The finest international performances and Finnish drama
TEXT: MARI KOSKINEN | PHOTOS: ESPOO CITY THEATRE
The Espoo City Theatre celebrated its 30th anniversary last year and, interestingly for a national theatre, now presents far more contemporary works than classics.
Espoo City Theatre (ECT) stages up to ten international guest productions each year, ten domestic guest performances, and four of its own productions. ECT doesn’t have a regular artistic team; instead, they work as a production house and invite the professionals best suited for each production to work on their shows. “Most of the interesting work in Finland takes place in between genres, combining, for example, circus with dance, or opera with visual art,” says ECT’s artistic director Erik Söderblom.
Espoo City Theatre Artistic director Erik Söderblom. Photo: Sasa Tkalcan
The theatre has two venues, and both are located in the Tapiola, Espoo, and are easily reached by underground from Helsinki in just 15 minutes. The future looks bright for the theatre, as the city of Espoo is planning to build completely new facilities for the theatre in the near future.
ECT calls itself the International Theatre of Finland – and for a good reason. They have always been forerunners in presenting Finnish audiences with international performances. Since the theatre was founded, it has hosted performances from over 30 countries. But today, the audiences are no longer just Finnish, but increasingly multinational and multilingual, too. But this is not a problem at ECT, as they are ready for the change. “All our performances have subtitles today; we translate everything into both English and Finnish,” Söderblom explains. “The subtitles are either projected onto a screen above the stage or can be accessed through Espoo City Theatre’s own mobile app.”
Autumn season highlights
The next season will again present top-level performances at ECT. There will be international shows and Finnish premieres. In August, the Australian group Hot Brown Honey will open the autumn season and bring a powerful show for one evening, in one explosion shattering all preconceptions of colour, culture and controversy. The show is performed in English and has Finnish subtitles.
Children of a Lesser God is Mark Medoff’s modern classic about love reaching across different worlds, directed by Johanna Freundlich.
A poetic, circus-like act, Bianco su Bianco (‘White on White’) is a theatrical clown show by the Swiss group Compagnia Finzi Pasca, Switzerland, performed by two actors with a circus background from Cirque du Soleil, and will be on stage in September. Children of a Lesser God, meanwhile, is Mark Medoff’s play about love reaching across different worlds. It charts the cross-currents faced by a deaf woman and a hearing man as they fall in love and make a life together. The play will have its Finnish premiere at Espoo City Theatre in September.
With a sartorial take on extreme, high-performance outerwear, Norwegian Rain is inspired by Japanese sensibility and life in the rainiest city of Europe: Bergen in Norway. Focusing on creating a different retail experience, the brand offers a unique and tailored approach to their customers in their Oslo flagship store and other parts of the world.
“Born and raised in Bergen, the rainiest city in Europe, I didn’t want the weather to dictate what I could wear,” says creative director and manager Alexander Helle. In 2007, he met T-Michael, who already had over ten years of experience in the field of tailoring, and the duo decided to start Norwegian Rain to try to solve this challenge without compromising on functionality and stylistic preferences. Together, they created revamped rainwear with a distinct sartorial approach, carefully blending hints of Japanese sensitivity and inspired by their own life in the rain, which today sells worldwide from sunny California to rainy Bergen.
Every garment by Norwegian Rain is 100 per cent waterproof and made from recycled materials. “In today’s society, we believe it is simply a necessity for brands to choose eco-friendly materials as much as possible,” says T-Michael. In addition to being chief designer at Norwegian Rain, he also has his own brand, T-MICHAEL, characterised as a conceptual approach to tailoring.
A unique and vibrant flagship store
The Oslo flagship store opened in 2017 and is located at Paleet in the old premises of the artists’ restaurant Blom, originally called Bloms Bodega – a place with a rich cultural history. Here, customers are invited to browse through T-MICHAEL’s well-cut suits, shirts, T-Kimonos, leather shoes, sunglasses and bags, while also hunting for rare, Norwegian vintage furniture sourced and sold by Eric Beugnet of ModernTribute. Customers can also enjoy seeing the complete collection from Norwegian Rain, including their newly launched, highly anticipated, waterproof shoe collection – a must-try according to T-Michael.
