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Interview with Tore Mortvedt of SERAC

Norwegian brand SERAC is currently leading the way in contemporary technical outerwear. Founded in 2016 by Tore Mortvedt, SERAC offers classic designs but with a lot more going on below the outer shell. We all have, and at some point need, those staple items in our wardrobe that we wear over and over again, and a decent jacket is likely to be at the top of the list. Due to the worrying pace of fast fashion, this notion has been thrown out of the window for some - a cheap jacket is worn once and swiftly discarded. Here at MenswearStyle, we have recently spoken a fair amount about the current situation in the fashion world and the need for a switch in mentality. As a society and industry we need to encourage the attachment to, and increase the value of, our clothing. Tore Mortvedt is in absolute agreement with this and believes creating high quality products is key to helping tackle the problem.

The first time I was introduced to a SERAC jacket, I immediately noticed the level of craftsmanship and quality of the product. Tore’s outerwear may look minimal from the outside but they are far from minimal when it comes to construction. There is no doubt about it, SERAC jackets are in the high-end sector, when it comes to price point, but there are understandable reasons for this. Tore intends to makes products that are an investment for years to come. And with Tore’s previous experience of designing for the likes of Helly Hansen, he has a wealth of knowledge (20 years to be precise) of what works when it comes to designing durable outerwear.

SERAC’s debut collection consisted of 3 jackets; the T1 (Down Parka), T2 (Hybrid Coat) and T3 (Bomber JKT). Each style is in black 3L waxed cotton, with two of them equipped with a cosy sheepskin collar. The jackets are all classic and timeless but with a recognisable, effortlessly cool, designer edge. They have been created using the brand’s own DEM Construction (Designed for Enhanced Mobility) to ensure each item offers freedom in body movement. This makes the jackets extremely comfortable and the waterproof and washable outer shells creates a jacket for all weathers. The newest member to the SERAC jacket family is the 3341. This lightweight coat is intended to be worn casually over a pair of denim, or as smart outerwear over a suit. As with SERAC’s other pieces, versatility is at the forefront of this design. The 3341 is windproof, waterproof and breathable. It has been produced using 100% recycled nylon and 80g insulation using recycled merino wool. The technical design skills are truly apparent in this piece, with minimal clean lines but with the added details such as the detachable inner vest which can even be worn as a piece on its own. The 3341 will be available in a limited run of 100 pieces, in sand and black colourways. Again, the price may be at the higher end of the spectrum, but it is worth every penny for the style, fit and amount of wear you are guaranteed to get out of it.

MenswearStyle managed to steal some time from Tore’s busy schedule to ask a few questions about his brand. Speaking with him, his passion for design is evident and his motivation to produce the finest outerwear is strong, whilst remaining conscious of the current climate. We look forward to seeing where the future lies for SERAC.  

You've had a very interesting career, starting out as an Industrial Designer. Please could you tell us a little bit about how you got into design? 

"It wasn’t the obvious choice in the early days. I always thought that I was going to study medicine to become a doctor, as I was quite interested in anatomy but along the way things changed and I started at university studying to become an engineer. I lasted only two weeks, clearly understanding that it wasn’t what I was wanting to do. I think it was then that I had a second look at a design course, which was still quite a vague direction for me. I could picture what I would become if I studied industrial design, and it didn’t feel it was a proper-education. In the end I think I must have listened to my instincts for my interest to pursue drawing, modelling and creation, and finally chose this direction." 

As your collections are inspired by the outdoors, and having worked at Helly Hansen, what draws you to the outdoors and what outdoor activities do you enjoy personally? 

"Personally, I enjoy so many outdoor activities. After spending time in the outdoors, I truly appreciate getting back into the wild. The change of environment and the change of scenery gives me a real vibrant feeling. Although scenery is always changing, our personality works as a constant and I think this might give more of an accurate picture of the versatility I want to achieve with SERAC as a brand. I want the city highlife to meet the worker and the outdoorsman; creating and offering a successful blend. I think if I capture the personality of ‘that guy’ in SERAC, it will not only be a powerful design, but a functional and beautiful product, capable of moving effortlessly and lasting for a long time."

