MariNoLoves || Norway Through The Eyes of Designer Mari Norden

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Snow was falling when we arrived in Oslo, Norway—albeit spring snow, the kind that melts the moment it touches the ground—and we were immediately reminded that we were arriving in a place where warmth, sunlight and color is a luxury. There was some sort of marathon in the city center that kept us laughing as we acquainted ourselves with the city streets. The runners were galloping in circles and in criss-cross fashion. They went up and then down the same streets, marked by partitions and onlookers yelling encouragement, around Oslo Center. The Norwegians were out in large numbers, some bundled appropriately against the still frigid spring, and some letting the strengthening sun of late April kiss their exposed skin. We were witnessing the frenzied energy of the return of the warmer months and feeling the palpable excitement of the Nordic people who must hideaway throughout much of the year against the truly fierce cold.

We were seeing Oslo during its seasonal awakening, a spark of life emerging after the dormancy of winter. There was a palpable excitement of the Nordic people having left their wintertide hiding places.  It was only appropriate, then, that we visit the studio of designer and silk screener Mari Norden whose designs exist as a reflection of this excitement and as a spark of color emerging from the staid Scandinavian design scape of black and white.

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Designer Mari Norden, who’s namesake brand MarinoLoves sparked my attention on an evening scrolling through Instagram searching #NorwegianDesign, is a beautiful blaze of color and warmth. The aforementioned snow was falling on a particularly grey morning when we came upon Mari’s studio in an old industrial-residential area of Oslo. When she opened the door to invite us in out of the cold it was like stumbling upon a stoked fire in its hearth.

“It’s not chic, it’s sheep.” – Mari Norden

Her bright, friendly eyes—as full of sparkle and smiles as she is—see the tradition of minimalism in Scandinavian fashion a bit differently than I do. When I used the word “chic” to describe the controlled, color-blocked street fashion of the Norwegians, she immediately corrected me with the quip, “It’s not chic, it’s sheep.”  Mari’s almost counter-culture view on fashion in the land of black & white—that it should excite, draw attention and be an extension of your own energy—is no surprise when you walk around her studio. A rainbow of color in silks and wools, so vibrant it almost vibrates, paints the clothing rack positioned in the corner of the room. Tufts of snow cone colored reindeer hair—the same that adorns the lapel of her fuchsia coat pictured above—seemingly grow from a section of wall in her studio. The models that grace the pages of her look book carry balloon bouquets and wear balloon crowns. When you discover that the first piece of clothing she ever designed was made from a sky-blue bean bag chair that she deconstructed, followed by years of finding those little synthetic balls all over the house, the picture completes itself.

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After beginning to sew at age ten, Mari daydreamed about her future as a designer getting good grades along the way, and arrived at Middlesex University in London where she studied fashion. It was there, during her last year of university, that she got really into silkscreen printing, practically living in her school’s excellent printing facilities. You’ll recognize this technique in her work to this day, balancing the solids of her collection with playful patterns.

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But not all of Mari’s approaches to design are counter to her homeland’s approach to fashion. She focuses on all natural fibers and sustainable practices that fall directly in line with the Scandinavian tradition of social and environmental consciousness. It is this cobimnation of mindful, yet unfettered, creation that makes Mari’s pieces such treasures and her collections exemplary of a new understanding of Scandinavian design.

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After spending the morning chatting with Mari about Norway, New York City, The Netherlands, London, cinema, fashion, art, and beyond, it was clear that, while her last name—Norden, or “The North”—identifies her as a native daughter, we were meeting a person that redefine what is considered quintessentially Norwegian. In a land of people perceived (and often identifying) as introverted, wild emotions—especially those in opposition to the norm—are rarely visible. Mari’s unique perspective on design and true passion for turning the conventional on it’s ear is an inspiration.

We said our goodbyes and emptied back out into the frigid spring air. There was a context now, for this vast, snowy land and a comfort in knowing—at least in one specific example—how the beautiful minds of this society stoke their own creative fires. Our eyes were attuned now, finding the pops of color, warmth and rebellion wherever they sprang up. Be it a grafitti’d wall blooming amongst the concrete, an underground club washed in the cathartic screams of Death Metal or the radiant rainbow of the MariNoLoves collections, the Norwegians are getting their fix.

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fuck off

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For more on Mari Norden and MariNoLoves, please visit: www.marinoloves.com.

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