We all like success stories. We all really like the lone wolf success stories. You know the ones. The unprecedented success of someone who has done it all by themselves. Against the odds, from rags to riches. Sure, they make for captivating stories but they often overlook how working with others contributes to that success. No idea is an island.
Everything we do and everything we create is a sum of various inspirations and experiences – and although we’re all on this path alone, it pays to lean on a few people on the way. But what about the people who are in it together from the very beginning? Duos, and the way they work, are so often overlooked. What is it like to share success? How do you share the workload? Who takes control? How are disagreements solved?
We wanted to explore this concept. So, that’s why we decided to roll out a brand-new interview series titled Design Duos – where we talk to a few of our favourite creative partners to find out how they work together; their routines, rituals and how they balance creativity. Beginning with Jeppe and Jesper of Forét - the new creative force in Scandinavian menswear.
So, how did you first meet and what was your first impression of each other?
Jeppe: We actually first met as competitors at the local kids’ flea market where we sold our toys at the age of 12. Jesper was the tall guy from the school.
Jesper: Since then we’ve been friends and had always a lot of crazy idea together.
Jeppe: Yes, the first crazy idea was a night club in my parents’ house. We created the club, the signs, the stage and everything. But we didn’t get any visitors.
Are you always creating together? What input do each of you have in creating the ethos of the brand?
Jesper: When we start creating a new chapter to Forét we always start in the same Forét universe to secure we keep the ethos and red thread. We visualise an island where all our collections are taking place. We build the stories, the moods and the scenery before we design the collection.
Jeppe: We use a lot of historical curiosities, references and natural elements in the early stages of the design process. When we move into the core design process it’s Jesper that takes over.
What initially inspired the start of Foret?
Jesper: We both wanted to create something with a bigger meaning. Our strengths were design and content creation and we both have a passion for design and clothing. We wanted to create a movement more than just a brand. The movement was built around the insight that people are getting more and more digital and online.
Jeppe: Therefore, we wanted to create a brand that inspires people to slow down, go offline and explore the nature using our eyes for design and simplicity. It has been important since day one to produce ethically correct items. We have used organic cotton since the start and we are working every day to improve the sustainable DNA of the brand.
Was there any calamities in starting out for Foret?
Jesper: There has been a lot. We started Forét with our own - and very little amount - of money. We both took a small 1500 EUR loan to start up the first production of 100 tees and 100 sweatshirts and some caps. We had to rush over to our little 10m2 stock after school and work and pack all the web shop orders ourselves. After that we had to bike over to the central station and post them manually after waiting in a 20-minute line. We did that for almost 2 years. But the love was so big for the brand that you just keep doing it, every time you saw a person - that you don’t know - in Forét you forgot all about all these things.
What has been the biggest breakthrough in that time?
Jeppe: One of our biggest breakthroughs was last year when we got chosen by Copenhagen Fashion Week as “Sustainable Talents” and was gifted with a show during CPHFW 18.
Jesper: The show was very good for us and we got a lot of attention from agents and international buyers. It also gave us an invitation for Pitti Uomo as a part of the curated Scandinavian Manifesto area with 15 handpicked Scandinavian brands. The attention we got there was massive, and we had a lot of very interesting visitors. Luckily, we’ve been invited again for this year’s Pitti Uomo 95 and hopefully we will get even more attention as our Autumn Winter 19 collection has seriously developed.
How does working with another person differ to working alone?
Jeppe: It’s crucial for us to work together. It takes years to build a brand. You need to celebrate each and every little milestone you have together. The best thing about working together is the sharing of joy when you reach a goal. We always buy cinnamon buns when we achieve a milestone and have a little coffee celebration. That’s the most important thing. You need to enjoy the journey every day. Otherwise it will be too much hard work. It’s also very important to build the brand as a duo, as you are able to ask critical questions all the time and really test all ideas, concepts and decisions.
Jesper: The dualism works as constant focus group, as we're good at asking critical questions. We laugh a lot. That’s one of the building stones in our friendship and we still laugh as much as we did when we were 12.
How do you draw the line between work time and time together away from the office?
Jeppe: The beautiful thing about being an entrepreneur is that it is difficult to draw the line between work time and office time. We use our weekend to go offline and slow down and explore our local neighbourhoods and nature. It’s our passion to create and take pictures. So most of the content you see at Forét is created when we are not working. It’s created when you really are out there in the real life and that forest moment is there. Authentic. Not styled. Many people ask us: Why is your showroom not open in the weekends? And yes – we could open it and earn money in the weekends. But we have decided to recharge in the weekends. And it works.
What are the three most important things that you’ve learned along the way in the journey of Foret?
Jeppe: That things take time and there are no easy ways to success. At the start we thought it was much simpler just to be “the new thing”. After 5 years we’ve concluded that the best growth is organic step by step as you really need to learn of your mistakes before you are getting too big.
The second is ‘never compromise regarding the design of the product’. And the last thing is the importance of the right relations and the network around you.
Do you have any superstitions, beliefs or self-imposed rules that you live by?
Jeppe: Actually, we always believe in destiny. If something happens, we believe in that it happened for a reason and that will benefit us on the long run.
Jesper: We also believe in karma and to give. We’ve always trusted our customers and treated them as friends with an open mind.
Tell us more about for Foret ethos of ‘inspiring people to slow down, go offline and explore our nature…’
Jeppe: The purpose is multifaceted. We want people to be present when they are together with friends and family. Offline. We also want to inspire to use more time in the real life, explore their local neighbourhood and nature. It’s because when know how powerful the nature can be for your mental health.
Jesper: It’s important for us that these pure values will be spread toward the new generations, that can easily be too digital and online. We want to secure that future generations will keep the good values. When you enjoy the nature and use it, you will also be more aware of your own environmental footprint. It’s a very down to earth way of learning about sustainability.
How does that ethos reflect in the actual products?
Jeppe: All our products are designed with a sustainable mind. We do not design after trends and fast fashion, we design time less pieces that can be used in a circular loop and lasts for many years. We also produce in GOTS certified cotton under good conditions in Portugal as we are working every day to improve our production towards a 100% sustainable product.
Jesper: The design philosophy is a mix between contemporary casual and outdoor streetwear. It’s important that you can wear our clothes at work and on a trip to the forest. We design clothes for the urban person who dream about the slow life outside the city.
Foret is instantly recognisable for its beautifully understated aesthetic and long-lasting design; but how did you come to that design approach?
Jeppe: It’s our personal style and taste capsuled into collections. Back when we started, we both need a lot of core pieces in our wardrobe that had the perfect fit for the multipurpose.
A good example is our Canvas Bear Shirt – which is the perfect mix of outdoor and casual. You can literally wear it when you are out in the woods and to an important meeting without it looks strange in any of the occasions. It’s inspired by the old scout uniform and we love to use materials and silhouettes inspired by vintage workwear.
So, what are the key pieces from the new Foret clothing collection?
The key pieces have been our corduroy and canvas pieces which really defines the fish and folk collection. The Wolf Fleece is also a big thing for Forét. We have always a fleece in our winter collections we use it both everyday as an extra layer for the Nordic cold.