Norwegian designer Kristian Aadnevik has come a long way in the fashion industry since hijacking his mother’s sewing machine as a child. After establishing his own brand in 2004, he is progressively attracting more attention from celebrities, the press and, most crucially; new customers around the world.
Aadnevik’s sewing skills were apparent at an early age and after completing his tailoring qualification in his home town Bergen, he was accepted at the Royal College of Art to start a MA in 2000 as one of only a few students. During his time at RCA, Aadnevik claimed several awards, one of which entitled him to free fabrics for a whole year. He also won a competition to work on a project with Japanese department store United Arrows in Tokyo where his collection was exhibited, and he has worked as an assistant to British designer Alexander McQueen.
All by myself…
Straight from his graduation he was offered a job with a fashion house before moving on to French label Charles Jourdan as chief designer. Still, he always had a dream to set up his own brand, so throughout this period he continued working on his own collections and started showing during the London Fashion Week in 2004. “The experience I got in other fashion houses was important. However, I always wanted to have my own brand, but I couldn’t afford to give up the other job to concentrate on my own business. At times, this was problematic as both businesses would be busy at the same period.”
Luckily many spotted Aadnevik’s talent during the London Fashion Week and sales of his clothes have steadily increased over the years. Today his clothes can be found in shops and boutiques across Europe as well as in the US, Japan and Dubai. Consequently, he was finally able to quit his other design job and concentrate 100 percent on his own brand in 2006. He attributes the great success with his last Spring/Summer 07 collection to the fact that he now can put all his energy into his own venture.
Aadnevik's S/S 07 collection which was presented during London Fashion Week last September has been his most successful to date. Photo: Kristian Aadnevik
Essentially, it was the twice-a-year London Fashion Week (LFW) that provided Aadnevik with his big break and he has continued to show his collections there. “In London the show is aimed at attracting press and PR,” he says. “Straight after LFW, we move on to Paris where we showcase the collection for international buyers. Our aim this year is to continue the growth where we’re already established, and also work harder on new areas such as Eastern Europe and the US.”
So why did he choose London as his base? Apart from the obvious reasons of knowing the language and the culture, Aadnevik says that the British capital is the best place for aspiring designers to start. Paris on the other hand is very much for those who already are established in the industry. “London is young and creative,” he adds.
During his time in London, he has developed his own style and found a target group. “After a few years you can see what sells and what attracts press attention. In the beginning of my career, each collection was influenced by a vision that I had, but now you also keep the business part in mind and recognise what will sell.” And selling he does, mainly to career women who like to treat themselves and buy nice clothes. “I originally thought it would be women with rich husbands, but my customers turned out to be women with their own money,” he says.
Aadnevik at his London studio. Photo: Thomas Aastad / Royal Norwegian Embassy
Knowing me, knowing you
In the world of fashion, success can depend very much on who you know; so most aspiring designers go out purely to meet new people within the industry and network. “The industry circles around making new contacts,” Aadnevik explains. “You’re creating business by making contacts who later can recommend your work either to the press or buyers. The latter are not always willing to go for new talents unless they’ve had recommendations from people they trust – or from what they've seen featured in the fashion press.”
Subsequently, in an increasingly more celebrity obsessed society, dressing a Hollywood star or pop princess can rocket an aspiring designer to stardom and generate invaluable publicity. Aadnevik’s luxurious dresses have already been worn by Kiwi model Rachel Hunter, singer Gwen Stefani and supermodel Naomi Campbell. British pop star Jamelia wore Aadnevik’s unique gold embossed leather mac and black leather dress in her music video ‘Something About You’. And HRH Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway is said to have become a fan after attending his S/S 07 show during London Fashion Week last September. “Designers would obviously like the ‘stars of the moment’ to wear their clothes – Beyonce is in the magazines a lot, so are the stars of any current films. Kate Moss is an obvious choice as well, but to me Nicole Kidman would be a dream to dress.”
