Design meets history – and politics

Tone Skårdal Tobiasson
Posted on
Sunday, 14 June 2015

As «Take it personally» - Norway’s Museum of History’s new exhibit opened its doors in Oslo – VikingGold found its place among daggers and precious stones, and showed off the past’s reverence for quality textiles. We took political party leader and guest extraordinaire Trine Skrei Grande on the grand tour.

Museums as purveyors of knowledge and disseminators of our common heritage was a theme when parliamentary leader of Venstre, Trine Skrei Grande, held the opening speech as the exhibit “Take it personally” opened in Oslo. The theme is personal adornment, and as part of this focus, VikingGold has a central position in the room that presents textiles. Or rather: One specific piece of apparel that was found when the Lende glacier melted and a tunic from around year 300 appeared.  The large room (which is also an auditorium) show-cases for the first time in Oslo this unique piece of apparel, alongside the reconstruction which has been based on the hand-crafted techniques such as the free-standing loom and the hand-spindle. In addition to this, the whole concept of protecting oneself against the elements of nature is explored.

But for our purposes, it is the modern use of the ancient sheep-breed wool (pigmented spæl sheep) and the modern possibilities of utilizing this raw material in spinning and weaving in local mills in Norway – recreating a fine wool diamond twill material which is reinterpreted by modern designers, that is our project. In VikingGold, KreaNord agreed that inviting in Norwegian and Icelandic designers was a crucial cooperation.

The resulting material is astounding and the exhibit has a small swatch the audience can touch. The exhibit also includes a “care label” which outlines the whole value-chain – back to the actual sheep – for the fabric. As we showed Trine Skei Grande the exhibit and explained how this increased the focus on local value-chains and heritage, not to mention provenance, the profiled politician became engaged in the narrative: How local knowledge needs to be re-booted to kick-start a sustainable approach to apparel. Slow-fashion is the new organic. Local clothes are potentially the “new local food”.

As the invitational competition has generated suggestions how the VikingGold material can be used in modern design; it will soon be decided what the next step in the process entails and who will win the VikingGold challenge. We will keep you posted.