The Danish brand HÆRVÆRK immediately turned heads when they first presented in 2016. The unique storytelling of street kids in the poor industrial areas of Copenhagen, combined with innovative, self-produced textiles and excellent finishings and cuts lifted high-end streetwear up onto another level. We talked to Niels Gundoft Hansen, Founder and Designer of HÆRVÆRK about his vision, the future of the brand and his perception of it.
The AW18 collection is your second commercial collection, how do you feel your customers are reacting to Hærværk?
We feel like the buyers start to understand our universe. We always had a very good response to our colour combinations and the complete outcome of the collections but now with more wearable fabrics as sweat jersey and nylon, we can see the difference with how buyers look at our collections. We will still keep pushing our home cooked fabrics though.
How do you see Hærværk evolving when you look back to your previous collections?
Nothing about my vision and the foundation of Hærværk has changed. We keep telling social realistic stories served as a fantasy. That said we now realise that Hærværk is a business and we have to approach our products being luxury items that can still be washed, produced etc. But all those factors are quality and logistics. Within our aesthetics, we don’t comprise with the silhouette or colour palette and I still like to consider as a designer who shaped character into the silhouettes in order to express authentic stories.
Can you tell us a little bit about the story you are telling with Hærværk?
Hӕrvӕrk, Danish for ‘vandalism’, captures youth culture and the experience of growing up in Demark, a country where you are taught that you can be whatever and whoever you want to be. This ideal is very comforting and hopeful, yet it leaves kids losing respect for authority and society. It is this duality that Hærværk exists.
What made you decide to start your own brand?
After a two-year master’s at the Royal College of Art being told nothing else but to create my own language [in design], I naturally wanted to continue working on my own aesthetics after graduation.
Your cuts and use of material are very daring, how do you find the balance between delivering a commercially successful product and living out your creativity?
In the first two seasons, we only used our extreme fabrics to fully cover our pieces. We still do so but now we have also taken it a notch down and use it as logos or details. Also with my graduation collection (Hærværk Vol.1) there were so many different statements within the same piece. Now we try to balance it out and focus on one strong statement in each garment.
Can you describe a typical “Hærværk” person?
Reckless, cocky and forward thinking.
How is the future looking like?
The future is bright. We get a lot of opportunities and an increasing interest in Hærværk from buyers. Now we just have to keep ourselfs relevant and make sure we invest in the right actions. Logistically we are moving our studio back to Copenhagen from London and we will face a lot of ”in which box did we put this etc” but hopefully being based in Copenhagen it will make things a lot easier with us already showing in Copenhagen.
You are known for reusing materials and turning them into your fabric, what kind of fabrics did you use for the current collection?
We still use our signature fabrics we’ve had in the collections since my graduation collection / Volume 1. During my Master at the Royal College of Art, I was obsessed with creating wet asphalt or rusty container looking fabrics. Two elements inspired by my upbringing in Denmark. I spent quite some time in the RCA resin workshop creating these textures so they are here to stay.
You are an underground. Designer, meanwhile your cuts and the finishing of your pieces are fantastic. How do you see underground fashion go together with high-end cuts and finishing?
Even though we often get recognised as avantgarde streetwear I don’t think you necessarily have to be a streetwear brand to be underground. We are ”underground” in terms of our show locations being urban/Hidden and the attitude being rebellious. But, we do luxury products in terms of finish and posture. The meaning of luxury has in general been blurred for some time now but there is no question about how it doesn’t have to be connected to French elegance.
Are you a perfectionist?
I am a perfectionist when it comes to Hærværk and how we progress. With anything else, I am quite loose.
Your shows are always incredible and in rundown places. The locations are very urban, do you also have a connection to nature?
Definitely not at this point. Hærværk is about city rats and social codes. This will not change. But there is no doubt about how concrete together with weed is fascinating and pretty much the definition of urban. Pure nature doesn’t interest me much. But let’s say there is an old ruin or a treehouse in the nature it is all of the sudden super fascinating. The same goes for the city. The manipulation of nature within the city is super cool. Especially when natural forces take over man-made objects.
What is your passion for life?
My girlfriend, my family, my friends, my company, fast food and film.
Lookbook: HÆRVÆRK AW18
Photography: Lukas Daugbjerg