Norwegian Rain Stylish and functional global raingear
By Molly McPharlin | Photos: Norwegian Rain
If you’ve experienced the seemingly never-ending rain in Bergen, Norway, the rainiest city in Europe, you’ll know the importance of sturdy rainwear. In 2008, Bergen residents Alexander T. Helle and Michael T. Nartey known as T-Michael identified the need for a reliable raincoat that also fulfilled a desire to remain stylish. This led them to create Bergen-based Norwegian Rain, a functionally fashionable rainwear label. Meticulously researched and developed, today, Norwegian Rain is a go-to collection for customers looking for iconic and practical rainwear.
Helle, a master’s student in business school, believes Norwegian Rain solves a problem not just for people in Bergen, but globally as well. “People have different styles, lives, jobs, body shapes. If what you’re wearing does not reflect your personal style, then it doesn’t work for you,” says Helle. “We knew that if you want to make something, it has to work everywhere and not be limited to just a local market or a certain location. Our mission was to create a collection that spanned all the way from classic to experimental.” Helle believes Norwegian Rain offers extreme function in a stylish garment. “This way you don’t need to choose between style and function in your varied urban life. It’s two categories in one. It’s outerwear that is just as suitable for nice weather as storms. It’s comfortable to wear in either.”
International Flagship Stores
Norwegian Rain has four flagship stores. The first was set up in Bergen, where Nartey, a local tailor and designer, already ran a successful tailoring studio and his own design brand, T-Michael. After this, Norwegian Rain expanded to Oslo, the capital of Norway.
In 2017, Norwegian Rain moved outside Norway’s borders to open their third flagship store in London. Britain proved a successful market, but when the building’s landlord refurbished the building, Norwegian Rain had to move. While looking for new premises, they heard about a fantastic building in Paris, in the Marais district. Nartey says, “We put the whole shop in a truck and moved everything across the channel to France.”
Norwegian Rain’s fourth flagship store is in Tokyo, in the Kanda neighbourhood. “Since day one, Japan has been our biggest market, and it was the right time to expand into a flagship,” says Nartey. “Besides our label, we included unique things from Norway that we really cherish – vintage, mid-century Norwegian furniture and design, as well as art and other objects of interest from Michael’s [country of birth] Ghana. We’ve even set up a hidden bar upstairs behind the garden where we serve Ghanaian beer! Our bar was awarded the honour of being one of the seven best hidden bars in Tokyo by Time Out Magazine.”
A New Approach to Retail
Like most retailers, Norwegian Rain was challenged during the Covid pandemic. Their answer was to create the Concept Store initiative. “For twelve years we had focused our energy on the products,” remembers Nartey. “We now understood that we had to confront how goods were sold as well. We decided to challenge everything – from opening hours and card payments to the entire concept of retail.” Industry research told Helle and Nartey that 27 per cent of everything made in the world goes unsold. This was a problem for retailers, customers, and the environment. “We asked ourselves – can we do sales with no till, no gambling on how much stock to create, no risk for the retailer?”
The answer was launching the Compact Store initiative in Store du Nord, an established boutique in The Hague in the Netherlands. It’s a showroom in a shop. Three styles are presented per season. They are all in black but accompanied by a fabric book with an app that allows customers to view each style in every colour. Customers can also see what materials and what styles are available in the flagship stores at that time. This way they can either choose to order one of these and receive it in two days or begin a bespoke production with the colour they want and receive delivery within 6 weeks.
Norwegian Rain feels the Concept Store initiative helps them build a more sustainable business and future. “We believe that concepts like this are a giant step in the right direction and part of the solution for the future. Being environmentally conscious is not just about making a product out of eco-friendly materials. The whole business model has to be eco-friendly. As a result, we’ve stopped selling in many multibrand stores the traditional way. We feel that the only way forward for retail is this new, sustainable sales model,” asserts Helle. Many other retailers have shown a great deal of support and enthusiasm. “We’ve received a lot of interest in our new Compact Store initiative from other fashion and design retailers, as well as art museums and boutique hotels.”
Norwegian Rain’s Global Future
For the future, Norwegian Rain will continue to build interest globally in their label. “We have come to the stage where we think if someone is going to invest in a quality coat that is comfortable wherever they are in the world, they should know Norwegian Rain. We will make it our mission to be visible worldwide,” says Helle. The fact that they began in the rainiest corner of Europe is something they share with pride. “To us, Norway is the hidden treasure in the Nordics when it comes to design.”
Subscribe to Our Newsletter
Receive our monthly newsletter by email