With nary a Dale of Norway cardigan sweater in sight, the new Moods of Norway store at Mall of America presents a much different Norway of today.
“These kids drip trendiness and cool,” said Norway’s honorary Consul General Gary Gandrud, 69, of Moods founders Peder Borresen, Simen Staalnacke, and Stefan Dahlkvist, all in their late 30s or early 40s.
It’s difficult not to appear hip with their Nordic good looks, wearing tailored red polka-dot sport coats, skinny pants and gold leather loafers with a pink tractor logo on the side.
Their first store in a mall, the MOA store is only the third Moods store in the United States, after Los Angeles and New York. Dahlkvist said they dropped anchor in Minnesota for several reasons — the 867,000 residents with Norwegian heritage here, the success that local retailers Len Druskin, Martin Patrick3 and Minq have already had carrying the line, as well as a healthy number of Web orders shipping to Minnesota addresses.
Christian Andersen, 17, an exchange student from Norway staying with a family in the Twin Cities, couldn’t wait for the store to open. “I came for the waffle mix,” he said, but he also picked up a pair of pajama bottoms with tractors on them.
Prices and colors may shock Norwegians who keep their spending and styling in reserve. Sport coats drop in the $500 to $600 range, jeans $150 to $200, sport shirts $100 to $150 and T-shirts about $50. Smaller accessories, food and beverage items are much less.
Still, local fashionistas say the clothing is well-priced considering its quality design. “The detailing, fine fabrics and unexpected color combinations give it traditional roots with a contemporary cut and feel,” said Greg Walsh, owner of MartinPatrick3 in Minneapolis, which has carried the men’s line for two years.
The fall theme, called Fiddlers & Waltzers, represents Moods’ polar opposites, casual and formal wear for men and women. Dahlkvist playfully describes the Fiddlers’ clothes as “lowbrow” and the Waltzers’ as “too big for their breeches.”
The store is in the mall’s luxury row on the first floor between the Rainforest Cafe and Macy’s, blending in among neighbors Juicy Couture, Henri Bendel, Lululemon, Armani Exchange and J Crew’s Madewell, which opens in the fall.
Being in a mall cramped the style of the grand opening festivities. Free-standing Moods stores usually park a life-size pink tractor in front during a grand opening, along with a few live mountain goats and sheep for regional color and odor, but mall regulations wouldn’t allow that, said Dahlkvist.
The tractor, the brand’s logo, is embossed on its casual shoes and tees and pinned on the breast pocket of sport coats and blazers.
But the 10-year-old brand’s cheekiness is also seen in its finer details, including the tag on the jacket lining that reads “Made with love by really, really pretty blonde girls.” Underneath this season’s suit collars is “246,619,” the current number of registered tractors in Norway.
Hiding under the frivolity lies a serious business that’s expected to do $75 million in revenue this year, according to Jan Flo, co-founder and finance director. By 2016, the retailer expects to have $50 million in revenue from 10 to 12 U.S. stores.
The company also designed opening-ceremony outfits for Norway’s Olympians in the 2012 Summer Olympics and the upcoming Winter Olympics, as well as one of the uniforms for airline attendants and pilots on Norwegian Air.
The company is still based in the small town of Stryn (population 6,750), where two of founders were raised. Despite their “too cool for skol” hip quotient, the founders are proud and fond of their heritage. The hang tags on many of the clothes show photos of Stryn and Staalnacke’s family, including his grandmother, whose recipe is printed on the waffle mix.
“It’s easy to make your parents proud, but our goal has always been to make our grandparents proud,” he said.
And happy. “Happy clothes for happy people” is the motto.