Our Legacy: Breaking the Confines of Scandinavian Minimalism
Our Legacy: Breaking the Confines of Scandinavian Minimalism
- Words Jacob Victorine
- Date February 1, 2018
While Scandinavian design often invokes minimalism (think Acne Studios, Sandqvist and Stutterheim), Stockholm-based Our Legacy takes a more conceptual approach to menswear. The brand’s collections may “hint at Swedish design influences,” but Our Legacy has developed a cult following for its one-of-a-kind fabrics, normcore styling and nose for future trends (such as the track pants that appeared in its Spring/Summer 2015 collection). Our Legacy was founded in 2004 by Jockum Hallin and Christopher Nying who named the brand with the idea of “…taking the legacy of previous generations and adapting it to our times and our lives.” This approach can be seen in the way creative director Nying, chairman Hallin and CEO Richardos Klarén collaborate to create garments that feel familiar but are difficult to categorize: “If you look at the Fall 2017 collection, you can see the influence of the techno clubs we went to, but they’ve been morphed into a western story, a kind of techno cowboy,” Hallin explained to Vogue earlier this year. However, Our Legacy has not always had a reputation for distinctive design and, in fact, it is one the brand has diligently cultivated since 2012, after humble beginnings and roughly seven years of a what some might consider more traditionally Scandinavian aesthetics.
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Years before they founded Our Legacy, Hallin and Nying showed an interest in fashion, working retail in their hometown in Sweden as kids: “The best store in my hometown Jönköping was called “Bobby’s Superstore,” I hung around there a little and tried my first hours on the floor there when I was 12 years old as a school internship,” Hallin told Real Clobber magazine in 2015. And, although, Our Legacy’s website states that this is how the two founders met, Nying recounted a different story in 2013: “We played ice hockey together when we were 15. We both quit and didn’t see each other for a while but met again through a friend when we were 23/24. We both lived in Gothenburg so we started to hang out at first as friends and then we saw we had something in common even though we were quite different, and that’s how we became interested in the same thing and why we do what we do today.”
Hallin and Nying’s friendship, whatever the story, did not immediately blossom into a business partnership; the two started their careers working separately as graphic designers. While Hallin also ran a fashion agency representing brands, Nying was focused more on graphic design as an art form: “I studied fashion communication previously and I think that lead us to this because we were working with clothes. After university it was firstly very fine art like sculpture, then painting, graphic design, more fashion communication, illustration and photography,” Nying explained to Sven Eselgroth in a 2013 interview. At the time, Hallin was also touring Sweden with a band that he started years earlier, playing guitar and singing backing vocals: “I grew up in Sweden in the ‘90s, skateboarding, playing in Hardcore bands and dreaming about what was going on in New York and Los Angeles,” he told GOODHOOD earlier this year upon the release of the brand’s collaboration with Vans Vault. In fact, Hallin was still occasionally touring in 2005 when he and Nying debuted their first designs, a line of T-shirts inspired by band merchandise and produced in Florence, Italy.
Neither designer felt they could find the clothing they wanted to wear, so they set out to design what they perceived as “the most perfect T-shirt ever,” but, despite these lofty goals, their operation was relatively DIY in the beginning; Nying’s father worked making vinyl and printed materials for a range of companies, and Our Legacy printed all of its samples in his home studio in a small city between Gothenburg and Stockholm. Hallin and Nying then traveled to Florence with these samples to get their first run of T-shirts produced, returning home before setting out to sell their shirts in Copenhagen and other nearby cities: “We put the tees in a sports bag and took my car to visit boutiques in Oslo, Copenhagen…They sold quickly and we were asked for more. We started from scratch and have learnt over the years,” Hallin explained to Vogue.
But, as trite as it might sound in today’s oversaturated world of T-shirt-centric streetwear brands, the duo’s first run of tees was also meant as a form of artistic expression—an opportunity to create a visual representation of their interest in, and experience with, various subcultures. In fact, the labels in Our Legacy’s garments originally read “1980-81,” a reference to Hallin and Nying’s birth years and a hint at the era and subcultures that inspire many of the brand’s designs. Our Legacy’s early success was particularly impressive considering Hallin and Nying only approached stores they admired: “Storm in Copenhagen and NK Mens Trend in Gothenburg that I mentioned earlier were actually among the 10 or so stores that carried the very first collection we released in 2005,” Hallin explained to Real Clobber magazine.
Yet, Hallin and Nying were not satisfied with just being another early 2000s T-shirt brand: “We were thinking about our idea of classic menswear, but done for us, done for our time. The generic look at that point [mid-2000s] was very slim and rock and roll, very Dior Homme-esque. We wanted to romanticize the modern gentleman—button-down shirts, chinos. . . . Now that doesn’t raise an eyebrow, but back then, it was all black stretch jeans,” Hallin reminisced to Vogue.
