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Rasmus Storm

For 25 years, Rasmus Storm has been the quintessential authority on international streetwear in Copenhagen. When asked about the future of retail, he emphasizes community, honesty, and speaking with your own voice.

Words Siri Edit Andersson
Photography Lukas Frisk Bergqvist

— You need to speak up with your own voice, dare to do the unexpected and trust your intentions to be original. Trust your gut feeling instead of reflecting your next move in everyone else’s success.

— I want us to be honest with each. Without real chemistry and true passion Storm would never have gotten this far. I love fashion, but I hate the fakeness that exists.

— I can’t imagine living a life without working. Working is my life. Living life is my passion.

Rasmus Storm, 50 years old, owns the fashion concept store Storm in Copenhagen together with his wife Line. They share two kids who today also are involved in the business. ”Storm is a family business, so I hope it will stay in the family forever.” It’s almost 25 years ago since they opened Storm at Nørrebro in Copenhagen. The store has been located in the city centre since 2001. Rasmus is autodidact and self-learned in everything he knows about running a store. — If our kids decide to take over and keep Stormalive after Line and I retire — I’m the luckiest dad in the world.Inside Storm cultural meanings are exchanged and new concepts evolved. Storm has its own vision and beliefs, and the way they manage to continuously stay non-compromising has put Storm on the world map. Their well-curated and genuine fashion universe is an inspiration sourse with influence over man people worldwide.

— I don’t follow a hype if I don’t believe in it, but I always follow my gut feeling, Rasmus says. His great taste and stubborn beliefs have made him one of our biggest trendsetters in fashion. ”They actually call me that”, Rasmus tells me after I’ve commented on the old school t-shirt he’s wearing on the day we meet. ’Fashion Sheriff’ it says on the front. Apparently the t-shirt was a present given to him by Guillermo Andrade, founder of the brand 424.

While walking up to Rasmus’ office a few minutes earlier, I remember how I met him outside the Sacai show in Paris last season, men’s SS19, and how his eyes were glowing after the show experience. Storm is the only store that runs Sacai in DK. I wonder how many fashion weeks he’s been to now ”in 25 years”; he then tells me in the office.

— My first was Paris in 1994 just after my wife and I opened the store. Back then it was only the leading high-end brands who managed to have shows. You couldn’t get near buying the high-end collections in the same way as today, and no one really cared about the Danish market. I entered the doors to the only existing design fair in Paris, where the fashion area was the smallest. Brands had squeezed in side by side in this tiny room to show their creations. That fair was actually where I met Kim Jones for the first time a couple of years later, while he had his own brand.

Besides from Denmark being quite unknown back then the brands also had a different focus in the matter of distribution.

— It wasn’t about how much I wanted to buy, but who I was and what I stood for. You needed to be cool, confident and liked to get near to supplying the leading brands. One of the first brands I took on was Dirk Bikkembergs. Already the season after Dries Van Noten and Maison Margiela came along.

The Bikkembergs’ Spring Summer 1999 show was created in collaboration with Rasmus and Storm. Dirk came to Rasmus asking him to work on the show together. He brought the full collection to Rasmus’ apartment, where they started brainStorming and planning. The show was held in Copenhagen’s amusement park Tivoli.

Rasmus himself grew up in Danish Middelfart with his younger brother, psychiatrist dad and artist mum. After 9th grade he skipped going to high school, and started working directly instead. It probably didn’t cross his academic parents’ mind, that their son’s first fulltime job was going to be in a wooden pallet factory at the age of 15. Though wooden pallets are pretty far from fashion clothes, I wasn’t that surprised. When I meet Rasmus it was right after his morning workout. His workout sessions happen several times a week and vary in type of training.

— On Tuesdays I practice a type of functional military training. The training is a very intense kind, and something the team and I take quite seriously. You need to, to get through it. When I feel the results afterwards, it makes such good sense. I do this training together with my friends Thomas Rude, who works as a Michelin chef, and Anders Lorentzen — former jaeger. They both inspire and motivate me a lot. I’ve always lived an active life and still love challenging my body strength in different ways. Meanwhile I also intend to build up my mind and focus during these sessions. It’s become my fashion time out. In order to stay genuine and innovative in the fashion field I need to step out of the circle from time to time.

Based on his passion for sports Rasmus created Halo — the fashion and sportswear brand inspired by Danish Special Forces — together with design partner Malkit Singh and Pål Andersen, Creative Director of Danish sportswear brand Newline. Halo stands for ’High Altitude Low Opening’.

— With Halo we wanted sports and fashion to meet in high quality, function and design. People are increasingly focussed on the fact that you can move and live in the clothes you buy. It’s not only about fashion design anymore, but a lifestyle you choose. The clothes needs to match with your lifestyle. That’s what we want to achieve with Halo. It’s about merging fashion design with the active life.

When I look at Rasmus I sense a powerful, but also humble man. I feel a lot of honesty. We are talking about relevance and social media when he starts to look a bit worried.

— Social media easily turns into a curse. Especially today with the extreme power it has reached. We have never been bigger victims of losing ourselves to a virtual reality. We have to keep asking ourselves why we do and act as we do — and for whom. Is your virtual ego more important than the real you? We need to have our core values straight. There is only one you, and only one Storm.

Still social platforms like Instagram are very important for Storm’s expansion and an essential source of communication.

— Social media makes it possible for us to spread our words and expressions with the world in a second, which is incredible. It has definitely helped us grow and made us even more recognisable as a brand, so I’m grateful for that.