Gdansk jacket. Photo: Darrel Hunter
Tailoring meets function and iconic vintage furniture
“In Oslo, we have combined three concepts: this is where tailoring meets function and iconic vintage furniture, which all helps to create a certain ambiance in the space. Our typical customer is someone who is concerned with quality, style, and craftsmanship – men and women who are fashion conscious while also being attentive to where their clothes come from,” says T-Michael.
“The building’s history and charm make a great backdrop for our products. The philosophy is to challenge what people expect from traditional retail experiences and instead offer something unique and different: the iconic pieces of furniture, and the grand fountain in the middle, which is an aesthetic focal point when you visit,” Helle explains. “In line with the origin of the premises, which was a place where many of Norway’s great poets got together for a drink in the late 1800s, we regularly invite the public to take part in different cultural activities – everything from slam poetry by Fredrik Høyer, to performance art, design lectures, wine tastings, and even guest plays by the Norwegian Theatre.” You never know; you might be stepping inside a film set on your next shopping trip.
The duo’s desire for the premises to be alive and to be experienced, both during the day and at night, is a key factor in its uniqueness and growing success. With this aspiration to create a different shopping approach, it is possible to rent the space or collaborate with them on events held inside the shop to inspire both employees and customers. “We hope the combination of functional clothes, smart accessories and iconic furniture, along with the magnificent setting, can inspire and enhance your experience in our shop,” says T-Michael.
Alexander Helle and T-Michael. Photo: Ko Tsuchiya
Around the world
Today, Norwegian Rain has flagship stores not only in Oslo, but also in Paris, Tokyo and Bergen. In Paris, one can walk through and indulge in the authentic Parisian atmosphere in a beautiful house with its own garden, nestled in the heart of the Marais, to discover a showroom with beauty and calmness as key factors.
In contrast, the Tokyo store is placed in an original Japanese house from 1940, with a typical garden on the second floor and a hidden bar offering local delights. Back home in Norway, in the flagship store in Bergen, situated in the middle of the city centre, visitors can see where the designs are born, with the tailoring studio of T-MICHAEL located in the basement. “All of our shops have their own special aura, but what they all have in common is our philosophy of creating a different retail experience,” says Helle. “We like to be near our customers in physical shops, something that also inspires us and helps us grow.”
Left: Meet the Raincho, a sculptural, Japanese-inspired unisex garment. Photo: Thea Lovstad Right: Limited edition Sunflower Raincho. Photo: David Pattinson
Norwegian Rain / T-MICHAEL flagship stores:
Oslo: Paleet, ground floor, Karl Johansgate 41
Paris: Ruelle Sourdis, Le Marais (entrance via Rue Pastourelle 15-17)
The Danish artist Jens Ferdinand Willumsen lived a long and prolific life. His career spanned more than 70 years, and he himself made it to the age of 94, having seen the world through from the 1860s to 1958. He tirelessly documented its people and the great themes of life that define humanity: painting, sculpting and photographing the world in his unique, colourful way. And yet, it would appear, he never quite felt at home in it. “People think I’ve painted to cause strife,” he said towards the end. “On the contrary, I’ve always sought to be understood.”
Despite his fame, it took the aging J. F. Willumsen a decade to convince the Danish authorities to turn the donation of his art into a museum in his honour. When it finally happened, he was unhappy with its location in his father’s Frederikssund, roughly 40 minutes from the capital: he’d wanted a grandiose museum in the heart of Copenhagen. Nowadays, the J. F. Willumsen Museum is a mecca for Danish and international artists and J. F. Willumsen has finally received the recognition he sought as one of Denmark’s most influential artists of the 20th century. The long, evolving and sometimes contradictory journey of Willumsen’s art and person is on full display at the modern museum he was granted.
