The  Small American Norwegian company Hovden Formal Farm Wear has a mission relaunching the Norwegian Work Shirt called "busserull". In Portland USA it seems to be particularly well received among the hipsters. 

Photo: Hovden Formal Farm Wear (BW photo Paul Stang, 1912)

Photo: Hovden Formal Farm Wear (BW photo Paul Stang, 1912)

Busserull tunic is a practical and frugal garment that has it origin far back. The shirt is characterized by being stitched together only by squares. A principle which results in virtually no leftovers in production. It was both economic, practical and even made it relatively simple to produce, and also to patch when it was worn.

 I got curious and asked the entrepreneur behind Hovden Formalwear; Ingvill Kaasin Montgomery for an interview.

How did you first get the idea?

I got the idea from my father. Suits, nice shirts or ties are not his style, but for someone who is involved in all sorts of affairs, he often needed to dress decent. In 2013, he made someone make him a «Busserull» for Christmas, and now he uses this shirt for “everything”.

At that time I worked in the wine industry in Oregon and thought that many of the winemakers were in the same position as my father. They thrive best in boots and overalls. When they have to go to the city for representation, to sell wine, holding dinners and wine tastings and stuff, they got the same uncomfortable expression as my father. Somehow the «suit and tie» look does not fit into the stories they would tell of their wine – so I thought that the «Busserull» could work as well for them as it has for my father.

In February 2014 I started the realization together with Zurine Artika Gurpegi. In June we had our first shirts ready and attended the Portland Scandinavian Midsummer festival. The shirts were very well received, so we just as well attended another … We had both terminated our jobs to stay home with our kids, which were only 4 months old when we started. Zurine is now pregnant with number 2 and has moved back to the Basque Country, closer to her family. So now Hovden is me, Ingvill. I am from the village Vingelen, south of Roros in Norway, but moved to the US in 2008 where I have established myself with husband, children, chickens, cats, house and orchard in Portland Oregon

My daughter is now 1 ½ years, and part of the “Hovden team”. If I say ‘we’, it’s my daughter, Leona and me I’m talking about. 

The beautiful pictures on your website seems very authentic and express an “essence of Norway” – what’s the story behind those?

Thank you! They are taken at an old farm in Vingelen. Dad is the photographer and the models are my sister, who is a shoemaker, our neighbor Paal, he is a carpenter, and Thor Arne who live on the farm. The horses belong to him, as he uses them in the forest for logging. We want to give an authentic feeling to everything we do, and it was a nice experience to use craftsmen as models, not least in the surroundings. This old beautiful farm surely has been surrounded by people in «Busserulls» for more than 200 years.

It’s exciting that you have taken the concept with you from Norway to the US, how are the Busserulls received in the United States?

The shirts have been very well received. Especially in the Norwegian-American community (which is what we for the most have been focusing on). It’s amazing how many people knew about the Busserull already. Now we have begun to introduce the shirts in other environments. Here in Portland we now sell our shirt in a shop called «Sticks & Stones», which is a hipster store, and we are currently negotiating with several other stores to take our shirts. It’s so great that ‘the cool kids’ love our concept. Otherwise, it seems that there are many kinds of people who would wear Hovden shirts, boys, girls, men and women in ages from 20 to 80 years.

Do you sell to other countries?

We have an online store and sell to the whole world. We have had customers from Australia, England, Italy, the Netherlands and Russia! It’s always fun to get a new country on the list. This has not only been from Norwegians abroad, but people who think the shirts, not to mention the story, is nice. Anyway most shirts ends up in the US and Norway.

How do you work with design?

We have taken the pattern of an old tunic. So far we have only one model, but we have made it in seven sizes! I dream of creating different versions of the Hovden shirt. Perhaps a tunic variant, buttons-down variant, short-sleeve variant, slim-fit variant …. many dreams … We’ll see when that happens. This is certainly slow-design and although Hovden has grown much in just one year, I have no desire to throw myselfinto the fashion industry, and to create new collections several times a year. Things happen organically and at it`s own pace. Family life and cash flow also has an significant impact ….

The starting of an own business is a lot of hard work to little or no income. It is also risky. What is your «secret force?»

Yes, it is said that it takes 3-5 years before a start-up has surplus .. and that seems to become the reality for Hovden as well. Fortunately, we have not invested heavily so we don`t have to deal with large loans that burdens us in everyday life. We had a Kickstarter campaign (crowdfunding) last summer that helped us get Hovden started. ‘Bootstrapping’ they call it here, when one grows organically and stays within a budget based on what you have. «Busserull» has a great story, and the shirts are really nice. Furthermore, we get so much great feedback, and it is so much fun to build something.

Can you say something about the production of the clothes?

The more I learn about the garment industry the more passionate I feel in relation to having control. I need to know who is involved in the process, and it’s important to me that all those involved are treated fairly and receive proper wages. So far, 80% of the shirts have been made in Pamplona, pain by a small business. Eight ladies who specializes in sewing traditional European clothing (including Basker suits) are doing the craft and they have been a very good support for me.

We also have a small production of shirts in Los Angeles. Both places we`ve visited, and we are very happy with the conditions. Currently I am working on moving the US production of the shirts to Portland, Oregon here where I live. I would like them to be locally produced, and I think people here in Oregon will appreciate that too. My goal is that all shirts sold in Europe will be sewn there, while those who go into the American market will be sewn here. Thus all Hovden Farm Wear will be locally made, just as they were in earlier times.

What materials do you use in Hovden shirts?

We only use natural materials. Linen, cotton and wool. The linen we use is from European flax and it is also woven in Europe. The wool in the European shirts are also Europeen.We try our best to work with local and responsible manufacturers. Spain may not seem to local for Norwegians, but at least it is far more local than Asia. I must admit that I have not checked what it would cost to get the shirts made in Norway, it had obviously been fantastic, but I’m afraid the Norwegian high wages would kill the whole project …

Which fabrics we use varies constantly. If we find some meters of fabric we like, we make shirts of it. When a particular shirt becomes popular we never know if we can get more of the same fabric. We had a green shirt named “Moss” in a beautiful wool for example, we had enough fabric for 10 shirts- and that was it, thus a Hovden shirt will have a handmade and exclusive yet unpretentious feeling. Small unique productions. At least youre not likely to meet someone with the same shirt as you. 

I myself am lucky enough to have four shirts to wear for different occasions. One for everyday use, and one for festive occasions. Wool for winter and thin cotton in the summer. My linen shirt I use all year round. I probably wear my tunic about 80% of the time. It feels wonderful! I must admit that I’ve been more and more dedicated to the effort of not buy lots of clothes. I patch, repair and reuse. I choose quality rather than fast-fashion. It feels SOO GOOD!

I’m looking forward to the day I have my first hole in one of my Hovden shirts. That will mean that I have used the shirt a lot!

The last question is perhaps the most important one; Where can we buy a Hovden shirt?

In Norway, the shirts are preliminary only sold in «Bortistu Kafe» at Tynset. Otherwise they must be ordered online at our website. We ship from Norway so it should be fine. If someone is interested in selling Hovden Shirts, simply contact us! We are also open to sell at festivals.

I look forward to follow Ingvill and Hovden Former Farm Wear further down the road. If you are interested in knowing more or owning a shirt for yourself, you can buy your Busserull or read more about Hovden Formal Wear Farm here.