So, in 2007, Hallin and Nying invited mutual friend Richardos Klarén, who had been working in Stockholm doing sales for Acne, to join their fledgling brand, and he became the third co-owner. That same year, the newly-formed trio set out to produce their first fully realized collection for Spring/Summer 2008. “We got our first sample collection in 2007 which was around 40-50 pieces from Portugal with color options and we had trousers, knitwear, some light suiting and coats too,” Nying told Eselgroth. Hallin, Nying and Klarén had a showroom in Copenhagen at the time and the status and number of buyers that showed up far exceeded their expectations: “I remember Terry Ellis from Beams International Gallery in Tokyo was one of our first buyers and Storm in Copenhagen,” Nying recounted. A year later, Our Legacy opened its first flagship store on Krukmakargatan in Stockholm’s Södermalm district.
Our Legacy’s early collections were marked by what many people categorized as prep aesthetics mixed with Scandinavian minimalism, but the brand always had a more conceptual outlook on design, even if it wasn’t readily apparent in its garments: “I think we’re trying to look at all different areas and take different things or feelings, what they are doing and bring them together a bit more,” Nying clarified to Eselgroth. “For example how you wear a suit on an aeroplane, as a uniform, in a bakery or in a bank, we’re looking at how we can combine these and make a non-segregated look because we don’t like segregation.” One of Our Legacy’s first designs was a grey marled sweatshirt because they wanted to showcase the garment in a new context, outside of its traditional athletic-wear environment—an intention that was both ahead of its time and prophetic considering the rise of cozy boys and high-end, athletic-inspired clothing.
Yet, despite their increasing success during the early 2010s, the trio behind Our Legacy was feeling limited by the minimalist designs they had become known for. In fact, Hallin went so far as to dismiss and correct the term “minimalism” in a 2015 interview: “We do not necessarily use that term, we like ‘reducing,’ a jacket often looks better in our eyes without pockets but in the ‘right’ fabric.” So, in 2012, the trio behind Our Legacy made a collective decision to focus on “a more progressive approach,” starting with the brand’s Spring/Summer 2012 collection, inspired by the relaxed, yet refined style of “1950s expressionist authors and artists,” opening a Gothenburg store and a new flagship on Jakobsbergsgatan in Stockholm that same year. And, while Our Legacy’s Spring/Summer 2012 collection might not looked like such a leap from, let’s say, its Fall/Winter 2009 offerings, there are major differences. While Fall/Winter 2009 looks like a forefather to the early seasons of German brand A Kind of Guise’s quality-focused, at times offbeat, minimalism, Spring/Summer 2012’s “a CONSTELLATION within” is more daring in both its design and representation. The collection’s lookbook demonstrates Our Legacy’s passion for photography and offers what appears to be a week (or more) in the life of travelling artist, while the clothing showcases all-over geometric and paisley prints, reverse-terry textures, tailored sport coats and workwear-inspired jackets, and relaxed-fitting trousers that bring to mind everyone from Dries Van Noten to Henrik Vibskov to Japanese photographer Daisuke Hamada’s brand Niuhans, which is to say the aesthetics are very difficult to define, and this is exactly what the brand wants: “We don’t want people to see what we were inspired by,” Hallin explained to GQ in 2016.
And, while Our Legacy has continued this more conceptual approach over the past five-plus years, the brand still eschews many of the common labels and systems that more traditional and even avant-garde fashion designers ascribe to. The brand’s website states that “in many aspects [Our Legacy] still is, more of a product-focused company than a fashion brand focusing on seasonal collections with transitory themes.” This product-centric approach can be gleaned from both the conceptualization and execution of Our Legacy’s collections. Nying and Hallin start the design process with a ground-up approach and stay away from mood boards that pull photos from major cultural touchstones, such as popular films. Instead, they begin with color palettes, textures and fabrics: “It forces us to develop a lot of fabrics ourselves; that’s a big part of what we do, like dying techniques, colors, fabrics. Around 90 percent of what we do is done in Portugal, the rest in Italy. Over the years we’ve developed a really good relationship with our factory so we develop a lot of different fabrics and textures,” Hallin explained to Highsnobiety earlier this year.
Creative director Nying also gravitates toward art, photography and books versus fashion magazines, would rather spend his time developing great products than propagating lesser ones through social media and has little interest in staging Our Legacy fashion shows: “…I’d rather focus on the product and the books we’re doing to actually give something to the customers or the end consumer that they can keep,” Nying told Eselgroth.
Our Legacy’s focus on producing high quality products and mix of offbeat and approachable designs seems to be working. The brand opened a flagship store in London in 2014 and counts approximately 240 stockists worldwide. In 2016, the brand opened Work Shop in Stockholm—a store, studio and atelier focused on upcycling old garments: “I’d rather we breathe new life into old things rather than keep producing too much. It’s a way for us to stop a bit, because—and this is not me bragging—we sometimes get to things too early, so now we can bring those things back, at a better time,” Hallin explained to Vogue. Earlier this year, Our Legacy released the book “Self_Titled: A Book About Our Legacy,” that presents some of Hallin, Nying and Klarén’s influences, idols, collaborators, ephemera and especially their interest in photography. While the book does take a look back at the brand’s past, the trio “didn’t want the book to feel like a retrospective. We don’t want people to categorize us; people won’t know if something is from 2017 or 1997,” Hallin explained to Vogue. Hallin’s fear of being pigeonholed is understandable, since he and his partners have already had to reinvent their brand once. But, considering the reputation Our Legacy has cultivated with its followers, collaborators and stockists, it seems unlikely that the brand will be known as anything other than itself.