Before Selfridges approached Norwegian brand Iben at Copenhagen trade show CIFF last year, founder Anh-Marthe Storheil had not considered launching her “tomboy” fashion line in the UK. Instead, she was focused on cracking mainland Europe and continuing to make a dent in Japan where, she tells Drapers, the brand does “really well”.
However, Selfridges is hard to say no to – and Iben launched exclusively in the luxury department store’s London flagship and online store earlier this month.
Storheil started the brand in 2014 in Norway, where she also owns a fashion agency and high-end multibrand independent retailer called Støy (“noise” in Norwegian). It began as a high-quality knitwear brand aimed at the local Norwegian market, but today offers a full range of ready-to-wear, including dresses, trousers, knitwear and outerwear.
“I saw a lot of potential in the market for a new Norwegian brand with a strong identity,” Storheil explains. “I wanted Iben to communicate a confident and powerful feeling to the women wearing our pieces.”
She describes the Iben woman as “strong, free and ambitious”: “She has a tomboy mentality and a relaxed way of thinking; she fascinates and inspires those around her.”
Iben is now stocked in around 150 stores across Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Norway, including Støy. Whoelsale prices range from £80 for a dress to £250 for a coat, but are “really dependent” on the material used. It also sells direct to consumers via its own site, which ships worldwide.
The spring 19 collection was inspired by memories of a long summer and the innocence of childhood, says Storheil, adding that it captures an “I can do whatever I want” mentality. This is reflected through the sun-bleached hues and relaxed, minimalist silhouettes that have come to define the brand’s DNA.
Although Iben has only just landed in the UK, Storheil intends to grow the brand here by seeking new stockists, alongside targeting other key international markets such as Japan, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Germany. She will show Iben at Copenhagen’s CIFF again this season and also in Paris, where it will have its own showroom.
Storheil is also keen to expand into footwear and handbags, but is wary of “doing too much, too soon”. Her greatest concern is ensuring that “everything is perfect and always fitting with the Iben aesthetic”.