Copenhagen, Denmark — Ellen Pedersen graduated from the Royal College of Art with an MA in fashion menswear and after winning numerous competitions like the Brioni Tailoring and Bladen Development Awards, she earned her stripes as a skilled pattern maker at companies like Astrid Andersen, Uniqlo and Christopher Raeburn. In 2015, she founded her eponymous menswear label combining her fascination of English subcultures with her love of Danish minimalism. In the two short years, she has been in business, she has quickly established herself on the Danish fashion scene for her elegantly tailored sportswear featuring innovative techniques, masterful pattern cutting, and high-end fabrics.
What was your earliest fashion memory and when did you realize you wanted to become a designer?
— I had a lovely childhood growing up in the countryside in Denmark with parents working as dairy farmers. As a child, I spent a lot of time with animals going to cattle shows with my cows, dogs, goats etc. As a kid I thought I’d become a farmer too but at 12 years old, I got more interested in fashion and clothes. So my parents arranged for me to have an extra room where I could sew and make dresses for my friends. Not long after, my grandmother took me to sewing classes and I learned how to make things properly. So after my childhood dreams of working with killer whales and being a farmer, I have always wanted to work in fashion.
You’ve trained at VIA in Denmark (formerly known as TEKO) and then later at the Royal College of Art in London. How was your time in school?
— At the Royal College of Art, I had some of the best years of my life! I learned so much in such a short time and I made friends I’ll have forever. Sometimes my boyfriend mocks me for saying that. Pointing out that I’ve forgotten how I cried almost every day — which I did because it was so tough. But it was so great and exciting. Studying in London was a dream come true and I miss the environment that surrounded the university.
How come you decided to focus on menswear?
— At TEKO, we had a menswear course taught by Astrid Andersen and Ike Rust, it gave me a taste of the subject and I realized that I was better at doing menswear than women’s. Because there are more rules you have to obey, it’s harder to create innovative menswear. Now, I want to dress men in a subtle and clever way. I want to question traditional craftsmanship, use innovative techniques and materials to make wearable menswear that is timeless and skilfully designed.
What inspires you?
— I have always been an admirer of British subcultures, maybe because we don’t have many subcultures in Denmark and it was something I could really explore when I was studying in London. The secret codes of clothing, behaviour, and music is something I still admire and find inspiration in. Mixing it with Scandinavian minimalism is something that is deeply rooted in me. I have chosen to embrace the elegance of it. I love to question the materials I use and I work a lot with technical fabrics which are often quite sporty.
Your final collection at the Royal College of Art was based on pattern cutting. Why are you so obsessed with pattern making?
— It was a very nerdy collection. I wanted to create creases and volume with pure pattern cutting techniques and combine materials in a clever way. All the garments were inspired by classic menswear with a mod vibe to them. I still think the collection was great, but today quite unrealistic because I could never spend so much time on a single collection like that again.
After graduation, you’ve built quite an impressive resumé working for designers like Christopher Raeburn, Astrid Andersen, Uniqlo and Zegna. How have these experiences prepared you for launching your own label?
— Working under Astrid Andersen was a great challenge and I learned a lot from her, she had just started out so I closely followed her journey. I am still very excited for her and love what she does. I worked for Christopher Raeburn while I studied at RCA, as a pattern cutter there I learned a lot about production and sampling. Being more established, his company was bigger so it was interesting to see how they did things. Uniqlo was a crazy place in Tokyo on the 28th floor. I worked in the cut-and-sew department, where we designed all the jersey. This was probably my first experience in a corporate company and I realized that I preferred working in a smaller studio.
What is your design process like?
— I’m always looking for images and ideas, it can be in the library, in thrift shops, magazines and online. Then I gather images and start building a story. I sometimes gather clothes to build the story and then I start drawing and designing in 3D. We start quite early developing samples to see what happens with them. I like to work hands-on, cutting up old garments to create something new.
What is the most important element you have in mind when you’re creating a collection?
— It’s important that we have a variety of polo shirts, sweatshirts and that we show off in terms of outerwear.
Who is the Ellen Pedersen customer?
— A young man who cares about details. I’d like to think that he’s almost a narcissist — a perfectionist with expensive taste who loves craft and the story behind a brand. He is a modern mod working in a technical, creative business. He might be an art student or a young creative boy who lives at home.
What’s your opinion on Scandinavian fashion?
— Sometimes, it can be quite boring and safe. But at the same time, it is often well-designed and easy to wear, which is something we like here in the north. Our fashion history is still quite new compared to UK and France, where they have tradition and great respect for the craftsmanship. I wish we would improve in that area too.