What Nicole Kidman will be wearing at this year’s Oscars is anyone’s guess, but each year designers are battling to dress the stars who will be attending the ceremony. “You’ll try to predict who could win the awards and it requires a lot of work to get their stylists to choose your clothes, but it’s one of my goals this season to dress some of the stars.”
‘Size Zero’ models may not make it to the red carpet in Hollywood this year as the debate about them has raged in the international media and resulted in some countries banning the skinniest models from the catwalks following the death of two South American models who were starving themselves. Aadnevik believes new models in the industry can find it hard to control the difference of being slim and anorexic. However, for his own catwalk shows he’s in charge of the castings and has full control of who he wants to use. “I find it worrying when the models are too skinny – I do of course want the models who are showing my clothes to be slim, but also healthy-looking. Still, I don’t want people to think that my clothes are only made for one size – they are in fact flexible and come in all sizes up to Large.”
HRH Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway (right) attends Aadnevik's show during London Fashion Week in September 2006. Photo: Keith Hammett
Those who think that working in the fashion world equates to a new glamorous party each night, only to stroll into work around lunch time the next day wearing large sun glasses, should think again. The working day for Aadnevik normally starts at around 7am at his studio off King’s Road in London when he gets his admin work out of the way. ‘There are a lot of queries from the press to borrow clothes for shoots,” he says and his team has just sent off dresses to two leading magazines in the UK.
Generally, his job is to oversee that the work that needs to be done is finished on time. Aadnevik has a full time PA, Heidi Gulbrandsen, who happens to be a former student at the same tailoring school in Bergen where Aadnevik started; she is not just involved in the general admin but also with the tailoring. He also has four fashion students, most of whom are completing their compulsory 12-month work experience. ‘I prefer the students to come to me rather than advertising for interns in the fashion colleges. That way I know they have an interest in my work as they have seen my collections. Many of the students return to work for me later, so they must be enjoying it,” he laughs. But this is no surprise as Aadnevik is one designer who’s not displaying any of the primadonna or diva-like attitudes that have made so many of his peers notorious.
One of the interns, Sara Eckeberg, a fashion student from Sweden, has just arrived in London and explains how she saw photos of Aadnevik’s collection in a magazine. ‘I searched for him on the internet and found his website through which I contacted him about the possibilities of a work experience.’ Now she and the rest of the team are working hard to prepare for Aadnevik’s next collection at London Fashion Week in February.
Aadnevik and his team working on his new collection at his studio in Central London. Photo: Thomas Aastad / Royal Norwegian Embassy
There’s something about Valerie
Like many other designers, Aadnevik draws inspiration from films. One of his previous collections was based on the Italian film “Il gattopardo” whilst his upcoming range is inspired by the Czech film ‘Valerie and Her Week of Wonders’ from 1970. This film itself was influenced by fairytales such as ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘Little Red-Riding Hood’, and was a surreal story in which love, fear, sex and religion merged into one world. “I saw the film a long time ago and has since heard lots about it so I recently watched it again,” he says. “With films, it’s as if you enter a new world from where you can extract elements and use them in the collection. The new collection draws on my love for the mystery, superstition and romance of ancient Gothic tales. To contrast the wickedness with innocence seen in the film, I’m using tightly sculptured layers with floating drape in deep shades of indigo, electric blue, metallic silver dove and black.” Aadnevik’s collections are renowned for having a dark edge bordering on couture contrasting volume and embellishment with sharp tailoring, slim cut silhouette and refined detailing using only the finest materials. And he has been hailed by Sunday Times Style’s Colin McDowell and international Elle magazines as one of the UK’s hottest and exciting young talents.
Colours are of course also very important to him. His last collection was entirely in black, white and red. “To me, red is a sexual colour, so I used white to create a balance. I also use black often – it’s the colour I prefer the most, it’s always been that way. It suits everyone and allows the focus to be on the person, not just the clothes. Say if someone turns up at a party in a yellow dress, people will think of you as ‘that person in the yellow dress’, whereas if you’re wearing black, people will both notice the clothes and the person who’s in them.” Well, regardless of colours, wearing a Kristian Aadnevik dress is destined to make anyone noticed. And that would be for all the right reasons.