Offering contemporary clothing with no use-by-dates, Copenhagen-based label Sur le Chemin (french for ‘on the road’) is going against the fast-paced fashion industry, making a seasonless collection to last over time. We talk to the brand’s founding designer, Norwegian native Kjetil Aas, about slowness, sustainability and nordic simplicity.
What is the story behind Sur le Chemin?
– Coming from a position as head of design at Norse Project, I founded the brand Armoire Officielle back in 2012. Sur le Chemin is the result of transforming Armoire Officielle into a new concept, where the slowness is even more perceptible.
– At Sur le Chemin we strive to slow down the pace in today’s fashion industry, creating clothing that is timeless and will last over time. It is all about being relevant regardless of trends.
What materials do you work with, and how do you source them?
– We strive to use sustainably sourced fabrics as much as possible, meaning that all cotton in our essential program is organically sourced. If we fail to find a sustainable alternative in the wanted quality, we will always choose a high quality material. This because we believe that a product that lasts a long time at all times is the most sustainable choice.
– A lot of our fabrics are sourced from traditional European mills, such as Italian Duca Visconti and Halley Stevenson in the UK. This way we ensure a high quality fabric, made by people who take pride in their craft. At the time we are looking into fabrics that can replace the use of cotton, such as the highly sustainable fabric Tencel.
Would you care to share your design and production process?
– As we do not make full seasonal collections, this is also reflected in my design process. I never start from scratch, it is more an inspiration board with different pictures, textures, fabrics and colors where some elements are slowly changed. I never throw any of these elements out – if they are removed from my board, they are put into a scrapbook. This works for me like an inspirational journal, where I can always go back and bring an element back into my work.
“For us, the core problem when it comes to achieving a more sustainable fashion industry is overproduction and overconsumption.”
Tell us about your commitment towards sustainability – how is it visible in the brand?
– For us, the core problem when it comes to achieving a more sustainable fashion industry is overproduction and overconsumption. At Sur le Chemin we do not produce the traditional two, four or more collections a year, but try to find a new way to work within an industry that over the last decades has reached a speed that is no longer sustainable.
– This meaning that we are developing a base of essentials that consist of styles such as the classic oxford shirt, t-shirts and chinos. Around this base we build the collection piece by piece, presenting the different styles to the market on a regular basis throughout the year. Working this way we are able to be more true to season, have close to no overproduction and avoid sales. Furthermore, all this leads to less overconsumption.
– There are specifically three subjects that are important for us when it comes to achieving a more sustainable fashion industry: slowness, less overproduction/overconsumption and quality.
What does ‘Nordic simplicity’ mean to you?
– For me, Nordic simplicity is both a reflection on where I’m coming from, and the visual expression of my work. It can be the rawness of my childhood in the Norwegian Fjord, the subtle tactility of a fabric or the timelessness of an oxford shirt.
What’s up next for Sur le Chemin?
– Our hope is that we can contribute to a change of mindset regarding how a brand can work within the fashion industry. We are taking small steps every day, hopefully making us more visible for people out there with each step. The focus right now is to strengthen our sales, finding retailers that believe in this new way of thinking.
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