As New York edges closer and closer to the crisp evenings of autumn, Elisabeth Stray Pederson has a tempting product: the blanket coat. Her brand, ESP, is based in Oslo and gives a sustainable, traditional spin to the fast-fashion blanket coats we are used to seeing from retailers like Forever 21.
The company has a female-led legacy that stretches back to 1955, when Unn Søiland Dale worked with Givenchy and Dior, among others, to start her label Lillunn. Dale focused on hand knits and fashionable, well-made, functional coats. Pederson bought the Lillunn company in 2015, and her goal has been to evolve the brand to speak to a more sustainably minded generation.
Pederson tries to “work as local as possible” and know “the value chain and everyone involved.” This means that when the company needs wool, as it constantly does, that wool comes “from the crossbred sheep that have been walking freely in the highlands around Gol in Norway.” This wool meets Nordic Ecolabel standards and is Woolmark certified, according to Vogue. ESP also sources from local creators for their detail work. Their ribbons and threads come from Dovre and Romsdalen, mountainous regions of Norway.
The designs Pederson creates don’t just look sleek—they tend to be nods to Norway’s past. Her reversible coats, chunky scarves, and many of the other pieces have patterns adapted from ones that already existed and are crafted using traditional techniques. Reusing things from the past is a theme of ESP’s fall 2020 collection as well, since Pederson decided to incorporate upcycling into her process this season.
Scraps from her factory and other new materials, like leather, have added texture to Pederson’s designs as the pandemic has forced her to slow down. Her film for Oslo’s virtual fashion week, which began yesterday, features local brewers Vanessa Krogh and Cornelia Øiestad, and attempts to capture their belief that “there is no waste, only opportunity.” Pederson sees the current pace of life as an opportunity, too. She says that this is the perfect time for “repairing and taking care of things” and focusing on “what’s important in your life.”