What led you to setting up your own brand? 

"I think I’ve always had a pretty clear picture - very early in any process - on how I see things solved and the solution would always contain a strong aesthetic element. On the other hand, I’ve always had a very hard time answering; what is your dream job? I think at one time I said “Design Director at Sony” but I never really believed that. What truly led me to setting up a new brand from scratch was the importance of ownership. For me it has always felt slightly unnatural that someone distanced from the true creative work, owns and receives 100% return of investment for the real innovative work. I really wanted to own my work and be able to get complete return of those thousands of hours of creative investment. Being the owner of your creations means putting a lot more pressure on how well it must be carried out. It has to be better, finer, more detailed and so on. If it’s not, you can’t blame anyone else other than yourself. It’s exhausting at times, but it’s also a great rush in achieving something from start to finish."  

Your designs are beautiful. Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind your first collection?  

"Thank you! That is so fantastic to hear – I’m truly happy to hear this! I’ll mention a couple of things on the inspiration side. I hope it doesn’t sound arrogant, but first and foremost, it’s inspired by perfection. I wanted the first products designed and developed by SERAC to be truly outstanding, within a very commercial format. Outstanding not in a peacocky way but in a highly functional and aesthetic way. It’s all the small details and the intelligence behind the construction and material choice that shapes the SERAC experience. As I’ve had full control this time, it’s safe to say that the aesthetic is much closer to my personal taste then anything I’ve made before. I wanted to take all that functionality and mould it together in a very cool looking product, with loads of style."

You have designed a new jacket, the 3341, for this season. There are only 100 available which I imagine will be quickly snapped up. Can we expect more from you for this Summer? Or do you prefer to keep things minimal? 

"It’s not easy to say whether there’s an audience for what you make until it’s actually out there, but I will vouch for the quality of the 3341. Buyers will get incredible value for their investment. I would like to present more products over the course of the summer seasons in the future and did actually have a couple more prototypes up my sleeve. In the end though, I’ve promised myself that we shall not produce anything that we are not 100% satisfied with. There will be more summer releases in the next couple of years, however the more heavy representation will be through the winter season. Part of Serac's ethos is to avoid over-consumption and encourage consumers to care more for their clothing." 

Do you think over-consumption is a key hurdle for brands? 

"Yes, absolutely. Brands need to be relevant, and it’s an easy story to tap into – many department stores jump onto this as well, actually every consumer area is. The real challenge is to truly figure out how to solve the solitaire. In many ways it’s still far too complex for SERAC as a small brand to make all the right choices. It’s said that the fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world next to the oil industry. And it’s obvious that the larger companies that produce millions of products per year are mostly responsible for these numbers. It’s not our brand story that says don’t over-consume, it’s the products that is (my intention at least) designed in a manner that shall make the owner want to care for it and want to use it for a long time due to its inherent qualities and classic design."

Would you say Serac is a sustainable brand? And if so, has that always been your aim?  

"Our aim is style and quality as well as to lower consumption. We are aiming to better our sustainable model and I think this is something that is extremely important given how much pollution comes from the fashion industry. With that said, it’s incredibly hard to hit every single box, we are still growing and learning, as are most brands looking to perfect the way in how they operate to support the environment. For the 3341 our outer-cotton shell has been ethically sourced from award-winning Green Factory Hermin in Taiwan along with an inner vest that uses recycled nylon from Japan. We also use an 80g recycled cashmere wool for the insulation which comes from Italy. In terms of carbon emissions, that isn’t great but it’s incredibly hard to source everything from one location. We are doing our best as an emerging brand and once more factories come on board with being economically better for the environment, the easier it will become. Our AW2020 collection will be 100% sustainable with all materials being sourced in Asia and we take comfort in the fact that we are doing all we can now with achieving a better product overall for the future."

Bec Loades

With a strong passion for fashion, Bec has retail experience in styling and enjoys researching new style trends and seeking out upcoming menswear brands.

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