“Willumsen is quite difficult to pin down,” says museum curator Anne Gregersen. “He was certainly an individualist; he had a unique way of approaching art, and he carefully stage-managed his own image as an artist.” He criticised and distanced himself from his contemporaries, but he also wanted broad recognition. He sought collaboration early on when he denounced the Royal Academy and became the architect behind Copenhagen’s Den Frie Udstilling, the first artists’ association in Denmark, but he only wanted to be displayed in solo exhibitions. He spent most of his life abroad, in France and Italy, and was sometimes deemed a ‘foreign painter’, but he was predominantly concerned with being recognised as a great artist in Denmark.
“Later in his own lifetime, Willumsen did receive praise for his early work, the symbolist art from the 1890s. The older he got, however, the more he separated himself from the artistic currents of the time, and again, it took people years and years to gain appreciation for his later art,” Gregersen explains. “We often tell the story of a period’s collective art movement moving upwards and onwards from one thing to another – from the figurative to the abstract in the 20th century – but Willumsen is a prime example that the truth is much more complex than that.”
Top Right: In 1949, Willumsen painted over part of his 1888 The Prince’s Wedding, leaving the paupers on the right in the original social realist style while rebranding the left’s lordly subjects in a clashing bright, caricaturised, almost national romantic light. The painting has only recently gained recognition. Bottom Left: The San Trovaso Canal in Venice, 1930. Bottom Middle: Woman Playing with a Black Cat, 1945. Bottom Right: Self-Portrait in a Painter’s Shirt, 1933.
Understanding the misunderstood
While his work is often divided into neat ten-year periods of linear stylistic progression, there are certain themes, styles and motifs he revisits again and again, such as his explosive, French choice of colours, his photographic elements, and life’s big questions coupled with the everyday. Despite his quest to bring in new interpretations of art, Willumsen had an extensive knowledge of art history, and his art features careful throwbacks to earlier works and earlier times as well as playful experimentation with opposing artistic movements and serious engagement with older styles.
“Willumsen certainly saw himself as a great artist standing on the shoulders of the giants who’d gone before him,” Gregersen notes. “There’s a curious mix of self-aggrandisement and self-aware irony in his work. His art is large and explosive, very demanding. A lot of his later work almost seems to border on caricature, but there’s always a serious edge behind it.” The artist spent much of the 1920s overseeing the sculpting of The Great Relief, a four-by-four-metre exploration of the dichotomies of life and love. In his 70s, he created a trilogy of self-portraits titled Titian Dying, envisioning himself as the great Renaissance artist. He continued to explore the somewhat self-indulgent subjects of mortality, vitality and legacy, until his death.
“I think he learnt from experience early on that there would be a delay in the acceptance of his art: he’d cause scandal in the established art world, and then the next generation of artists would see him as an idol of modernity. He made a conscious decision to bide his time and play into the role of misunderstood artist, and look where it got him – eventually. He’s become his own unique chapter in Danish art history,” Gregersen concludes. “One of the ways he is often described today is ‘ahead of his time’. He doesn’t seem like a historical figure; he continues to demand that we engage with him as spectators and as artists today.”
TEXT: INGRID OPSTAD | PHOTOS: BERGEN NATIONAL OPERA AND BERGEN PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
Bergen in Norway, surrounded by mountains and fjords, is an important cultural city. Not only does it have a thriving popular music scene, visitors can also discover a centre for world-class opera and classical music. With a top-class artistic level, a clear vision and lots of passion, Bergen National Opera (BNO), in collaboration with the historic Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO), captivates its audience, not only in the city’s Grieghallen and at international festivals, but also in unique rural venues. Meanwhile, the orchestra is increasingly bringing its talents to the world, now touring annually.
Bergen National Opera combines dynamic, young, Nordic and international talent with celebrated stars and is highly committed to developing competence in all aspects of opera for the future. “While we work with many great, established talents, we want to give new singers, directors and designers an opportunity, and provide the audience with memorable, touching experiences,” says opera director Mary Miller.
Unique and thrilling opera experiences
This season features strong emotions: passion and violence. “For example, we are excited to create a modern production of Mozart’s last opera, La Clemenza di Tito, together with Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra. It’s miraculous music that tells a powerful story and has profound relevance to current times,” Miller says. Mozart’s overtly political opera, set in Rome, explores the appalling jealousy, ambition and desperate love affairs during the reign of the emperor Tito, drawing parallels to today’s issues around terrorism and fake news. “This year, we are also presenting the famous Sondheim musical, Sweeney Todd – another exciting and powerful story – as well as Britten’s Peter Grimes and Richard Strauss’s Salome,” she continues. All dramatic and thrilling productions set to captivate the audience.
