Photography: Elizabeth Gabrielle Lee
Styling: Sofia Lai
Text: Anna Sanders
NHORM, a label founded by Mathilda Nilsson and Hanna Rudebeck, aesthetically sits between the push / pull of two designers differing in the paths that led them to the same result, and between the conflicting ideas that brought them there.
This inclination toward collaboration is paramount to their working methodology – with one another, and with other artists. NHORM + SR, their collection shown with AMAZE in January of last year, saw the work of jewellery artist Sarah Robertson woven into their designs. Fabric and silver informed one other in gentle twists and metallic greys, and the elements interacted: sleeves were held up by hoops, vinyl pulled closer by coils, jewellery so embedded within clothing it became part of it, moving beyond function and beauty to become integral to the design.
It is this act of separation and similarity that inspires their work; influence is drawn from unlikely pairings, and the integrating of worlds seemingly far apart. For Autumn/Winter 2016? Hip-hop and ice-skaters.
INFINITY, their Autumn/Winter 2016 collection, is layered, muted; drawing on the loose, flowing silhouettes of these seemingly jarring influences. Pieces hang low on the body, and draw in on the waist: over-sized, yet elegant, and inspired by the movement and music of the two genres. A dress slips low on the shoulders as though just shaken off, checkered prints are cut in floor sweeping lengths or embellished with sequins on sleeves that fall over the hands.
These nuances of duality are felt throughout their creative practice, and in that harmonious meeting from individual elements that perhaps in another’s hands would not be as eloquently realised. They speak of their collaboration as a continuous dialogue, the ebb and flow of ideas; notions of the unfixed and changing resonate in their designs – expected patterns are broken, designs challenged.
We spoke with Mathilda Nilsson and Hanna Rudebeck about their unusual dynamic, their definitive style, and their latest collection, exclusively shot in full below.
Anna: How would you say your working styles differ?
Mathilda: They differ a lot. I would say that I throw up ideas without really thinking, more intuitively. Hanna is the one who works an idea through until it is totally solid.
Hanna: Yes, what Mathilda said. I need to dive deep into what I do, shut everything else out and work focused for hours, doing everything over and over until I am completely satisfied. And that goes for both sketching on paper and doing toiles. I need to work with the material, developing ideas through my hands; whereas Mathilda is constantly designing in her head, picking up things around her and implementing them in our work.
A: Do you fulfill certain roles within your working relationship, or do you find the dynamic changes from project to project?
M: We are trying to sort this out at the moment. Currently the only roles that are totally clear, is that I do prints and Hanna drapes. This is usually something we don’t talk much about since it is not necessary for us to shout out who made what, as even though I do the prints, they would not look the way they do if I didn’t have Hanna and vice versa. People are quite obsessed with who made what: we always get questions about who made a certain piece in the collection and the answer is, and will always be, NHORM.
H: We fulfill different roles since we are two different people, absolutely. And the more ‘real’ NHORM gets, the clearer it becomes to us that we need to divide tasks between us to be able to be more efficient and to have a smoother working relationship – such as acknowledging that we are good at different things, and that this is a strength to take advantage of.
A: With INFINITY, how did you develop the different elements of the collection – did you begin with a specific idea in mind, or are you constantly challenging one another to reach the end results?
M: I think the starting point was to use the silhouettes of ice-skating to reshape the hip-hop silhouette. In the beginning, me and Hanna had different ideas of how this should be done, and somewhere in the middle they were merged together in a way that always makes us euphoric.
H: We always work with a specific idea, developing a concept, often very visually. Like now, using the silhouette, details, and materials from hip-hop and ice-skating and combining them into a new whole. This we really have in common, the way of collecting inspiration very visually. But the design process is a constant challenge of developing and merging of one another’s ideas. I would say that is our method of designing and what pushes us forward.
A: You regularly work with volume and contrast in your designs – would you say this signature style is a jumping off point for all your collections, or do your ideas naturally translate this way?
M: I think it translates like this naturally since we are two designers that in the beginning are quite different from each other. But that is also the jumping off point since that is why we work together, to merge the differences.
H: I think it is a translation of the two of us coming together – like the main thing that happens when we merge our design aesthetics and ideas. And also the outcome of a shared interest in challenging an aesthetic, making it skew or less expected. Like translating a cargo-jacket into a girly dress, doing a super elegant silhouette in a really shitty quality or placing a loud print all over a beautifully draped piece.
A: You cite 90s hip-hop and ice-skating as influences for your Autumn/Winter 2016 collection, what elements of these two sub-cultures drew you to them the most?
M: The similarities between them. With ice-skating I think there is something really interesting with the very decorated dresses that still need to be functional. With hip-hop and the style it starts with functional work-wear that is over-sized in a way that makes them less functional.
H: Yes, the similarities and the differences between the two. They both share that functional, decorated quality, and aesthetically the combination of the oversized silhouette and tacky embellishment.
A: What’s next for NHORM?
M: A new collection…
H: …and opening our Web-shop.