How Copenhagen-based label Won Hundred made the jump from jeans. By Naomi Nevitt
"In the early 2000s, almost every shop in Denmark carried either bohemian stuff or Italian bling, which started to hurt my eyes," says Nikolaj Nielsen, founder of the Copenhagen-based men and womenswear label Won Hundred. "I was much more into the minimalistic silhouettes and toned-down rock attitude." Merging rocker antics and city-conscious designs with a distinctly Scandinavian bent toward classic lines and neutral tones, Won Hundred has grown beyond the denim company it emerged as.
Knowing fashion was his calling from early on, Nielsen quit school at 16 to work at N.Y., "the only good fashion store" in his small hometown of Horsens, Denmark. After becoming more proficient in all sides of his first love—denim—by spending four years working for Diesel and Sixty's Scandinavian divisions in sales, Nielsen launched Won Hundred in 2004. "It became quite clear to me just after a few months that fashion appealed to and inspired me in a way I had never felt before," confesses Nielson who counts super-skinny jeans in deep indigos as perennial standbys. "Denim is basically what drove me into this business in the first place, and I've loved it ever since. It's such a distinctive fabric, and you can support almost every expression with a pair of jeans."
But Nielsen also knew from the get-go that he wanted to take his fascination with denim to the next level and ultimately create a more complete line. A year after the label's official launch, Nielsen felt he needed to move Won Hundred away from the brand's street-wear roots to a more sophisticated silhouette. The answer was pairing with Pernille Schwarz in 2005, a then-recent graduate of the prestigious Danish design school, Designskolen Kolding, and an expat of Cacharel in Paris.
While denim will always serve as the foundation of the collection, it's the intricate tailoring of their men's and women's separates that allows Won Hundred to stand out in a sea of Scandinavian blue jean businesses. This fall, the duo riffed on "the late '70s and early '80s, a period of champions and decadence," according to Nielsen, to create double-breasted coats, suspender-clad chintz skirts, and puff-sleeved blouses that blur the line between masculine and feminine, much in the way Keith Moon or Debbie Harry did in the days of disco. "It's an acknowledgement to the productive and genuine people who allowed themselves to be pioneers," says Nielsen.
For spring 2008, Schwarz, who notes her dream would be to design a completely black collection with a dash of gray, cites "work wear elements from the '50s in a slightly funny combination of '80s formal-wear and sportswear," as their muse. But the team behind Won Hundred promise that even though their identity has evolved, they're committed to their heritage, and not just "the craftsmanship for which Scandinavians are known for," says Schwarz. "Its all about the feeling, the smell, the sounds and the sensation of living in a big city," the designer says of working in her home-base of Copenhagen. "The multicultural living, the thousands of different obstructing vibes, the contrast, the music, the art. Everything influences us in a subconscious way."
How Copenhagen-based label Won Hundred made the jump from jeans.