Maardt Studio and the 光 of the East

by Camilla Mikkelson w/ Olivia Moreau

Copenhagen and Aarhus have always had a bit of Barcelona vs Real Madrid rivalry to it. While Copenhagen has been able to build on its diversity by becoming the primary hub for Scandi-fashion Aarhus has been always in the shadows. Despite its unique cultural heritage and sense of style, most fashion-forward people head out to Copenhagen as opposed to Aarhus. But don't let that migration towards CPH fool you. Aarhus is one of the most happening cities in Scandinavia right now. So it is no surprise the city would hold some hidden gems when it comes to fashion and aesthetics. Maardt Studio is one of those hidden gems that have been heating up the cold north. 

We sat down with Charlotte and Per, the two creators behind Maardt Studio (MS).  Both are creatives with backgrounds in advertising, textile, and photography. Maardt Studio was established two years ago and is a new chapter for both of them.  Maardt Studio has 50 looks in its repertoire along with some bespoke pieces that are usually part of limited edition collections. All of MS's pieces are sown in their showroom in Aarhus. MS is also a proponent of the slow fashion revolution which focuses on quality as opposed to the trend-heavy fast fashion elements which contribute to creating a lot of fashion waste all over the world.

One of the dichotomies of the MS is its inspiration which not only stems from the cold north as expected but also fuses aesthetic notions that are deeply rooted in Japanese architecture. The end result is a fusion of Scandi-minimalism and Japanese architectural shapes in the form of sculptural silhouettes. 

While it is easy to pigeonhole Japan within the Harajuku style universe, it is worth noting that Japan's aesthetic minimalist traditions are as old as time itself. So the bridge between both worlds works seamlessly since Japan has a style similar to the Nordic style in that regard. 

One of the indicators of a good design concept is it's layering. As you do a deep dive into a specific brand, the dissection process should show layers of ideas inside the packaging. And as it turned out that the more we peeled, the more layers in the design process became visible. Besides the Japanese and Nordic inspiration, MS's foundational strength is entrenched in Charlotte’s artistic ability.  As a trained artist her artistic experiments are not some random foray into neither here nor is a well thought out constructive process where the design ends up being the vehicle of her inner clarity as an artist. This experimental art produces spectacular pieces of bespoke wearable art made out of alternative materials like acrylic and plastic. She uses her art as a source of inspiration and like all artists who visualize their work before they take form, she constructs her work as a fluid process where the fabric is her canvas and the canvas changes according to her art. One of the standout pieces of her work in the collection can be seen in a pink dress with flowers, as it is a spin-off of one of her art pieces with similar aesthetics. In many ways, her work is of the Iris van Herpen category in that regard. And there is no praise high enough than that! 

If Charlotte is the experimental artist, then Per is the constructive counterbalance. His background as a photographer helps that process immensely as a photographer (as the good ones, who understand the role of lines and symmetry better than most). Par's work can be seen on the printed sweatshirts which amusingly enough has bat-like shapes to accompany them. Levity is one of the constructs of these printed expressions. And as it is with serious art, there is provocative expressionism that goes on to push it forward and MS does not shy away from it. Though both Par and Charlotte insist it is a product of hip aesthetics vs provocation for the sake of it. Either way, no one can deny the cool factor. Add a sense of collaboration between buyers and the designer and you have a solid platform to make individualized art and wear it.

When scanning the racks for different styles to dig into, one of the sweatshirts stood out. It had a print with a beautiful poppy on it. The print is from one of Per’s shoots with a model. The petal is really a model wrapped in a pleated dress, that Charlotte did, and if you look closely you can see that the petal has a face that has been lain in shadow. The poppy is a photo taken by Per on his way to the studio. This is further established our first instinct about MS that they are really the bridge between different aesthetics. 

 Hoodies with its sculptural shape, a Japanese inspiration steeped in the design traditions of the cold north. The hoodie wasn’t made as a hoodie, instead, the collar is extended so it can be worn as a hoodie. This means that it can be worn two ways, like a turtleneck and like a hoodie. Great design is flexible design. And that in itself sums up what MS is trying to do. Clever naming to clever design to experimental art to the study of symmetry MS's work stands out even in a country full of minimalist warriors and conquerors. 

There is no doubt that Maardt Studio contains a whole lot of creativity in many different areas and find ways to use them in their collections. This diversity in creativity separates them from other brands in Aarhus and Denmark. Their collection is based on their love for sculptural Japan and to the minimalism of the north, which gives the Nordic fashion an eastern twist. Ultimately this is not a brand for people who want a quick fix (we have Zara and Dolce & Gabbana for that). This is a brand that would grow with you, stay with you and eventually if you are cool enough it will take over your everyday wardrobe. And to us at Deux, that is the best kind of fashion.