Salome, the opera by Richard Strauss, is a co-production between Bergen National Opera, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and Bergen International Festival. Showing from 20 to 22 May 2020.
“If you have an opera house outside of the capital city, it must have a real identity, something we focus keenly on creating. We try to balance our programme by bringing both the familiar and the unfamiliar to our audience,” she says. “The visual impact is key for us. Opera is about storytelling, and our aim is to make sure that these stories reach everyone and really grip them emotionally.” Even though the core of BNO’s work is to present opera in Grieghallen, Miller recognises the need to engage a wider audience by presenting work in a variety of settings, both in Norway – in historic hotels, in site-specific venues and in rural places – and overseas, at specialist festivals.
The opera Peter Grimes, written by Benjamin Britten, is showing from 21 to 30 November 2019. Photo: Monika Kolstad.
With their programme Young Voices, BNO helps to guide artists at the beginning of their careers, which recently resulted in two of their young talents being cast in small roles in the recent production of Massenet’s Werther. “Currently, we are also planning a project together with schools in western Norway, where children in grade seven can write their own opera with environmental issues as the theme. It’s something we see that these youngsters feel very strongly about,” Miller explains.
Werther. Photo: Monika Kolstad
One of the world’s oldest orchestras
As one of the world’s oldest orchestras, with a rich history, the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra dates back to 1765 and boasts Edvard Grieg among its former artistic directors. Now, British Edward Gardner, internationally recognised as one of the leading conductors of his generation, has taken over as chief conductor, and the orchestra is shining in the international spotlight.
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and chief conductor Edward Gardner
“There has been a tremendous development in the orchestra over the last few years, and the aim has always been to work towards safeguarding our important Norwegian cultural heritage, in particular Grieg’s music, to develop classical music further and make it available to the broadest possible audience,” says general director Bernt Bauge. He believes that their presence on the international stage is important for growth, and with successful tours to places such as Sweden, Germany, Austria, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands and France behind it, the acclaimed orchestra has certainty obtained great success abroad.
With on average four CDs recorded yearly, and released on international labels, BPO is the Nordic region’s most recorded orchestra. “To try to spread our music even further, we also have an initiative called BergenPhiLive, a free online streaming service where you can tune in to live streams or find recorded concerts by the orchestra in the archive,” he says. This was one of the orchestra’s major efforts in 2015, its anniversary year, along with establishing its own youth orchestra, BFUng.
This year, as well as working together with BNO, BPO can tempt audiences with an exciting programme consisting of everything from music from Star Wars to a celebration of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. Its latest concept, named Next Step, is described as a journey through music and science, reflecting on Neil Armstrong’s familiar words: ‘that’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’. “There will be a series of concerts and lectures in collaboration with the University of Bergen to explore what the next step of mankind will be in relation to space, the ocean, the climate and the future,” says Bauge.
TEXT: HANNA STJERNSTRÖM | PHOTOS: JO ANDERSSON DESIGNS/KIMBERLY HERO
After working with glassblowing in the United States, Jo Andersson decided to move to Sweden to pursue her vision of starting her own brand. Two years later, Andersson stays guided by her leading words of “self-love and positivity”, as both her products and personal artwork continue to grow in the Swedish art world.
“I have always been drawn to glassblowing and being creative,” says Jo Andersson, designer and artist at Jo Andersson Designs. Growing up in the US with Swedish parents who are both entrepreneurs, Andersson chose the creative path. After completing her Bachelor’s, she worked for different artists in Seattle, WA, before moving across the Atlantic. The choice of country, however, turned out to be decided by coincidence. A couple who bought art from Andersson connected her to a group of art students on a field trip in Seattle, and the teacher of the group encouraged her to apply to the National School of Glass in Nybro, Sweden. “Choosing Sweden was simply by serendipity,” says Andersson, and continues: “Working at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma and being exposed to other artists was huge for my development, so the move to Nybro was an opportunity to let me continue towards personal freedom and self-expression as an artist.”
