I recently had business back in my old hometown of Trondheim in Norway. Fine old town that it is, it’s still not somewhere I find myself travelling to very often. This time though, I was looking forward to it though, as for the past 30 months or so, the most frequently pair of jeans in my rotation was handmade in Trondheim.
Yep, we’re talking about Livid Jeans, one of only two proper Norwegian denim brands (you may be excused for thinking this might now actually be a real thing) and the only of them to have a line that is handmade by four pairs of hands in Norway. And the “made in Norway” is actually a really big deal these days, as while there used to be a huge and vibrant textile industry in Norway, now there is almost nothing. So Livid are going against the stream here, and it’s bloody great.
A while back Livid also opened their own combined shop/factory/HQ in the centre of Trondheim and this was where I headed.
First impressions when first entering the shop is “Wow!”. The floor space is divided into two parts, part regular shop and part factory. Yes, you can look directly into the space where the handmade in Trondheim jeans are made. The selection of mainly vintage sewing machines is comprehensive, and all of them have a past in Norwegian textile industry, so history is still being made. There is even a sofa placed with a view of the factory area, a sure sign of the pride taken in producing goods on site.
The shop itself is nicely designed, with a good selection of Livid’s own brand of jeans, jackets and shirts. What struck me more was the selection of outside brands carried. I have been critical before about how menswear shops strive to be unique, but end up blandly the same, so how can you come up with something different? It takes effort. Livid carry common brands such as Red Wing, but also go far out on a limb and carry a decent selection of the much rarer and twice as expensive Yuketen. There is of course also the collaboration Livid did with Norwegian boots brand Dundas, a startlingly solid pair of boots. A daring move, but it means that rather than being another small town jeans store, it makes the shop much more of a destination store. Not bad for a town of otherwise little virtue in the middle of Norway.
Add in a wide selection of apothecary and shoe care products, a full range of Otter Wax products, Pendleton blankets, hats, glasses, magazines and books, Hestra gloves, Stetson hats, various bags and backpacks, and it makes for a pretty great shop. And that’s not even mentioning the basement full of vintage garments. Yes, where some shops might have a rack of vintage gear, Livid has a large room full it. Which actually works a little against the the perceived uniqueness of the pieces, as there is such a selection! Oh, and not to forget a selection of books and magazines.
This was also an opportunity to meet Mr Livid himself, Jens Olav, and his master seamstress Renata. In fact, together they are the four hands that made the trousers I was wearing. How often do you meet the makers of your garments? Probably not since your granny knitted you a sweater as a kid. I can only imagine how satisfying it must be to see customers wearing and enjoying what you’ve made as well. Not that this isn’t a regular occurrence, as Livid offer a full repair service on their wares and I saw several guys arrive with their hard worn strides needing expert attention.
I spent a great hour or two with Jens Olav discussing the denim business and how he’d come to get started. It’s a great story, and if you’d like to read about it, there’s a very well written version on the Livid web-site.
Today there are two lines of Livid denim. There is the limited production, made to order jeans that are made in the shop in Trondheim, and then there is the full line of jeans, shirts and jackets made in a small family-owned factory in Portugal. Both are great lines, although for me it’s the jeans made in Trondheim that hold the most interest. It’s a a good talking point, even to people that couldn’t care about your trousers even if you slapped them with them. The quality of the Portuguese made jeans looks great though, as do the shirts and jackets.
In summary I had a thoroughly enjoyable visit and will definitely pop round when I’m next in Trondheim. The great atmosphere, super friendly staff (more like a happy family, to be honest) and great selection of goods puts the Livid Manufacturing Company right up there in top section of shops worth visiting. Well done!