When you think of Norway, you’d be forgiven if fashion isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. “The industry is really quite young,” says Oslo-based designer Tine Mollatt, the brilliant mind behind Barneys’ new label byTiMo. “Until recently, our clothing was all about keeping warm.” Jokes aside, Mollat admits her take on fashion is quite different than the minimalist approach of her countrymates. Where much of Norwegian design draws inspiration from modern architecture, byTiMo looks to the theater to inform its richly patterned, romantically embellished styles.
This, of course, is not by accident. Mollatt grew up as a dancer. She began her training at age two, and by eight she was performing professionally. Throughout elementary and high school years, the theater was her life. “I loved everything about it,” says Mollatt. “The costumes, the colors, the curtains, the drama.” At 16, she decided she wanted to expand her world and began to explore other avenues. She took up drawing, focusing on the things that inspired her. Then she began knitting, and eventually went to tailoring school. One thing led to another, and she found herself making elaborate costumes for the Oslo Opera House. In 2004, with the encouragement of friends and family, Mollatt decided it was time to start her own collection.
An appealing blend of soft florals with vintage-inspired details, Mollatt calls her style “the new romanticism.” Unfussy but still delicate, the fluid dresses are meant to be viewed in motion, like dancers on the stage. With its unique look, the line quickly became successful in her home country. But it wasn’t until two years ago, when Gwyneth Paltrow was spotted wearing a byTiMo dress, that it took off in the States. The January 2016 Vogue cover with Kylie Jenner in byTiMo sealed the deal.
But Mollat’s brand is about more than just looking good. An outspoken advocate for women’s rights and social equality, the designer stepped up when Norway, along with other European countries, accepted a wave of refugees several years ago. “I wanted to help but didn’t have time to volunteer, so I thought about what my company could offer,” she says. So she hired several of the female refugees, who perform basic office tasks while learning to adapt to a new way of life. Mollat says she’s been inspired by the experience. “I always say, ‘If one person just helps one other person, that’s how we all move forward.’” To that end, each season the label donates a selection of its clothing to women’s shelters across Europe.
Her deeds have not gone unnoticed. This month, Mollatt was invited to New York City as part of an international gathering of more than 300 entrepreneurs, investors, and organizations to celebrate the United Nations’ International Women’s Day. The event focused on the financial exclusion of women all around the world, along with training programs to teach businesswomen in developing countries how to save, loan, and invest their money in the future.
Beyond the political, Mollat takes an active interest in using sustainable methods to create her clothing. All water is recycled during the production process, and the company follows a slower dye process than the commercial style, allowing it to use less chemicals. “We are making clothes for the woman who cares as much about what she puts on her body as what she puts in it,” says Mollat. “It’s luxury done responsibly.”