Fam Irvoll is one of Oslo’s most loved fashion designers. Her colorful maximalist style is so far from the classic Scandinavian minimalism as it’s possible to come, something that sets her clearly apart from her fellow Oslo-based designers. Her world is like a whimsical dream, and most likely a guilty pleasure for a population famed for dressing practical and sensibly in black and white. Styletalk meet her at home, in her back garden where she sits working on some new illustrations while free ranging chickens play at her feet.
As a kid her dream was to become a figure skater. She was talented on the ice, but then she discovered fashion and design. After graduating from London’s Saint Martin, she’s presented numerous collections but after 2017 she dropped out. But now she’s back after a long break from fashion.
Fam: I work as an illustrator, that is my day job. With clothes I regard myself more like an artist. I have no ambitions to make fashion my full-time career.
Styletalk: Why not?
Fam: Because I refuse to bend to the demands about being commercial. I regard myself more like an artist, not fashion designer. I tried for a while to succeed commercially but when I look back at those attempts I feel the ick. That is not what I was meant to do – make hoodies with logos. The world has enough hoodies as it is, no need for me to add to the pile. It’s not sustainable.
Last time she showed a full collection was in 2017. It was her attempt to break into the more commercial market, but it didn’t work. She remembers the bad reviews.
Fam: When I got bad reviews I kind of agreed. The collection just wasn’t me and I knew it. That is not a good feeling. So, I made my mind up: never again! I want to sit and embroider until my fingers bleed and immerse myself in the craft of creating these pieces. If I don’t, I’ll die. I must do it right, do it in a way that feels right for me.
She is known for her angry posts in social media, ranting about anything from pollution and animal welfare to discrimination of refugees and racism.
Styletalk: Would you call yourself an activist?
Fam: Yes. I’m just so angry at a lot of the rightwing bullshit that is happening in the world as we speak. I am a proud socialist. And an activist. I have been an activist since I was 13 and joined NOAH for the ethical treatment of animals. I would run around and spray ketchup on people’s fur coats and stuff. Those days are over, but I still have a desire to do something that feels makes sense.
The new collection is aptly named “Just Like Before, Baby” – consisting of a line of dresses and separates that could have been nicked out of Christine Keeler’s wardrobe. On the runway were drag artists, burlesque dancers, non-binary persons as well as models and celebrities who looked like they could have all marched right out from Andy Warhol’s Factory in New York way back.
Styletalk: What is it about the sixties and early seventies that you like?
Fam: I am drawn to it both esthetically and politically. Visually I love everything; the hair, makeup, the way people posed and danced. The colors. It was also an interesting decade with riots and demands for change, which kind of reminds me of where we are now with all the populist bullshit that is going on. First comes riot, then comes colors. I wanted to bring the colors.
Fam Irvoll’s collection will be available to see in her London show room during London Fashion Week. Some of the pieces will also be made for sale. And – this is slow fashion. You want a dress; you will have to order it and wait. And pray you get lucky.
Fam: I am doing limited edition of the most popular dresses, maximum 10 of each. And it will not the most elaborate ones, they are more like show pieces and would be too expensive to produce. I refuse to be elitist. If someone love my designs, they should be able to buy them regardless. I’d love a system where you pay according to how much money you earn. That would feel fair.
All runway photos: Anton Soggiu