we will discuss during the conference.

How’s the future of fashion weeks? Digital, physical, or phygital?

— Definitely phygital! To be relevant as a platform, one must constantly evolve, and the digital format has for a long time been discussed by the fashion weeks. In this sense, I’m surprised it didn’t happen before, that we as an industry needed a crisis to really dare to fully explore a digital format. Fashion weeks are a lot about networking, being inspired, finding new brands. This is something everyone is doing digitally through social media today, so I think that in order to be relevant, fashion weeks need to be present both physically and digitally. Norwegian fashion brands in growth have different needs, some want to gain a stronger foothold here at home, while others want increased exports. Some want to invest in a traditional runway, others want to reach out through other formats. What we clearly see is that brands need to develop interesting digital content to get coverage in international media, which is why we choose to have a flexible phygital format, through Oslo Fushion Festival, says Carlsen, adding,

— This fall, we will launch new collaborative partnerships, where we will dig deeper into sustainability, both in social and environmental aspects. We would also love to explore the direct-to-consumer possibilities that technology offers brands and designers. Or maybe we should include a direct-to-avatar event… I don’t know, the only thing for sure is that we need to be curious and open-minded, and constantly develop to stay relevant.

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