Ingunn Birkeland and the Siren Songs of Oslo

by the Editorial Staff

Ingunn Birkeland of Oslo (IBO) is not your run-of-the-mill designer. Her design evolves from her art so foundationally that she is more of an artist who's expressionism is most vocal through the vehicle of fashion as opposed to other mediums. Ingunn does not fit the pattern (no pun intended) of the Oslo hyper-chic' crowd as her work forgoes a lot of presumptions of Norwegian fashion. The ever entrenched egalitarianism of Norwegian fashion tend to produce two strong schools of aesthetics...first and foremost... minimalism closely followed by gender neutrality and none of those are in ample display in Ingunn's work. Quirky, feminine and outright whimsical are all words that get thrown around to describe her work and after attending her SS19 show it is safe to say that those adjectives are right at home in her bright, diverse, whimsical constructs. Her eponymous label does not suffer from timidity nor does it veer off into predilection of mediocrity. Each piece of her collection bore the bright badge of excellent craftsmanship (something a lot of designers forget despite having great visuals) and well thought out silhouettes. Her unique attachment to incorporating Norwegian weaving techniques places her at the helm of a booming industry that is positioning itself as the heir apparent of slow fashion. 

Ingunn's work encompasses clothes to shoes to jewelry to wall art. And that sort of transitive element provides any designer with a sense of perspective and proportions and in her case, it also adds a sense of entrenched clarity despite trends, fads and everything in between. Being loved by the museum crowd is not something a lot of designers can claim but in Ingunn's case the National Museum in Oslo, Nordenfjeldske kunstindustrimuseum in Trondheim and Kode in Bergen has altogether bought six outfits and four pairs of shoes from IBO for their collection of Norwegian fashion design. 

With that context in mind, it would be foolish to think Ingunn's SS19 collection would be anything less than polished. But as it is with good designers, the element of surprise always remains. Her color palette is more Rwandan than Northern European. Her take on weaving may be Norwegian but her silhouettes are surely Parisian. Above all, her ability to find a point of equipoise is admirable with a touch of rebellion. Ingunn's work to a new observer would seem a bit unsettled because she is trying to push forward her sense of aesthetics as fast as she can, as boldly as she can. And that is how you know that an artist is truly comfortable with himself/herself as an artist and letting her work evolve within the constructs of human emotion. And what better way to express those rapidly evolving thoughts of love and loss, highs and lows through the prism of brightly colored, exquisitely weaved garment that would stand the test of trend and may be time. 

            Photographs Courtesy of Kristoffer Myhre (Runway) | Helge Brekke (Backstage)