Words by Jessica-Christin Hametner
With a background in construction engineering, Norwegian fashion designer Henriette Moe Winsnes – the founder of hip Amsterdam-based brand Moe Oslo – has not taken (what some may consider to be) a “traditional” route into fashion. Yet this is exactly what makes both her vision and style stand out, as season after season she produces fresh designs that reinvent classic staples into pieces that are cool and anything but boring or predictable.
While she moved to Denmark back in 2010 to study fashion design, Henriette didn’t always consider herself being creative, but rather a trait she developed while studying fashion. ‘That was when I understood that what I was doing was creative. When I took the entrance exam I realised it was more or less the first time I sat down with the mission to create something new, and I remember thinking I will never get in because I am not creative (luckily she was proven wrong and was accepted to the Fashion Design Studies programme). Saying this, I guess it is more the definition of what creative is that might have affected my opinion, as I never really drew, painted or made sculptures. I just did not execute my creativity in the stereotypical way society (me included) looks at creativity.’
Her lifelong interest in fashion coupled with a unique background as a construction engineer, Henriette’s past strongly influences her work today. After completing her high school education in Norway, she pursued a career in civil engineering and intended to study architecture subsequently – ensuring a safe future. However, it was while working as a civil engineer that she realised both her eagerness to be creative and a desire to pursue that. ‘As an engineer, I worked in teams with architects, and throughout the process I understood that a lot of an architect’s work is based on technical work and planning, not so different from engineering, and that the creative processes are quite long. Eager to be creative, but with a shorter cycle, I decided to make a U-turn and start a new path – fashion design!’
During her 3rd year of (fashion) study, Henriette’s engineering background became apparent, which positively impacted her work in the creative processes as a fashion designer. ‘My inspiration comes from shapes and techniques from engineering, construction and carpentry and I try to translate and integrate this into the garments.’
Seeking to renew the classic and formal female wardrobe, she challenges conventional perceptions by updating classics and redefining silhouettes altogether. ‘I think a lot of women who dress more formal today feel like a part of their personality and characteristics disappear, as this wardrobe is often very uniform and conservative – a bit boring if I may say. I therefore wish to give a new approach to the classic wardrobe – making the formal wardrobe a bit less formal. At the same time I also want to approach women who want to “up” themselves and be fresher in their everyday style.’
With high-quality designs to last the seasons, Henriette uses equally high-end materials, mainly classic suit and shirting fabrics of either wool or cotton. ‘The feel and quality of a fabric is essential to me. I want the clothes to last long and be worn often. I also like to keep the fabrics classic, and work on the details, cuts and silhouette to add newness. A lot of the suit fabrics are what we often associate with men’s tailoring, and I like to use these in unexpected ways.’
Creative types are whom Henriette envisions wearing her pieces with the aim to look fresh and stylish without being overdressed. But where does she find her design inspiration? ‘I am just about to start developing my SS18 collection, and I am therefore in a curious seeking mode these days. Well, I guess I always am, but during these periods even more. I am still fascinated with finding ways to challenge my own pattern cutting and technical detailing. I keep finding myself staring at construction sites looking for hidden treasures, and I am starting to get some ideas for what “my problem to solve” will be this time (get back to me in a few months and I can tell you all about it). Also, I bought a photo-book about the low-rider culture in LA, and I am very fascinated about this culture too. They are so cool, self-assured and dedicated yet relaxed! Let’s see if they will influence my SS18 collection.’
Henriette’s fashion motto is clear: choosing quality over quantity. By keeping the collections small, her focus is to feel proud of what she makes. ‘I want to invest time to make each garment, develop details – push boundaries and create my own version of a garment. I will not make clothes just to make clothes. I should make it for a reason, even if the reason is as simple as I need it there to complete a look. The day I don’t feel this way, I think I should quit – because then I think the soul of the collections will disappear.’
Rewriting the stylebook completely, Henriette shatters stereotypes and proves that taking the traditional route – be it in career or style – isn’t necessarily the better one to achieve success or realise a dream.
Thank you, Henriette, for chatting with Atlas. You can follow her on Instagram @moe_oslo