Left: Designer and artist Jo Andersson. Middle: Layers, 2018. Right: Kari’s Vas, 2018.
Moreover, Andersson keeps exploring new perspectives under her brand. One part of the brand focuses on functional glassware products that spread positivity, while the other focuses on installations with glass, water and sounds to create environments that induce feelings in the viewer. “I wanted to create a brand that inspires positivity, eco-consciousness and love,” she says. “The pieces are an expression of myself and give me an opportunity to connect with viewers.”
After one year in Nybro, Andersson travelled to Los Angeles during the summer to study neon glass-bending techniques, before starting her Master’s at Konstfack in Stockholm. By continuously exploring and learning, Andersson has had the opportunity to flourish on the Swedish art scene. The message of self-love and positivity remains the heart of the brand. “I’ve had many opportunities to meet and work with amazing glass teachers who have inspired and propelled me to work with glass,” she says. “In the future, I’d like to teach and help people to learn and grow through glass.”
Retailers currently stocking Jo Andersson Designs:
Hallberg-Rassy is known far and wide for its sturdy sailing boats with superb craftsmanship and seaworthiness. The boats are loved for their easy handling, elegance and spirited performance. Visitors at Scandinavia’s biggest sailboat show, Open Yard, have the opportunity to take a sneak peek at the newest beauty, the 40C.
Based in Ellös on the island of Orust in the Swedish archipelago, yacht-building company Hallberg-Rassy has a dual history. The Hallberg shipyard was established in 1943 by Harry Hallberg, and in the 1960s, Christoph Rassy set up business in the same field. When Hallberg retired, Rassy was looking for bigger facilities and took over in 1972. The family owns the company still today.
Since 1988, all yachts in the current range have been designed by the Argentinian engineer and yacht designer Germán Frers, claimed to be the most talented yacht designer of our time. Frers brings the experience of successes in the Volvo Ocean Race and in America’s Cup, and combines this with the fine traditions that have made Hallberg-Rassy a world-famous yacht builder. Hallberg-Rassy, which turns a respectable 76 this year, has built an impressive 9,450 boats. All of them have been delivered on time and found homes around the world.
The most impressive cruising boat
Hallberg-Rassy is renowned for its sturdiness, seaworthiness, comfort, safety, and fine wood-work. The boats are easy to handle by a small crew. “Over the years, we have been able to balance tradition and innovation,” explains CEO Magnus Rassy. “We have specialised in doing one thing only and doing it well. Our concept is clear, with well-built boats for long-distance sailing, and each model is a step forward, building on the great experience of the brand.”
Photo: James Tomlinson
On the question of which boat he is most proud of, Rassy says with a smile: “It’s always the latest one. For us, Hallberg-Rassy 57 is the newest and most impressive boat around. This boat is better in every way, both in terms of sailing performance and comfort.”
The new world cruiser follows the commercial success of the Hallberg-Rassy 44 and 340. From living space and storage to performance and handling, all have been improved and the 57 ensures fast, easy and comfortable sailing at a new level. It has even been nominated for European Yacht of the Year 2019 in the Luxury Cruiser category. That means that Hallberg-Rassy 57 has been ranked as one of the most interesting and promising newcomers of its class.
Photo: James Tomlinson
Scandinavia’s largest sailboat show
For the 26th year, Hallberg-Rassy is organising Scandinavia’s largest sailboat show this summer. Open Yard takes place from 23 to 25 August at Ellös. Visitors can see new and premium used boats from a wide range of manufacturers, as well as plenty of equipment for boats, and listen to talks about long-distance sailing. There is also a Caribbean restaurant for the hungry crowd in attendance. The show is free and attracts around 20,000 curious visitors from around the world every year.
