Interview: Julie Brøgger on Inspiration, Empowering Women and Sustainability

Unapologetic, bold, playful and impossible to put a label on – those are some of the words we’d use to describe the London-based luxury clothing brand Brøgger, created by Danish fashion designer Julie Brøgger. In the light of her Magasin du Nord fashion prize nomination, and as we’re still in awe of Brøgger’s SS20 show, we chatted with Julie about sustainability in fashion, blending England and Denmark together in her designs, as well as how feminine does womenswear really have to be? Dig in!


You are a Danish designer, trained and working in London. How is that cultural mix evident in your brand identity? Do you consider Brøgger to be more English or Danish?

Maybe I’m a Danish Londoner if anything. I did my degree in Copenhagen, so my design foundation is rooted in the Scandinavian design tradition of “form follows function” and the love for well-crafted simplicity. But, I would be a very different designer without the last decade spent working in London. All the aspects of Danish design that I love, I also found a bit restraining when I graduated. London is rebellious, eccentric and diverse and a contrast to a more normative, but undoubtedly beautiful Denmark. I use those contrasts in my work every day.

Your Spring/Summer 2019 show was dedicated to and inspired by Queen Margaret. Did you have one specific inspiration for SS20?

Not in the same specific way. SS19 was actually inspired by two Margrethes, the Queen and my late mother. For SS20 I brought my mother with me again, but in a more intuitive way. The best way I can describe the inspiration for that collection is, if I squinted my eyes and saw my workaholic lawyer mother and her charismatic girlfriends in the late 1980s/early 1990s: loud and a bit crazy, but always well-dressed with a mix of drama and sophistication.

 

Brøgger 

Brøgger 

 

You blend a lot of elements characteristic for menswear (such as tailored suits) with feminine pieces. Is it at all challenging?

I’ve always liked working with clashing elements, but even though the contrasts between femininity and masculinity are getting more and more faint now, the tailored suit still carries generations of codes of empowerment and status. Yes, they all used to belong to men, but it is all up for grabs now! My suits are designed to make women feel empowered, and a lot of women look better in a suit than a dress.

I work with those elements because it is what I like to wear myself, it is what I grew up seeing my mother wear as well. She would wear men’s suits, but contrast with feminine red nails and lips, and silk bows in her hair. The balance is important to me, mixing the codes. I don’t want to just do pretty floral dresses – I love them, but they are not the whole picture of a modern woman in my opinion.

Your statement suits have been worn by celebrities such as Cardi B and Cate Blanchett. Do you feel like there is a ‘Brøgger Woman’ you produce for?

I feel like I get closer and closer to ‘her’ every season. Doing Brøgger and defining the universe has been an organic process to me. Having complete creative freedom has been vital in founding the brand, and I don’t have any outside investors or stake holders that can dictate the direction or the market aim. I respect and listen to the advise of industry experts, but most of all I listen to the women that wear the clothes. Since Brøgger was founded, I’ve held evenings at my house for friends and people in my network. They’d come and try the latest collection, which informs me every time. Seeing it only on models gives a beautiful, but unrealistic image.

 

Brøgger 

 

We’ve noticed a lot of cross-gender model casting happening at fashion week, but at your show it was particularly striking. What made you want to dress a male model in a pink dress, and where do you stand in this ”womenswear is only for women” debate?

As mentioned before, boundaries between the genders are becoming more and more fluid, and thank God for that! The casting wasn’t meant as a provocative statement as such, but it brought a bit of a London attitude to Copenhagen. I like seeing men in Brøgger, it changes the narrative and makes you look at it in a different way. So when we do castings, we invite the guys as well. Of course there are restrictions in the sense that they have to fit the samples and it doesn’t work if they are very tall, but if a man looks better in the dress than one of the girls, he wears it! And that was the case at the SS20 show, Shami from Scoop Models was hands down the best in that pink gown.

 

Brøgger 

 

What do you do (or would like to do) to make Brøgger a more sustainable brand?

Sustainability is not the main story about Brøgger, the design is, but that said Brøgger was founded with the belief that we should buy less, and buy better. It started with an aim to create clothes that would be desired across seasons and for years to come. Clothes that have the quality and design to be handed on and shared with friends. This is still the aim.

Doing diverse luxury collections fully sustainably is unfortunately still unattainable, but I have a set of sustainability goals for each season. Last season it was our print bases and print methods that we changed with our Italian supplier (about 50% of our entire material production), and from this season onwards we will be shipping all clothes in biodegradable garment bags.

We produce to retailer’s orders and not to stock warehouses, and thankfully our clothes are in high demand, so it sells out. Dead-stock Brøgger doesn’t exist, any potential odd stock gets sold on sample sales with Vestaire Collective or donated to Smart Works (Women’s charity). Leftover fabrics are donated to local charities and schools, who repurpose them. We have a great relationship with the fashion school in our local area in London, and I create a design project brief for the students where they then use our leftover fabrics.

Furthermore, I strongly believe we should support local European manufacturing. All Brøgger materials are sourced in the UK and EU, and all our factories are based in these regions as well.

What is the future of Brøgger? Please tell us some of your most important goals.

I want every collection to get better and better, for each to build on the last one, but get pushed further based on what I loved from the previous. It’s a journey where the next steps should be fuelled with what excites you, and that is what drives me. I also have a dream of doing winter shows in London and summer shows in Copenhagen in the future, it would fit so perfectly with the identity of the brand.

 

Brøgger All photography by Oliver Knauer

 

The winner of this year’s Magasin du Nord fashion prize will be announced on November 5th – we’re planning to remain neutral, while keeping our fingers crossed for Brøgger 😉


Get to know the other four finalists of the Magasin du Nord fashion prize – We got to meet them in person >>>