A conversation, unlike any other. Scandinavia by way of Africa. Nordic design fuelled by Japanese modesty. This is fashion for listeners and curious explorers.

As we trickle up the wooden steps leading to the creaky and modest town-house atelier of HANSEN GARMENTS, we can truly sense Copenhagen’s old trading history. Huddled around a wooden table, we sip black coffees, with Aase Helene Hansen, the creative force behind these workwear tailors. It felt surreal to sit here, away from the minimalist polished interiors of the boutiques steadily devouring the old inner town. The creaky floorboards, Aase’s clear resonating voice, the touch of the fabrics and the silent roar of the autumn winds, simply swept me away. HANSEN tells stories of dressing you and me, without following trends or outside influences. For them it is plainly about crafting garments that are meant to be worn, lived in and grow fond of. Well, who better to explain this, than Ms. Hansen herself.



Aase, lets start from the beginning. As I understood you grew up in Africa and afterwards moved to Scandinavia, could you tell me about your early experiences in the North?

Africa was such a rich place, scents, feelings, expressions. I remember, my first visits to Sweden and Norway, which left great impressions. It was really exotic and different. Not easy to explain. In a way, it is like I locked the images and these initial clear strong memories of the ‘scent’ of Scandinavia. Staying at my grand mothers farm in Sweden was heaven for instance. As were my first engagements with the rugged fjords of Norway. If I look back at that farm, we even shot our SS12 image campaign there, using my uncle and cousins who now run the farm as models – I think the images we ended up with really feel the same as those in my memory.

What eventually led you towards becoming a designer?

Very early, I think it was around my sixteenth birthday, I realised that I should start thinking about the impossible decisions for my future. At this time, I went to a Waldorf School (ed. founded by Rudolf Steiner), I made me feel worried, that this education was simply not ‘good enough’ if you I wanted to become a lawyer, doctor etc. Therefore, I decided that my talent was to be developed in the creative field and that I should stick to this. When we fast-forward, and look many years ahead, I found myself, educated as a photographer, working with jewellery and finally attending the Royal School of Design in Copenhagen. This was the final step towards becoming a fully fledged designer.



If we explore the HANSEN collections, what is especially striking is your eye for fabrics, details and making garments people can actually wear and live in. How do you see this yourself?

Fabric is the core of our collections. When creating a collection, I always start with the fabrics, textures and colours. For me this process, is like painting,  the structures and colours work together and in the end make for fully rounded image.  The connection between silhouette, texture and contrast resonates very much in my work. The design part, in a way is based on my long lasting experience and the concept we work from . My urge to prove to myself and others that I am very creative, is not so present or important anymore. My focus has changed and I prefer to design pieces that will have a long life and hopefully become someone’s favourite. This is what it is all about: connection.

You have always struck me as a flaneur, a true explorer, which is something we have in common. Could you describe one of the journeys you made, that left a most profound mark?

Well, I simply would not know where to start. However, if I reflect a little, what I love the most is the grandeur of rugged pure nature. This for me means, standing in the savannah in Africa with the high dry grass looking at the endless horizon. Or perhaps, when you just climbed a mountain top in Norway, trying to catch your breath whilst taking in the view.



This also connects on how you visualise your work through imagery, often using people in your direct environment. What is your relationship towards photography?

Indeed, as we craft garments that are to be worn on a daily basis, it is important to me, to also have real individuals featured in my work. In this way, I found a way to unite my love for photography and my love for design. Now, I take all our images myself. I look for people with character or I cast people on the streets and use my friends and even family as models. This makes for a HANSEN community, one that is sincere and outspoken.

The imagery also serves as a comment perhaps, reminding us that your work is meant to be sported by real people, living their lives.  How do you observe the fashion industry, and in particular its constant hunger for the next new thing?

You are right, I have never really been very interested in the ‘next thing’. I see fashion more as a phenomenon.  I view it more as part of human behaviour, which I think is very interesting. We are all part of it. So am I. Keeping this artificial hunger alive of course is a really great way to make money, and perhaps it is quite very clever. However it is not my way. To decorate our selves is a human urge and important to all mankind, rich or poor. I have chosen to do my best to make a product, that I believe, incorporates an ethical approach towards the world we live in. Perhaps my up growing in Africa has an important place in my work after all.



Do you think that living in Scandinavia, has also influenced the work you do and the collection? If so, how precisely?

Absolutely. Well actually: yes and no. Speaking as a designer it is a choice. I could also live in Denmark and make a South American (albeit I have never been there) influenced collection if this was my wish. Imagination has no limit. But I want to express Scandinavia further. To have to limit myself in order to maintain a strong identity, which is important for our communication and business. It is key to take the right decisions whilst being focused, which makes me feel quite peaceful and relieved. Perhaps, working on Hansen, is also my way of truly exploring my Nordic identity and roots.

I am always curious to ask designers about how they experience the new generation of creatives coming up. What would you say to hopeful graduates, shaping their identity as independent fashion designers?

Well, you will not find your identity by looking for it. Do as much you can. Travel as much as possible. Make mistakes. Live a lot. I am still dong all of this and hope I will never say I found my identity.


And to keep us on our toes, could you tell me what YOUTH means to you?

Youth is so important. Is like a full tank of gasoline without any maps to follow. There is only looking forward. Now, when looking back (my only option) I am really happy that I had what I think it stands for: Courage and stupidity. I knew it all and simply got wiser.