Photo: James Tomlinson
One of the highlights this year is a preview of the all-new Hallberg-Rassy 40C, which will be launched next year. It is claimed to push the limits for what is possible. When the larger sister, Hallberg-Rassy 44, was introduced, it was a bold step forward in terms of interior comfort, sailing performance and looks. As per a quote from a test report in Yachting World: “The Hallberg-Rassy 44 in some ways shocked me. I expected the comfort and luxury, but aspects of the sailing performance genuinely blew me away.” And the new 40C is just as good when it comes to saloon, aft cabin and galley. A fantastic sailing performance awaits!
A unique concept can be found on the island of Klädesholmen, just off the west coast of Gothenburg. It consists of a renowned restaurant as well as Sweden’s first ever floating hotel. With the North Sea on the doorstep, Salt & Sill offers an extraordinary environment for its guests.
“We are celebrating 20 years this year,” director Jonas Espefors says with a smile. Two decades have passed since the restaurant Salt & Sill opened its doors for the first time, and it has been quite the success story. With several mentions in the White Guide, and thanks to its local produce and high-quality food, it now attracts visitors from all over the world.
Conference rooms with views.
The word ‘sill’ means herring and is especially reflected in one of the dishes. “Our board with six different herrings has become our trademark,” Espefors explains. The island on which the restaurant is located has a history of herring fishing dating back to the 16th century. A lot has happened since then, but locals still refer to the island as ‘the herring island’, which adds extra charm to the concept.
Hotel and conferences on the water
The floating hotel linked to the restaurant was one of its kind in Sweden when it first opened back in 2008. There was no space for new buildings on the island, which led to the brilliant idea of constructing the hotel on pontoons on the water. The excess material from the construction was used for a new reef, which is now bursting with sea life, and the establishment follows a route of sustainability with turbines powered by the sea current, which heats up the hotel rooms – rooms that offer absolute comfort with clean, boat-inspired style and design details made of driftwood. Some of the rooms even have their own ladder into the water.
Enjoy a stay at Sweden’s first floating hotel.
Word spread rapidly after the opening, and the hotel quickly became a sensation. “Many bloggers and journalists visit us, thanks to the food and the boatel,” says Espefors. The hotel is busy all year round with both private guests and conferences. Salt & Sill has seven conference rooms with capacity for anything from four to 80 people, all with scenic ocean views. A nice addition is the large catamaran anchored next to the hotel, with a tub on the roof and a sauna, available for guests but also rentable for conferencing companies.
Classic design and human aid – two sides of the same (phone) case
TEXT: SIGNE HANSEN | PHOTOS: DBRAMANTE1928
Classic phone, iPadand laptop cases produced in the best-quality full-grain Indian leather – it might not sound revolutionary, but it is at the heart of a story of success in both business and human aid. Danish Company dbramante1928 sells its products in 30 countries, and as the sales continue to grow, so does its support for the Danish charity Little Big Help, which works to create better opportunities for the women and children of West Bengal in India.
With a good idea, the desire to do things right, and the design principles of a very old Italian, CEO and co-founder of dbramante1928, Dennis Dress, has turned a simple concept into a hugely successful business. In 2011, focusing on high-quality leather covers, cases and straps for smart phones, laptops and other electronics, Dress and co-founder Jan Muntz began their production in Kolkata’s booming and highly experienced leather industry. The company almost immediately struck a chord with the quality and design-conscious buyers of leading smartphone brands. “The first iPhone was out in 2011, but in 2013, with the release of the iPhone 4, the market changed definitively – that’s when everyone started buying smartphones,” says Dress. “And, the kind of people who buy high-end smartphones are people who are into quality and design – they don’t want a cheap plastic cover with pink monkeys on, they want something in high-quality materials and elegant designs, and they want something that will last. It also makes sense environmentally, rather than just buying and throwing away cheap plastic products.”
Having started out with a production site of 60 employees in Kolkata, India, dbramante1928 today has three production sites employing more than 600 people, and products are sold in more than 7,000 shops all over the world. From every product sold, dbramante1928 donates a fixed amount to the charity Little Big Help.
Danish design company dbramante1928 handcrafts its premium case and carrying solutions in high-quality Indian full-grain leather for iPads, laptops, phone and Apple Watch devices.
