Ostwald Helgason: A Brand That Street Style Made Popular

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Susanne Ostwald and Ingvar Helgason were a couple for a number of years before deciding to create their own label in 2008. The German-Icelandic duo met in 2003, while working for Marjan Pejoski (the designer responsible for Bjork’s infamous Oscar "swan" dress), but since launching their own line in 2008, they have slowly become adored by the street-style set. “Without these visible women wearing the clothes, people would never have paid so much attention to what we did,” Ingvar told the Cut on recent day in their London studio. Their use of bold colors and streamlined, sporty shapes regularly attracts the most prominent street-style photographers, and buyers from Opening Ceremony and New York’s Five Story. We caught up with the designers, and spoke with Ingvar, as they prepare for their show at Milk Studios in New York this February.

Read their answers below, and click into the slideshow for a look at their collection.

With your studio based in London, why did you choose to show in New York?
We’ve had an amazing reception from American buyers. Opening Ceremony has stocked us since we started, we later got picked up by Browns Focus [in London], but that was once they had an American head buyer. Somehow it’s always been the Americans.  

Do you feel influenced by any American designers?
An American way of dressing, yes. The sporty styles and sweaters; a hint of preppy. It’s interesting to see the way American designers run their businesses. Seeing the young designers, there seems to be a focus on building a sustainable business, a brand.

Your clothes are popular with the stars of street style, how did that come about?
Completely by chance, like everything else it seems. Evelien Joos from V magazine was doing our casting. Her sister Natalie Joos saw the collection and asked if she could borrow some looks for Paris Fashion Week. We, of course, said yes and while she was at the Chanel show, Miroslava Duma saw her and asked where she got her outfit. Miro got in touch the following day to buy our collection and she’s been wearing our stuff ever since.

Do you think street style helps or hinders fashion labels?
It definitely helps. More people look at pictures, when they see something they like they want to find out more. For us it was amazing that they actually picked it up. We definitely wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for them.

Do you pay attention to it?
We know if somebody might have been photographed and the girls send us pictures they see themselves in. We’re good friends with them and they’ve been super, super nice. I think it’s almost a disservice to call them street-style stars because they have jobs. Miro is running a media empire and Anya [Ziourova] is fashion editor at Tatler Russia. They don’t have stylists, they build these looks themselves. What they do is more authentic than somebody who is working with a stylist because it’s their own thing.

Does Susanne wear the brand?
We all wear our clothes. We started doing some of our printed sweaters for men after I requested it because I never got to wear anything. So we’re going to be doing some men’s styles for spring/summer 2013, stocked in a couple of stores in the US.

Do you listen to music when you’re working?
Yes, we just run down some really cheesy Spotify playlists. We’ve been listening to Mumford and Sons lately and can never get enough of Major Lazer and Destiny’s Child. And they’re reuniting! That’s going to be like the coolest shit ever.

Is it hard living and working together?
Somehow it works. The only times we really fight are when we’re working. That’s when we knock our heads together. In general, Susanne has a better eye, but we fight things out. I usually say no to everything she comes up with, and then if she believes in it enough she just fights it through. That’s how the editing process goes.

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