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Subversion or Success:
Branding and the Power of Pink

Tania Messell

 

Moods of Norway fashion show, February 2011. Fotograph by Lene Haug, https://www.flickr.com/photos/aktivioslo/

Moods of Norway fashion show, February 2011. Photograph by Lene Haug, https://www.flickr.com/photos/aktivioslo/

As with my encounter with Ikea’s concept store of Tekstileriet examined in a previous post (see here), I discovered Moods of Norway’s pink logotype during my stay in Scandinavia in 2011. At that time, the social anthropologist Fanny Ambjörnsson’s fascinating book Pink, the Dangerous Colour (2011) had hit the shelves, and argued for the colour’s central role in gender, age and class determination today.[1] While for Ambjörnsson the use of pink in everyday objects stems from its association with concepts of femininity, superficiality and childishness, it has – as this post intends to show – assisted Moods of Norway in creating a name for itself for the same reasons, and has since attracted the attention of historians and cultural observers.

Moods of Norway fashion show, February 2011. Fotograph by Lene Haug, https://www.flickr.com/photos/aktivioslo/

Moods of Norway fashion show, February 2011. Fotograph by Lene Haug, https://www.flickr.com/photos/aktivioslo/

Moods of Norway was established in 2003 by designers Peder Børresen and Simen Staalnacke and CEO Stefan Dahlkvist in the small town of Stryn, in the south-western part of the country. The fashion company today distributes clothes and accessories throughout Europe, and has opened ten brand stores in Norway and two in the US.[2] Its founders regularly challenge business practices, but also concepts of gender and ethnicity as reflected in the company’s marketing and designs.

While Norway is most often regarded as the land of depthless oil wells, whale slaughter and dramatic landscapes, the company indeed persistently associates images of fjords, reindeers, and fiddlers with a camp disco aesthetic, most often drenched in hot pink hues. Their fashion shows draw from club and circus aesthetics denoting transgression and fun while the company’s three founders actively promote the brand in the medias by displaying a flamboyant attitude, clearly inspired from boys band imagery in an environment where bling-bling and fishing boats are united through the use of pink tints. The contrast of rurality and glamour is found in the above image, in which a skier wears a pink version of the traditional Norwegian skiing outfit, (which is usually plain red), displaying large Pierrot-like buttons and pink fur on the collar. While skiing can be considered as a solitary and close-to-nature activity, this image fully subverts the values associated with the sport, and to do so relies mainly on the use of pink.

Many reasons lie behind the company’s efforts to subvert Norwegian material culture. As the Nordic Council of Ministers stated in 2012, the main challenge for young fashion companies is to differentiate themselves without the means of the competitors.[3] This involves developing a brand narrative through the products themselves, a situation similarly described by the professors of management Robert D. Austin, Shannon O’Donnell and Dorte Krogh, who have examined closely the creative marketing developed by Moods of Norway in their products and in the appearance and behaviour of its founders.[4]

The intermingling of national and trans-national imagery can on the other hand be related to the company’s establishment in a particular time and place. For the fashion theorist Lise Skov, a group of businesses developed in the early twenty-first century in smaller countries indeed nurture a trans-national style, instead of cultivating a hegemonic national image, as such allowing international expansion.[5] After the rising popularity of their products, Moods of Norway has indeed been appointed to design Norwegian’s cabin crew’s uniforms, which reflects the company’s position as a bridge between local and global currents.[6]

Still from ‘Moods of Norway AW14 Fashion show’, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gd1D7FyEa8

Still from ‘Moods of Norway AW14 Fashion show’, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gd1D7FyEa8

Nevertheless, while the company built its fame on a humorous brand identity, often simply relying on unconventional colour use, its founders have recently announced that the future collections will be more conventional, both in colours and spirit. With the company’s tenth anniversary approaching, Staalnacke declared that international audiences had now become Moods of Norway’s main target- which implied the introduction of more conventional designs and of a more toned-down colours range, as shown on above image featuring the 2014 autumn and winter collection.

This design change reflects the power of colours, and how they are closely monitored in the conception of today’s products and visual identities. In line with Ambjörnsson’s Pink, the Dangerous Colour (2011), pink in particular is regarded as a conveyor of difference, lack of control and frivolity, and as such explains the complex dynamic existing behind its use by the young fashion company.

 

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[1] Fanny Ambjörnsson, Rosa: Den Farliga Färgen, (Stockholm : Ordfront, 2011)

[2] Susan B. Kaiser, Fashion and Cultural Studies, (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014), p.174

[3] Growth, creativity and innovation in the Nordic countries, (Oslo: Nordic Council of Ministers, 2012), p.30

[4]Robert D. Austin, Shannon O’Donnell, Dorte Krogh, Moods of Norway (Cambridge: Harvard Business School, 2009)

[5] Susan B. Kaiser, Fashion and Cultural Studies, (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014), p.175

[6] ‘Moods of Norwegian’, Thea Urdahl, DN.no, May 24, 2013, http://www.dn.no/d2/2013/05/24/moods-of-norwegian [Accessed 17.08.2014]

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Suggested Reading:

Robert D. Austin, Shannon O’Donnell, Dorte Krogh, Moods of Norway (Cambridge: Harvard Business School, 2009)

Fanny Ambjörnsson, Rosa: Den Farliga Färgen, (Stockholm : Ordfront, 2011)

David Batchelor, Chromophobia, (London: Reaktion Books, 2000)

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Tania Messell –

Tania studied both graphic design and fine arts in Switzerland before joining the V&A/RCA MA programme. She has since written on the relationship between craft and corporate identities by examining the Wiener Werkstätte’s visual identity and the marketing of Provencal ceramics. Her current research investigates the development of the first corporate identities in France, focusing on the encounter between design, company management and technology between 1950 and 1975.

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© Tania Messell 2014. All Rights Reserved. 

 

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