Classic design and eye-catching colours
As the name reveals (Donato Bramante was an Italian renaissance architect who designed the plan for St. Peter’s Basilica), dbramante1928’s designs are based on an admiration for timeless principles, such as the golden ratio. The classic and durable designs immediately made the products a hit with consumers of the same mindset as the founders, mainly men. However, to reach the more detail-orientated female audience, Dress realised that it was necessary to get a bit more fashion savvy. “Three years ago, we came up with the idea of creating a range of products in Saffiano leather, a type of leather made through a process that makes it possible to dye in fashionable colours, without compromising the leather’s resilience and resistance to water and scratches,” he explains. “To do this, we teamed up with a great fashion agency, Femmes Regionales, because, while we’re really good at leather, we’re two 40-year-old men, and we had to accept that we didn’t know anything about those little details that appeal to women. But Femmes Regionale do, and they’ve done a splendid job. They’ve been a great help in ensuring that everything from the design to the packaging and branding has been just right.”
Three years ago, dbramante1928 launched the MODE. collection, which combines high-quality Saffiano leather with fahionable colours and details.
This collaboration resulted in the MODE collection, a range of stylish covers, straps and bags made in trendy Saffiano colours. Launched three years ago, the MODE collection is now the company’s fastest-growing product category.
One million leather workers
Taking into consideration that the cow is a holy animal amongst India’s Hindus, many might find it surprising that the country has a booming leather industry. But as a matter of fact, India has among the world’s biggest livestock – about 500 million of India’s population are non-Hindus or non-practising Hindus – and that means that the leather industry is never short of materials. “The only thing it means is that it is not legal to kill a cow for its skin only, so all the skin we get is a biproduct from the meat industry,” explains Dress. “That in turn means that it is cheaper than other places, and combined with the fact that it’s a huge industry with a lot of very skilled people – Calcutta’s university has a four-year course in leather and tanning – this makes it the perfect place for our production. It is the reason why we can sell the best full-grain leather products at the prices we do – put simply, it allows us to produce ‘affordable luxury’.”
Like all other companies producing products for the EU,dbramante1928’s production follows the EU’s REACH regulations for the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals in the tanning process. And unlike what many people think, the fact that Kolkata’s leather industry is more than 100 years old and employing more than one million people also means that it is better regulated and controlled than many newer leather industries, says Dress. However, he adds, there are of course some moral issues that need to be addressed when producing in a country like India. “We try to implement what we internally call the ‘do good’ principle, and that means that we aim to give something back to the society we produce in. We do that in a lot of ways, but it starts in our own factories, where we work with the SA 8000 standard to certify that we have fair work conditions. To get the certification, our factories have to go through unannounced check-ups to ensure that everything is in order, that the employees are not exposed to chemicals, that there are no underage workers, that employees have proper toilet facilities and so on – it’s just the right way to do things, but it’s also a way for us to guarantee our vendors that they will never risk getting bad publicity by working with us.”
In addition to meeting the SA 8000 standard, dbramante1928 provides all its regular employees and their families with health insurance, something that not only gives the employees security, but also makes the factories a popular workplace. “It all means that we are able to attract and keep the best of the area’s workers, so that way, it also makes good business sense,” stresses Dress.
A Little Big Help
There is one part of dbramante1928’s work in India, however, that is not driven by business sense, but purely by the urge to help those worst off in the West Bengal society. That is the company’s work with and support for the Danish charity Little Big Help. The organisation, which was founded by Danish Lisbeth Johansen, has been featured in several Danish documentaries, and is well-known for its work for homeless children and their families. Dress and Muntz were introduced to Johansen by dbramante1928’s Indian production manager, after he had seen the horror that the meeting with India’s many homeless children sparked in the two Europeans. “Little Big Help has nothing to do with business – it’s just something we have to do. Once you’ve been here and seen how things are – thousands of children sleeping on the street – you have to do something, to give something back,” says Dress matter-of-factly. “We give the charity money, but we also try to involve our customers; for instance, we have the ‘what can you get for five kroner’ programme with Telia Norway.Through that, we donate five kroner to Little Big Help for every product sold together, and though five kroner doesn’t sound like a lot, it can actually send a child to school for a month or provide three meals a day for five days,” stresses Dress, and rounds off: “It’s a way for us to help spread the word about Little Big Help’s important work and the difference that can be made by even small contributions. We do what we can, and knowing that when our business does well, so does Little Big Help, is a great feeling.”
