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Bonnie Olesen

Brand house IC Companys’ UK and RoI operations manager explains to Stephen Spear what makes Danish fashion so distinctive

How did you get into fashion?

My husband was working in Montreal in Canada and I was looking for Danish companies to work for there, and just by chance I found IC Companys.

What were your first thoughts on working in the fashion world?

I had worked for an interiors company in Denmark, which was similar because of the design element and the structure of the business had similarities with seasonal collections. Actually, what
was important at IC Companys was that I understood the culture of the mother country – the boss was Danish and was looking for Danes to work with.

What is distinct about Danish culture?

We don’t have the fear of authority that some nations do. We are very decisive and if you ask for an opinion, you will get it. In Canada, by contrast, people seemed to be scared of making a decision.

And Danish fashion is distinctive too – why is that?

Danish people have no fear of the new and there is a lot of individualism. We are lucky that everyone gets their education paid for and so we always have lots of graduates all willing to express themselves.

Do you think Danish fashion can maintain its momentum in the market? Yes. Danish fashion has made a real name for itself and it’s partly because we always seize on new movements. For instance, the Danes are well ahead in terms of ethical fashion. At [IC Companys’ womenswear brand] Jackpot we have had an organic range for three years now, and five euros from every T-shirt sale goes to help fund schools in Bangladesh, which is one of the countries we source from.

And what are your views on UK retailers?

They’re definitely different from the Danish ones. There is more variety here in the UK. There are boutique buyers who are very passionate and control everything exactly and there are others who come in and “just love everything” but need a bit of guidance.

Have you felt much impact from the economic downturn?

We’ve had to make a few cuts and marketing isn’t huge at the moment. But we’re doing well. Where we struggle is when retailers close down. January and February was the toughest time, with lots of closures. But our customers are loyal and we have six or seven shop-in-shops planned to launch for Part Two, Jackpot and InWear.

So you’re confident for the future?

It will be tough for the next six months. But we’ve just been selling our winter 09 collection – we have four collections per year for our brands and sell much closer to the season – and the buyers are already more confident than they were when we sold the autumn 09 range.

What do you enjoy most about your job? Working with our different brands. I’ve worked here for long enough to know just by looking at each garment which brand it is from, because each one has such a strong DNA. 

Quickfire questions

What can you not resist shopping for? I love shoes and bags. Only last week I bought a pair of black Christian Louboutin shoes in Selfridges.

What is your favourite shop? Etailer Net-a-Porter – I’m on there almost daily. It’s like an addiction.

Who is the most stylish celebrity? I’m kind of a classic so I love Sharon Stone – she is never ‘in’ or ‘out’ but she is always up to date.

Who is your favourite designer? I’m fascinated by Karl Lagerfeld. He has looked the same for 20 years and his collections for Chanel are so amazing and really feminine.

  • Bonnie Olesen is business operations manager for UK and RoI at brand house IC Companys, whose 11 brands include Jackpot, InWear and Matinique

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