While in Copenhagen… A visit to Hansen Garments

One of the places I was most looking forward to visit while in Copenhagen was the world HQ of quality menswear brand Hansen Garments. I’ve been a fan for a few years now and have enjoyed following their ascent from being a tiny and almost unknown brand to where they are now, a little larger, yet still as dedicated, still doing their own thing and still refining supremo Åse’s vision of great menswear.

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Åse Helena Hansen, a rare moment not in motion.

Organising a visit with Hansen is not easy, as in the world of a tiny menswear company, there is no downtime and always a thousand things that should have been done yesterday. I was lucky though, in that Hansen herself, Åse, agreed to take a break, downed tools and invited me in for a chat and a quick tour of their brand new premises.

This building is in itself worthy of a post, but in summary it is an ancient example of Copenhagens bricks and mortar building tradition, in a back yard. Consisting of 5 floors with a single small room on each, with a narrow stairway running from floor to floor. Åse has the top floor as her workspace, the admin office is one floor down, storage and communications room on third, a showroom on second, and the first floor is meeting room and kitchen. It’s a tight ship indeed.

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The ‘Frederik’ striped linen blazer for SS14

Readers that have been paying attention will have noticed my endearment with the work of Hansen Garments and and it was a little daunting to finally be meeting Åse, who basically is Hansen in almost it’s entirety. With help from her husband Per and Canadian intern Greg. It’s a small and dedicated, and very personal business, and that’s the way Åse likes it.

When I stopped by she was busy working on preparing the SS15 collection for production, which allowed us to chat about how the Hansen collections change from year to year. Change is perhaps the wrong word, as it’s really more of a Darwinian evolution than coming up with a new selection for each season. If something doesn’t sell, it’s dropped, and if it’s popular it evolves and returns for another round, in new colours and fabrics. Mostly, given the limited capacity, the collections are kept at around 40 pieces. Usually that is a selection of 40 strong and unique pieces though, so it’s definitely a case of quality over quantity.

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The ‘Gustav’ blazer in indigo colour for SS14

At one point I suggested that Hansen was more a part of the Heritage, rather than the fashion side, side of the industry. This thoughtless comment was shot down immediately. Obviously I was a little casual with my terminology, as to to me “heritage” is a lot wider than being strictly the reproduction of actual vintage pieces, like the various old Lewis models that are recreated with such dedication to details by any number of Japanese jeans-makers!

Åse is very much more about doing her own thing, and takes great pride in the actual design and fit of her garments. With a background from more mainstream fashion, it is clear that she is totally dedicated to the vision of menswear she has for Hansen. While there will certainly be inspiration from vintage and traditional Scandinavian clothing, it is very much more abut creating and evolving the Hansen designs, not just copying old stuff.

I still think it’s safe to say there are aspects of the vintage, the heritage and workwear, so if you’re into those types of clothes, Hansen will likely be of interest to you. If not, have an open mind, if you appreciate quality and realistically priced menswear of the more rugged and long-lasting kind, you’ve come to the right place.

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The ‘Steffen’ shirt in Japanese fabric for SS14

We spoke a bit about where Hansen produces their garments now, and hearing Åse talk about how both Norway and Denmark have been searched with a fine-tooth comb looking for manufacturers that have the skills and equipment to produce for her was a sad tale indeed. It just isn’t possible to keep production within Scandinavia any longer, so the second best option is to use European countries such as Lithuana and Portugal. Not in itself a bad option, as these countries have their own histories of garment production, and of course a lot of the equipment from factories that have ceased operation in Scandinavia has ended up in places like Poland and Lithuana. The circle of life, really, and the reality of our times.

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The complete SS14 collection

Having already looked at most of the SS14 collection at Maritime & Antiques, I only needed filling in on a few of the pieces I’d missed when taking in their small showroom. As per usual, quite a few pieces caught my eye, though I think for me the winner is the striped linen jacket, waistcoat and trousers. Perhaps a bit much with all three, but the jacket in itself would make for a perfect summer gentleman’s look. Oh, dammit, the waistcoat would be brilliant as well, for those days when you can’t decide to dress with or without arms, right? Those chequered trousers in slubby Japanese cotton are also very tempting. And the shirts, Hansen do great shirts as well. Not to forget trousers, I love their trousers.

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A totally sneaky peek at the AW15 collection in work.

The AW15 collection hiding in the workroom in the loft though. Oh yes. While I appreciate the summer, I’m very much more about the colder seasons and the more solid clothing. Summer is fine and dandy, but bring out the thicker fabrics for the colder weather if you really want my attention. And while I can’t reveal too much, there are very good things in store for the autumn. See the incredibly sneaky photo for clues. Of course, much of it is evolutions of AW14, with the most popular pieces back in new colours and fabrics, but there are also new pieces sure to become future Hansen classics. Heck, it’s not even summer yet and here I’m looking forward to the autumn? Craziness!

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SS14 also sees the inclusion of hats in the repertoire, designed by Hansen, produced by a father and daughter team in Poland. There’s even a Harris Tweed variant available!

In the pipeline is the possibility small range of women’s clothing as well, although Åse much prefers designing menswear. Turns out though that women are quite taken with the quality and style of Hansen’s designs and the smaller sizes are often snapped up to cover the feminine form.

While there are still only a limited number of shops carrying Hansen, this years introduction of a direct web-shop has meant it is now easier to buy the full range of clothing. Surely a boon for those of us that live far from a shop that carries the good stuff!

A very interesting visit indeed, and another interesting insight into the inner workings of the menswear industry. It will be fascinating to follow the further evolution of Hansen Garments!

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6 Responses to “While in Copenhagen… A visit to Hansen Garments”

  1. Scratch

    Seems like a good trip Nick. I do like a fair bit of the stuff I’ve seen on their site since you’ve highlighted it to me.
    They remind me in some ways of the slo wear ranges – outwardly quite plain but with wonderful materials and built for the long haul with details and cuts that are never really going to be out of fashion.

    The long blazer and the field jacket are both good pieces – the latter looks ace – it’s just a shame that the photography on the site doesn’t give you a better goggle at the wool lining and so on.
    The thing I really like is the Ole knit in blue. It has a pleasing nautical tang to it and a great colour. I could see me getting some use out of that.

    Reply

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