The rock star of Norwegian textiles

Chalet in the Woods, based in Gig Harbor, Wash., hosted a fashion show to showcase Oleana's "Autumn Leaves and Winter Roses" collection. Photo courtesy of Laura Almaas.

Chalet in the Woods, based in Gig Harbor, Wash., hosted a fashion show to showcase Oleana's "Autumn Leaves and Winter Roses" collection. Photo courtesy of Laura Almaas.

Oleana visits Chalet in the Woods in Gig Harbor, Wash. to share their fall collection, “Autumn Leaves and Winter Roses”

By Laura Almaas

Special to the Norwegian American Weekly

How does one explain the passion that inspired some devotees to travel as long as 12 hours to see the new fall collection, “Autumn Leaves and Winter Roses”? Chalet in the Woods, of Gig Harbor, Wash., hosted a fashion show for the award-winning design firm on Sept. 12.  Visiting Washington state for the first time in more than a decade, Oleana’s co-owners Kolbjorn Valestrand and Signe Aarhus were also on hand along with their designer Solveig Hisdal to greet longtime customers as well as to meet new fans.  The weather cooperated with sun and warm weather for the outdoor fashion event in the Chalet’s cedar forest.

Oleana was founded in 1992 and from the beginning has been committed to forging a distinct path.  They chose to knit and sew all of Oleana’s products in their own factory in Espeland, Norway at a time when other companies were leaving that country seeking cheap labor elsewhere.  According to Signe, “Our key competitive weapons are design, quality and flexibility.” Kolbjorn echoes that sentiment: “Oleana makes its mark at the cutting edge where industry and craft meet.”  The enthusiasts who crowded the stage at Chalet in the Woods for a closer look at the new fashions offered a compelling testament to the success of their vision.

Oleana was founded in 1992 in Espeland, Norway, and committed to forging a distinct path in quality design.

Oleana was founded in 1992 in Espeland, Norway, and committed to forging a distinct path in quality design.

Oleana’s sole designer is Solveig Hisdal, who brilliantly mines Norwegian history – researching old folk costumes, antique textiles and even vintage wallpaper – to inform her designs.  Though inspired by the past, Solveig’s clothing is very much made for today.  Her background in fashion design shines through every piece, embodied by her innate sense of color and pattern as expressed through the vibrant hues and floral motifs that are the hallmark of Oleana.

Over the years, the dreams and visions for Oleana have never wavered, only expanded.  The company has received many awards for design as well as entrepreneurship and today Oleana’s sweaters, silks, shawls, coats and blankets are sold in Europe, North America and Australia as fans of the line continue to grow.  Customers are attracted to its “fair-made” polices and use of ecological fibers like wool, silk, alpaca and cashmere.

“More people are searching out better and more beautiful clothing,” says Laura Almaas, owner of Chalet in the Woods.  “We’re really starting to understand that the solution to pollution is quality – and no one speaks to that ideal quite like Oleana.”

Oleana has been available at the Chalet in the Woods from the beginning of the company, and now Almaas also works as an agent for Oleana setting up new shops in areas where Oleana has not been available yet.  Almaas has also helped produce fashion shows at the Norway Day festival in San Francisco for more then 10 years.

The Chalet in the Woods started in 1986, carrying only products produced in Scandinavia, but now also offers other European products, such as St James clothing from France and 66 Degrees North from Iceland. The full line of Oleana is available at the Chalet including silks made to size, perfect for special occasions. To learn more about Chalet in the Woods, visit www.chaletinthewoods.com. For more information about Oleana, please visit www.oleana.com.

This article was originally published in the Norwegian American Weekly on October 9, 2009. For more information about the Weekly, call us at (800) 305-0217 or email subscribe@norway.com.

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