After taking the reins of a 60-year old outerwear factory at Økern in Oslo in 2015, designer and entrepreneur Elisabeth Stray Pedersen established her label ESP. Ever since, the brand continued to develop the factory’s signature style, which was iconic blanket coats in pure wool, besides creating new designs. ESP utilises the finest Norwegian lamb’s wool from freely walking crossbreed sheep in the highlands around Gol in Norway. The wool is Nordic Eco labelled and their fabrics are Woolmark certified.
E S P have shown their collections at Oslo Runway since the start and have throughout the years been recognized by renowned national and international press, such as Vogue (Am, It), REVS, W Magazine, L’officiel, DANSK and Monocle, amongst others. In 2019, Pedersen received the prestigious prize “Jacobsprisen” by DogA for her work. ESP is available for sale at selected retailers in Norway and Japan, in addition to their own factory shop: esp-oslo.no
Name: Elisabeth Stray Pedersen
Country of origin and where do you live now: Norway, Oslo, Norway
Profession/Brand: ESP Oslo
What is fashion?
Fashion is valid currencies for cultural capital at a certain time(The currency may differ in value from culture to culture, and depends on who you are trading with. The currency may change in value depending on circumstances. There are global currencies and quite local ones).
Describe your personality
Extravert, curious, analytic, diplomatic, practical,
How did you get your start with fashion?
I decided to become a fashion designer when I was around 13. I loved the more free way of dressing I saw in magazines, and used to draw clothes and experimenting with making clothes myself at that time. I researched Oslo National Academy and figured this was the dream. After highschool I applied and got into Oslo Met “Art and Design” study and went there a year before I dared to apply for Oslo National Academy and got in there.
Where do you gather inspiration?
I normally gather inspiration from the archive at our factory + a current social phenomena (previous collection; new electric transport effecting the work wardrobe of our costumer group- and how we adapt to that)
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Coffee, workout and a creative problem to solve
Tell us about a moment in your career that really meant something to you?
First show at Oslo Runway - my first proof of concept + winning Jacobsprisen this year.
Do you have a mission with your design?
My mission is to test and prove relevant visual products within sustainable business models for fashion – we are constantly researching, evolving and testing how to go about it and it is at the core of our business.
What is the process like for you when creating?
Intensive and very hands on practical- we start with the materials, as we have our framework on sourcing- further it is how to make a visual story from this framework
What is the future for fashion in your opinion?
Reduction of energy and more rational use of resources in fashion production, production transparency.
Evolution in reuse, upcycle, repair, rent.
Made by order and adhocratic design processes – involving the customer in the designprocess to make more targeted RDND - higher successrate on hitting market, consumer satisfaction and lifespan on products.
Digital tools open up new ways of achiving points above + cutting middle men and more direct to consumer pracsis.
What was your childhood dream job?
Lawyer first actually (inspired by Ally McBeal I think), then fashion designer.
What was the first thing you ever created and how do you feel about it now?
It was a fitted corduroy miniskirt in bright obergine with zipper, waistband and pressbuttons. I molded the fabric piece onto myself with the help of a mirror.
How was your exposure to fashion and design growing up?
My mother had always been very into clothes and made some herself as many did in the 70s, and she had her own way of going about it, which was quite continental and classic with a twist; she got it from my grandmother who made her own wardrobe each season. My father was always fund of architecture, and how to build stuff which I also think has had an influence. I used to assist him in building stuff. Also both my parents loved taking me to art museums, cultural experiences etc. I hated it but it gave me I guess some sort of cultural knowledge.
Who were your early influences?
Dolce and Gabbana did a collection with belt-skirts in the 90s. it did a huge impression on me at the time - I think I was 13 (the time I wore crop tops and Miss Sixty jeans).
Did you assist?
I started off with assisting Eva Emmanuelsen. It was my first job in fashion.
Do you have a secret project?
Not professionally, but personally I started this summer on picking mountain tops over 2000 moh in Norway, and plan to continue persuing that over the coming years.
What designer and their works never tire you?
Phoebe Philo or Raf Simmons
What harsh truths do you prefer to ignore?
That our way of living is fucked unless some huge changes are made
Does fashion hurt society in any way?
Fashion is a reflection of society. The need for fashion comes from the need of fitting into a social structure. In order for us the change fashion we need a change of values our society is run Fashion Is well powered by capitalism which has been a fundamental idelology in our society for some time now. All of us need to push what we can to change how we consume, and leaders of fashion businesses need to be more assertive in serving these new set of values, a 180 turnaround, disruptive kind of way- not just some icing on the cake, greenwashing kind of s***. Money can’t be eaten, drunk nor breathed, as written in Morgenbladet this week.
What do you contribute back to society?
I hope I contribute with opening up for more local production, and local RDND processes leading to more transparency in the value chain. Also helping other brands to persue the same, and implement part of our development in their process, through collaboration. Also I hope I contribute with creating value to Norwegian Wool though our design. Norwegian Wool is one of the most sustainable wool resources, but have needed to be refined in order to reach a more high end market (also to increase prices).
How replaceable are you?
Everyone is always replaceable, but I think it is more a question of how much someone else is willing to sacrifice or give into it. If I am not needed at this post some day I will move forward. I don’t do it for myself only, I need to feel I am part of a greater purpose.
How do you define consciousness?
Has social media been positive or negative for our society? Why?
Both – positive – giving small voices a platform, negative- too much comparison.
What does the fusion of fashion and art mean to you in regard to your work?
Art (in the traditional sence) has always been a source of inspiration in my work. I don’t see that clear division neccesarily, it is just different way of expressing something visual. Arent we a bit beyond that now?