“We never discuss age,” says Frida Bard, Head of Design at the Swedish fashion brand HOPE, when asked about her ideal customer. In general, she doesn’t like to have either her or HOPE labelled and put in a box. “We want to box each other all the time because it’s so easy for us to understand that,” she says. But the Stockholm-based brand is never just one thing or for one type of people. It’s dynamic, flexible and never too familiar. As Bard explains, they don’t want to be too clear for people to classify, because - given the pace of everything today - that might change. HOPE’s mission is instead to show new perspectives, tell other stories and implement new ideas.
And implementing new ideas is what Bard has done since taking on her role at the brand four years ago. “For me it was a dream position because HOPE wanted to renew itself and refresh its ideas,” she recalls. HOPE initially started out as a masculine take on the female wardrobe, but has since grown into a brand, where style comes before any cultural norms. Already in Bard’s first year as head of design, she began pushing the boundaries of conventional gender norms. A dialog she felt needed to be taken much further. “It’s very important to underline that garments and fashion have no gender,” she says. HOPE creates collections for both men and women based on the standard tailor measurements for each gender. But since Spring 2017, it has been protocol for all garments to carry sizing for both genders on the same label. “It’s not up to us to say which section you should shop from. Everyone should be able to dress in whatever way they’d like, without being forced to conform to old norms,” Bard says.
For Bard, the social aspect of fashion is just as important as the clothes itself. “It’s so important for me to use fashion as a tool to communicate, to create acceptance and tolerance, and equality between the sexes,” she says. “My role is not to oversee the collections but to make sure HOPE is a relevant brand in all aspects, whether that is through the way we design or present our clothes, or what we choose to speak about.” At HOPE the ambition is to use the platform in a bigger sense, which is also why the brand’s new online universe consist of half online shop and half editorial. “As a fashion brand with a global platform, we have a great opportunity to challenge old norms and instead, encourage individuality and diversity,” Bard says. And the next step to disperse traditional notions around gender, she reveals, is to use only one model when shooting the look book for both collections. But whether or not that will be the approach going forward she can’t say. At HOPE it’s all about trying something new, while still staying open for the next idea.
And when that will come is also hard to say. For Bard, inspiration never comes from something like exotic trips or fancy magazines. “I’m a, I-dig-where-I-stand kind of designer,” she says. She gets inspired from simply looking around. For the Spring/ Summer 2020 collection, inspiration stroke when the designer saw a man in an airport. “The collection is inspired by a man I saw once during a trip, who was dressed in a beautiful tie dye caftan underneath a corporate tailored jacket,” Bard tells. She was drawn to the contrasts, and how it, in a poetic way, symbolizes two sides of many people. The spiritual side meeting the banker. The collection therefore offers a lot of clashes and contrasts, opening up new ways to wear items and mixing different materials.
But before you file HOPE under gender-neutral, contrast-seeking Scandi brand, you should know that it’s all subject to change any season. “I try to change the way we work in the team every season because I don’t want everybody to become too familiar or too comfortable with what they do,” Bard explains. As she acknowledges, it’s important not to get stuck in a routine where you make the same decisions and end up creating something similar over and over again. Therefore, she makes small changes to the team’s working habits every season to ensure the perfect groundwork for fresh decisions, and prevent the brand getting stuck in the same track. One time her approach was to ask the team to start off identifying all the things they didn’t like. “It’s so easy to go for the things you find pretty, and most of the time you find basically the same things nice,” she says. Another way, she mentions, could be to swap categories of who is designing what. As long as they in the team every season find small ways to change the way they work. This way HOPE stays out of the boxes it’s trying to dissolve, and as a customer, we’re left curiously waiting for what’s coming next.