The colorful world of Norrøna

Feeling drab? Hop into the incredibly vivid universe of Norrøna with our in-house apparel designer, Sara.

Thanks for stepping away from your color swatches for a moment Sara. We’re curious, can you remember when you started to have strong opinions on color?  

It started early. My mom was a sewer. Everything I wore from the ages of zero to five was handmade by her. I grew up going to the fabric store with her. And she always collected different fabrics when on trips. So I would say I developed an eye for color when I first started working on projects with her.

Sara presenting our new collection and colors in our Munich Flagship Store

Are you in charge of specific pieces or collections here at Norrøna’s headquarters? 

No, our design process is incredibly collaborative. We all work interchangeably on products. At the start of each season, we get the whole product list and then divide it up. All designers have their input across all collections. Sometimes we even trade halfway through. That being said, I have been in charge of our lyngen collection since I started with Norrøna in 2020 because ski touring is my favorite activity. 

How much does Norrøna rely on color trends and forecasting? 

In our design department, we don’t have any subscriptions that rely on color forecasting. We do check WGSN (a popular hub for fashion trend forecasting) in small doses so that we can stay informed. However, we rely more on what makes us more excited and what has worked in the past. For example, if we think that yellow is the new color then we won’t immediately go and pick the forecasted color. We’d be more likely to head back into our archive and see what the best yellow is for our brand. 

How has the color palette evolved over the years for Norrøna? 

Norrøna has a strong core palette. Such as indigo night. Which is a navy. We’ve had this color for years. Together with neutrals and key brights. Our core palette is essential and then we add in seasonal colors. Sometimes we will add in pastels and if it sells well, then we keep them. We try to gradually build out our color palette so we don’t over invest. It is both more environmental and economical. 

The main idea is to give our collections more longevity.

“Last season” doesn’t matter. We know our products are investment pieces.”

Customers can buy one of our jackets one season, and then buy the matching pants a few years down the line. 

Is there a season in Norrøna’s past collections that you think was done exceptionally well?

Yes, the first one that comes to mind is our trail running collection, senja. When I first started, senja was supposed to be a whole other collection which was planned to be introduced this year in 2022. But it needed more work so we decided to hold off the commercialization of it and spend another season trying new solutions on both the colors and the design until it became a tight new collection for men and women. I’m really excited for this collection. It was the right choice to hold off so we could make sure each product got the attention it needed. 

Can you share a bit about the lofoten collection?

I know lofoten as our strongest, most brand-defining collection in terms of color and aesthetics. It has some of our best selling and most-featured products. It’s also our largest collection. We’ve always defined lofoten colors as sporty, bright and signifying Norrøna as a brand.

“This is the collection we start with every season, and from there our choices trickle into other collections.”

How much does gender neutrality play into the Norrøna color palette?

I’d say it plays quite heavily. Norrøna is really known for its sporty brights. Those bright colors we’ll use for both men and women the same amount but in different combinations. We do gender colors, but mostly in the way that we pair or block them with other colors. 

The perfect example is our senja collection. We use the same blue for men’s and women’s but paired with different colors. 

As a creative designer who works for a business, how hard is it for you to design for the brand and not yourself? 

It’s super challenging. I’m also a user of the brand, so I want to design for myself. To step back and see the big picture gets really difficult when you’re so focused on the details every day. It can be hard to let something go. Both from a user and a creative standpoint. We are creative problem solvers. You are hired for your skill level and your eye. But then you have to tweak that for a brand you’re working for. It can be frustrating to find the balance between leeway and following the chain of command. 

Then again, I’ve never worked at a brand that has such a strong and consistent identity.

You don’t always want to follow the brand rules, but they are there for a reason. There is a kind of brand language that becomes your guide.

How often does personal preference play a role in Norrøna’s color choices? 

Again it’s part of the whole package. Designers introduce the new colors and pick them based on what they like. Our personal preferences are what heavily influence the concept stage of design. But then we work directly with our sales, marketing and retail teams in order to align and designate the color for each concept and product. My personal preference would never be strong enough of a reason to change or keep a color. I’d say we’re left to our own devices in the early stages, but then when everybody else joins, the methodical process phases it out. 

Do you have a favorite color for an up-and-coming collection? 

Definitely Grapeshake one hundred percent! You’ll see it in our Fall/Winter 23/24 collection.

It’s purple, but it’s dusty, more dull and more gender neutral. It pushes the ‘grey zone’ of what we think our customers, both men & women, want and expect from us.

With light purple being such a key color across different apparel categories, we wanted to play in this area-enter Grape Shake.

When you’re not in the design studio, where do you draw color inspiration from the most?  

Mainly from my Instagram feed. You know how you can save photos and put them in different folders. I do that for color. So everything really. From photos of furniture to professional athletes. 

Of course inspiration can happen in nature as well. I remember taking my dog for a run in Frogner park in Oslo. The park had laid down this new speckled clay-colored pathway. During my run, I looked down and saw that the sliver of orange on my shoes stood out more than ever. It reminded me how a pop of color, set against an all neutral background, can become so important.

2 thoughts on “The colorful world of Norrøna”

  1. Darcy Kabatoff

    I wish Norrona would bring back some of the whimsical color combinations of the 2013-2017 Lofoten collections. The bright colors with contrasting zippers were some of my favorite jackets and pants!

  2. “With light purple being such a key color across different apparel categories, we wanted to play in this area” – I’m so excited to see Norrona adding light purple to their collections! It’s been undeniably popular across many outdoor wear brands, and definitely my favorite colorway that I always look for. I do wish that Norrona would optimize for bright and vivid, instead of “dull and dusty” which appears to be the current plan – visibility on the mountain is a critical parameter for me in my gear selection. I’ll keep my fingers crossed and hold out hope for this outcome!

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