How do you balance physical retail vs. online retail?

— We try to merge them by giving our customers an as genuine online experience as in the store, but it will never be possible to reach the same service level without the presence. Let’s compare it with an art exhibition presented in a physical gallery and curated by someone you really like. Let’s then move the exhibition to a virtual gallery. Do you think you would be able to feel and understand the art in the same way through a screen?

We are making our second cup of coffee when Rasmus emphasises, ”I think the lack of creative com-munities is a reflection on our society”. He sips his coffee, stares in the cup for a while and then continues.

— The field has changed. It’s not as caring and compassionate anymore. It’s more individualistic than ever, and that allows the ego to take the lead. This is definitely a reflection on society today wherein I’m afraid we won’t be much of a community much longer if we keep going down this road. It’s me, myself and I fighting for ’my’ own success at my private solo party. But it used to be a group movement like Antwerp 6, and isn’t that the movements we after decades still honour the most?

The Antwerp 6 was a group of fashion designers, that in the 80s, after graduating from Antwerp’s art school, packed a truck with all their collections, and set out for London Fashion Week to show the industry what they had. Among others, Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester were in that truck, which is both of whom are two of our leading fashion designers today.

— Perhaps I’m just being nostalgic, but I don’t find the field as authentic anymore. It feels like a misunderstanding. I miss the risk taking and the passion. It could be our society pushing us to fit in instead of standing out, but normal will never be interesting enough.

Rasmus’ interest for fashion started when he was a teen. He loved to hunt down the coolest fashion clothes he could find and style himself for different occasions. Back then the big player in Copenhagen was the store Billy Boy, where you could find brands like Jean Paul Gaultier, 1992–93. His biggest inspiration on how to dress was music. Him and his friends would meet up to listen to new hot records and talk about them. On the radio his favourite DJ was Danish Kim Schumacher, who used to play records from all around the world.

— I recorded his mixtapes and played them over and over, Rasmus tells me.

What is the most important thing to focus on in order to stay relevant as a retail outlet today?

— I carefully consider what designers and products I want to bring in. It all needs to be in symbiosis to feel fulfilled, and therefore one of my main focuses is to curate the content inside. I need it all to play together in harmony. To stay relevant as a retail outlet today I believe it requires you to be a lot more than an outlet. Storm is not only a store, but its own independent platform with a strong network. I want to share culture, taste and opinion with my customers through it all. That’s a constant aspiration. It’s important to give our customers a genuine and inspiring experience when they visit. Of course we’re dependent on our income, but to keep Storm’s values clear there’s a much more important part in it — presence. When a customer tells me how they are grateful for experiencing and meeting us, I’m motivated to keep developing our store in a physical matter. I’m reminded, that an online retail platform can’t offer us the same human chemistry.

By the age of 18 Rasmus joined the military, which is still a big part of him today. Right after he moved to Munich in Germany where he started working in another factory. He lived there for almost three years. It was then that his considerations of actually working in fashion design hit him. He felt he needed to give it a try and made a plan. Imagine if he knew what huge collaborations his future would bring him with guys like Kendrick Lamar, Justin Bieber, Virgil Abloh and Kanye West. Storm was one of the first stores to ever collaborate with Mr. West, and it started even before Kanye West’s full collection existed. For a long time Storm and the Paris fashion temple Colette were the only stores to work with Mr. West.

What is the characteristic that makes your shop the most unique?

— I’m trying my best to make my store as playful and surprising as I can. Storm is a reflection of my personal taste and creative interests. I want to express and honour the talents I discover. I don’t need Storm to be the biggest as long as I get to raise the voice and dreams behind the design. Storm is one of a kind because it’s telling the truth. In the turbulence of today’s fast changing fashion movements I feel I can only rely on what my experience tells me.

How do you think that will change in the future, for your shop and for the industry as a whole?

— I actually don’t think it will change that much. I still have the impression that most humans prefer to shop physically more than through a quick tap. People like to be cared about. To be advised, inspired and feel important to others. It’s a human need for attention and pleasure. Many see shopping as a self-treatment. Like having a massage or an expensive bottle of wine, which are both things we want to enjoy, and not rush. I think that if a piece of clothing comes with a story it will always achieve more value to the buyer.

Do big e-commerce players threaten you?

— I’m not threatened. In fact I find it quite worrying how unsustainable some of the world’s leading online retailers seem to configure looking at what an incredibly big focus sustainability is in fashion today. When the fashion field recently managed to create impressively strong waste awareness, how can the subject of massive plastic and clothes waste within e-commerce stay so unspoken? The thing is, that you can’t offer your costumers full return on 70 per cent off products without wasting massive amounts of plastic and packaging on back-and-forth shipping. It harms our environment so much, but it feels like they continuously get away with it, no questions asked. I find it hard to understand how much support they still have, when they are such a big threat to our planet’s future. I hope people start to become more aware of the consequences soon enough, and decide to support the physical retailers and a sustainable world instead.

— All together something has changed in the field. Is our authentic community about to be replaced with an individual feeling of lust and greed? Is it about creative passion, or about money?

— It would be my nightmare if Storm’s focus became too commercial, ’cause it would turn us into a retail machine without a soul.

Rasmus Storm arriving at his store on Store Regnegade 1.
A display of Off-White products.
Every Tuesday, Rasmus practices military training on the streets of Copenhagen.