dr. martens team up with norse projects in a meeting of minds and cultures

The Scandi brand offer up a new take on an old classic... in suede.

by Francesca Dunn
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25 April 2016, 10:25am

While initially the idea of an iconic British punk institution joining forces with a purist Scandinavian brand might seem a strange fit, the new collaboration between Dr. Martens and Norse Projects makes total sense. Together, the national heads of culture are releasing a reworked version of the Dr. Martens 3-Eye Steed mens shoe, in suede for the first time and laden with hidden sportswear technicalities courtesy of the ever functional Norse Projects. "We both have a passion for democracy, functionality, quality and the classic, so it felt a natural fit for us to collaborate as like-minded brands," explains global marketing director of Dr. Martens Simon Jobson of their first Scandinavian partnership. "Similarly, both our wearers use our product as a starting canvas for self-expression." Available in black, white and oxblood, the design is super smart and a great move from both parties. Besides, with strong ties to music themselves, what better way for Norse Projects to celebrate the 40th anniversary of punk? In the courtyard locale of their Copenhagen HQ, with the Danish playlist below as the soundtrack, we found out more from one of the co-founders of Norse Projects, Mikkel Grønnebæk... 

Do you remember the first time you encountered Dr. Martens?
As a big music lover with a background in skateboarding, I've always seen people wearing Dr. Martens. One of my favourites skateboarders, Matt Hensley, who used to skate for A-street had a part in the iconic Hokus Pokus video where he was skating in Dr. Martens. We all knew that you couldn't skate in them, but it looked fucking cool. Of course if you travel around the UK, they've always been a part of the fashion scene; whether with the skinheads or punk or grunge or whatever - if you grew up in the late 70s to mid 90s, you couldn't really avoid them.

What's their deal in Copenhagen?
You see more and more people wearing them now, but of course it's the classic three hole or eight hole with yellow stitches. It would be very hard to change that model without ruining it, because it's so timeless, so we looked into the archive to see if there was a shoe that fitted us better and discovered the Steed. We liked the model because it's a bit more formal and it suits the direction that we're going in as a brand; quite classic and minimal but working around function. People don't seem to have seen that much of it either; it's almost a model that people don't really associate with Dr. Martens.

And what did you do differently with the Steed?
We wanted to do a classic model in a new material and went for suede, which they'd never done before for the model. As a tribute to the legacy of Dr. Martens, we manufactured it in the UK in water repellent suede and technical inside features that you don't see at first. Following that, we added the white colour to the classic Dr. Martens black and oxblood, because our labelling is white and we've always been a purist brand. It's the colour of nothing; it's pure.

Which other technical functions does it have?
If you look into the history of Dr. Martens, as a workwear brand adopted by the fashion industry, the brand itself was very innovative when it was founded. We added a sports insole rather than the classic one, as well as a padded tongue that sits better around the foot. It has elastic nylon straps on the inside as well, which is usually a function of sports shoes, so so it fits around your foot like a sock rather than just being a loose leather shoe. It's a formal shoe but it has function as well, which is one of the first things that we discussed with them. It doesn't need to look wild but when you wear it it fits really well and it's wild in that sense. It's a wow effect that you don't necessarily see.

Like Dr. Martens, Norse Projects has ties to the music world. What's your take on the Copenhagen music scene today?
There's a growing post-punk scene right now, with a lot of Danish bands being acknowledged overseas; Iceage, Communions, Lust For Youth. That whole scene is great and we're all associated in one way or another, devoid of age or career status. Many of us within the company have backgrounds in skateboarding, growing up with the music of the 80's and 90's... hip-hop, punk, and hardcore. I remember the united feeling of being a part of a subculture.

You recently launched a Norse Projects women's line. What made you decide it was the right time?
There were a lot of women who wore our men's product, so most of the stuff takes a point from the men's collections as well; sharing fabrics and the same mindset. It was just something we felt we could and should do. We had a different starting point with the women's collection than we did with men's, so it's quite interesting to start with a clean slate.

To what extent do you think what you do is influenced by your city?
I wouldn't say it's the city, more the Scandinavian way of life. I think when you look at Scandinavian furniture, it's about trying to boil everything down to its most functional form and trying to make that beautiful. Everything has to have a function. I think that's one of the things you learn growing up as a kid in Denmark; you see all of these beautiful 50s and 60s designs that still work today. There's a very similar mindset in both Scandinavian and Japanese tradition actually; you work with nature and natural materials to try to simplify things.

Interesting. From the Norse Projects journal it seems that you spend a lot of time in Japan...
I think it's an absolutely amazing country and I'm there a few times a year. I think if you go back in time and look at the great Scandi designers, they were all very inspired by Japan. And Japan too is in a sense very good at picking up on what others do; they pick up the best, turn it around and make it even better.

Do you aim to follow their lead in that sense?
At Norse Projects we're not a brand that tries to be a fashion leader, we don't do shows or try to make a lot of noise. For us it's more about having people appreciate the product. It's definitely a longer road to travel, but it's also a road that means you can be there to stay. And when we make products, it's very important to us that the product isn't out of date in a year. I think one of the greatest achievements is making something that you can pack away and discover twenty years later, finding that it's still as cool as it once was. I think that's one of the goals; to make timeless things that will be remembered as good products. Dr. Martens is a brand that has been there for so many years; they don't have to prove themselves, they're there to stay. It shows just how important it to stay true to your brand and just keep building.

The Norse Projects x Dr. Martens Steed collaboration will be available from Friday 29th April.

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