Celine Aagaard’s timeless minimalism is perfect for the new year

«Light, the way it changes through the year – that is my greatest inspiration» says Celine Aagaard, the woman behind Envelope 1976.

PHOTO: Tomas Ekstrøm/MONOCLE

The Oslo based designer Celine Aagaard (above right) whose modern classics are sold at Net-a-Porter and Browns started her own label two years ago, working with eco.logic, a house of brands founded by Pia Nordskaug (above left). As the fashion industry worldwide is facing its greatest challenge since the French started their fashion syndicate in 1868, their aim is to produce fashion in a more sustainable business model better suited for the future. As the pandemic has changed how we all work, Aagaard chose to fuse together autumn-winter 2020/21 and her pre-collection this season and she hopes this could be a growing trend.

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«The collection is timeless, and features strong contrasts suited for any season as the palette is hot and cold, from dusty grey and sand to colder tones of black and white. And of course – there’s knits, even a hand knitted limited edition piece» Aagaard told Styletalk as we visited her showroom in October.

Envelope 1976 – the name stems from Aagaards blog and the year she was born. Her goal has always been to go as green as possible by focusing on simplicity and the essentials in your wardrobe: beautiful contrasting pieces you can layer, turn inside-out and back-to-front for max versatility, proving that less items in your closet really means more.

«That’s our DNA – clean minimalism and the mixing of styles» says Aagaard.

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It is so easy to spot her love for nature – you see it both in the clothes themselves and in the elegant presentation of the new line – aptly named «The Rocks». The shoot was done close to Aagaards cabin south in Norway – a landscape formed by volcanic pebbles and slopes of naked rocks that tumbles into the fjord. The styling is kept to a minimum with rays of warm light as the only accessory. Celine Aagaard’s father is a photographer and as a young girl she fantasized about following in his footsteps. So, it comes as no surprise she is inspired by light.

«The new collection I found my greatest inspo in the wildness of the Norwegian mountains – Geilo, and the beauty of Hardangervidda. It helped me name the pieces: «Hardanger» is the turtleneck top, «Vidda» the T-shirt. All the white pieces are like the view from our mountain cabin» she says.

Styletalk: What are you working on now?
«Strengthening our design, seeing what improvements can be made. Working on new details and materials, seeing if we can work even more out of season than we already do. These things are time consuming but important to stay interesting and relevant.»

As travelling is put to a minimum due to restrictions, she’s opened a showroom and popup-store at Grünerløkka – one of Oslo’s busiest fashion districts. People can come browse, try garments on and even get alterations made at times if needed.

Styletalk: Are physical shops still a must?
«Well e-commerce is popping, but at the same time I have noticed that people like the shopping experience – it’s a tactile thing where you want to see and feel the garments for real. Personally, I find it rewarding, the whole social thing of being in the shop, and to see how people these last months have gone out of their way to support local businesses» says Aagaard. Still, she knows the combo of a net-shop and a physical outlet is the ideal and they are now represented by two major luxury net shops: Net-a-Porter and Browns.

When Natalie Massenet’s Net-a-Porter launched 20 years ago people might have had doubts about buying high end fashion on the net. But last summer Harper’s Bazaar wrote the market for luxury e-commerce has exploded. For Envelope 1976 it has been a successful way to international acclaim.

«Being with Net-a-Porter has been an amazing way to get our brand out to more people as well as educational where production is concerned. This is a grownup-world, they don’t play shop – you promise something, you better deliver.»

Styletalk: Where do you prefer to shop?
«I buy very little. But when I do I admit I love to browse in concept stores and small, well curated boutiques» says Aagaard. She loves living in Oslo, so cutting down on travelling has not been a biggie.

«We had a good flow last spring, went to Paris where we made many great client bookings. Then lockdown hit and everything stopped. That sucked of course. And yes, of course I miss social mixing and all the fun of meeting people. But I also have a 10-year-old who needs me at home so I’m ok with keeping travelling to a minimum.» Says Aagaard. So, this summer they had to swap Paris for a virtual showing and meetings via Teams.

«The upside has been finding this spot at Grünerløkka and creating our own little Marias right here. It’s important to learn to adapt to change» says Aagaard.

She loves the ocean. Four days a week all year round she rides her bike to the beach for a swim before work.

«Yea it’s pretty hardcore. I bathe in the lakes up in the mountains as well. I just love water, but preferably the sea. I’m no health freak but I feel it does me good both physically and mentally.»

If there was one trend that went worldwide last year it was the comfy stay-at-home style. Clothing chains claimed they could not produce enough onesies and tracksuits to meet the demand. Celine Aagaard is no fan.

«I like comfortable clothes but won’t start making sweatshirts anytime soon. Instead, I encourage people to wear better clothes, even if you are just staying at home. Buying clothes too nice to wear and leaving them in the wardrobe is not sustainable. Just put on that nice dress and add a big, knitted sweater and a pair of worn chunky boots for a more laidback style – it beats a tracksuit any day.»

All photos with kind permission: Envelope 1976

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