Surrounded by the calming Swedish nature with its pine trees and lakes, yet conveniently close to the town of Trollhättan, Hotell Albert welcomes its guests to a modern but classic setting.
“Hotell Albert is a small, personable establishment with a strong gastronomic profile. We follow our own vision and are extremely engaged and passionate about what we do,” says Rickard Halleröd, chef and owner. He and co-owners Christoffer Florén and Svante Tengblad started the business nearly 20 years ago with the ambition to maintain the legacy of the premises and marry it with their love for culinary experiences and hospitality.
Christoffer Florén and Rickard Halleröd
The name of the hotel dates back to 1880, when high-profile engineer Albert bought the grounds, and he would surely be proud to see what it has turned into. The kitchen has continuously been scored by the White Guide and proudly introduces fresh, seasonal products from the ocean and the forest. The wine cellar offers a mix of classic tastes and new, excitingly modern flavours, just as the hotel itself.
“All rooms are light and airy, with modern yet classic décor, and the majority have private balconies with views over the dramatic landscape and Trollhättan itself,” says Halleröd. Some suites are equipped with a private sauna, and one peak through the door makes it easy to understand why the hotel is so popular among celebrities. Trollhättan has long been a hub for filmmaking, and many actors are regulars at this tranquil gem designed for relaxation.
TEXT: LOUISE OLDER STEFFENSEN | MAIN PHOTO: DUO DURING ITS BUDAPEST TOUR. PHOTO: DUO, THE FRANZ LISZT ACADEMY, BUDAPEST
The Danish National Chamber Orchestra has a long and famous history in Denmark. As is evident in the orchestra’s Danish name, Denmark’s Entertainment Orchestra, it has helped to make classical music accessible, fun and engaging, providing ordinary people with the joy and magic of everything from Schubert to The Sound of Music since 1943. In recent years, the orchestra has had its ups and downs – its crescendos and its diminuendos – but it has emerged happier and with more vitality than ever.
In May, director Andreas Vetö, conductor Adam Fischer and the rest of the orchestra returned from a triumphant European tour of its Beethoven symphonies. “It went superbly,” the delighted director reveals. “It’s always a joy to watch Adam work his magic on the musicians as well as the audience, and it’s impossible not to get caught up in his joy for the music. He perfectly embodies the attitude and values of our orchestra.”
The Chamber Orchestra was a beloved part of DR, Denmark’s Broadcasting Association, until 2015, when it fell victim to budget cuts despite public outcry. “We’d only just won Best Collection for our collection of Mozart’s symphonies at the International Classical Music Awards, one of the most prestigious prizes in the business, so it was evident that we couldn’t just let our orchestra die,” Vetö says.
HUSH concert. Photo: Mathias Løvegreen Bojesen
Orchestra on its own accord
Crucially, the highly talented musicians were willing to put their time and careers on the line to ensure the survival of the orchestra – and today, the orchestra is privately owned by their independent musicians’ association. “We’ve had to learn to become entrepreneurs, to find new ways of setting up partnerships nationally and internationally,” Vetö says. “It’s up to us now. We have to make this work, but we’re also free to be a classical orchestra for the 21st century. I think this change has given us a great new outlook on what we can and should be.”
Vetö and the orchestra take particular pride in the engagement and diversity of their audience. “The orchestra’s highest duty has always been to inspire people from all across society,” Vetö states. “We’ve recently set up a ten-year partnership with Viborg municipality, to get children involved with playing with us, and we hope to reach children as well as adults across the world.” With concerts spanning everything from Nat King Cole to the Great Christmas Show with Burhan G, the Chamber Orchestra promises classical music for everyone. “In our hectic world, it’s so important to be able to sit back and just be together in the moment, enjoying something as universally beautiful as music.”