Category: Behind the Design

Tea’s Norway Inspiration: part II

Norway is renowned as the “cradle of skiing” and it is possible to ski there, even in the summer time.

Emily and I wanted to see these snow capped mountains first, so we headed toward Jotenheimen National Park, home to Norway’s highest peaks.

We needed to rest up before we embarked on our journey through the mountains, and found ourselves in the perfect spot. The quaint and eclectic Elevester Hotel sits in the shadows of Norway’s tallest mountain.

Inside, the hotel is decorated with motifs and crafts from Norwegian history.

The upholstery fabric and hand painted designs on the antique furniture inspired some of our winter textiles, as used in our Elevester Floral Dress (shown above).

We were ready to make our way up to the peaks. As we climbed higher, the snow walls began to tower at least 3 feet above our car. I was starting to regret not bringing along some cozy mittens and warmer layers…

…but along our decent, snow gave way to waterfalls and lush green pastures.

We decided to stop in Skjolden, a small town on the other side of the mountains. We were delighted to find that the town was having a local craft fair. Here we met Olga, a sweet woman selling her hand knitted mittens and slippers.

The history of hand knitting in Norway dates back to Viking times and most snowflake motifs and lice patterning that we see on ski sweaters today, originated there. A Norwegian collection would not be complete without a nod to these designs.

Our Skjolden Ski Cardigan and Viking Intarsia Vest (shown above).

At a rest stop we noticed an unusual steeple silhouetted against the setting sun. These dragon head gables are distinct to Norway’s Stav churches.

We went to Borgund to find the only Stav church that has been unaltered since the middle ages.

The intricate framework and gabled roof inspired the architecture of our twirling Stav Dress (shown above).

We ended our trip in the harbor city of Bergen, where even the radiating colors of the 11pm sunset left it’s impression on us.

Our interpretation of a midnight sunset is conveyed through our Ombre Tunic Sweater (shown below).

fall 2008’s inspiration: norway

flying into NorwayIn May 2007, Emily and I headed north to explore the vast country of Norway in search of inspiration for Tea’s Fall 2008 collection.

This was my first visit to a Scandinavian country and I was expecting clean and modern aesthetic. Upon landing in this rich country, I was instantly taken by the enveloping evergreens and the woodwork, immaculate even in the airport.

I knew that this was a country that respected its natural resources and proudly celebrated them through craft. I could not wait to see what we would find…


We began our trip in Oslo, visiting museums and taking in Norwegian metropolitan culture.

One notable stop was the Norsk Folkemuseum, which featured 150 reconstructed townhouses, farm buildings, and churches from Norway’s past.

Here, we discovered a style of folk painting called Rosemaling (see below). This style of painting emerged in Norway around the late 18th century. Artists from the more rural areas in Norway would travel from home to home, painting interior walls and furniture. The homeowners would provide warm shelter and food for these artists in return for their services.

The color and detail of these scroll-like floral designs were captivating in beauty and impressive in coverage.

Later, we found that this painting style influenced embroidery in Norwegian folk costume. This discovery inspired us to come up with our own modern interpretation.

(Norwegian Folk Embroidery and Tea’s Inspired Print)

(Below from left to right: Tea’s Rasmussen Floral Dress and Elina Embroidery French Terry pants)

We also found that hand and loom weaving have been a native tradition in Norway, often done by families in times of celebration. There are many different types of traditional weaving, but 2 examples stood out, Billedvev (pictured here), a pictorial tapestry…

…and Rutevev, a geometric style (below).

These flat woven textiles were typically done in village homes found amongst the fjords. We were fascinated by the textures and colors in these textiles, so we headed north in search of some to make our own.

By chance and through a little help from friends that we met along the way, we ended up at the Stalheim Hotel.

A beautiful hotel set atop a 300 meter high cliff, not only does this hotel boast amazing views, it also has a spectacular collection of Norwegian crafts and a reconstructed folk village.

The varied patterns and color we found in Stalheim’s collection of textiles inspired us to interpret them in rich sweaters and bright plaids.

(above: Norwegian woven textiles)

(Above from left to right: Tea’s Stalheim Fairisle sweater, Aurland plaid shirt, and Ingrid Jacquard sweater)

(Emily and me at the lookout from the Stalheim Hotel)

It is hard to be in fjord country without going on a fjord tour. We were in luck as we were close to one of Norway’s most famous, the Sognefjord. It is of the longest and deepest in Norway, an inlet jutting over 100 miles into the country and over 4000 feet deep.

You can’t deny the beauty and massive landscape surrounding you in Norway. We tried to capture this feeling through voluminous silhouettes in this Fall’s collection like the Aurland Plaid Dress and Fjord Coat (both pictured here).




Exploring West Africa

Why West Africa? Our design team was enormously inspired by the extraordinary architecture,  hand-dyed textiles, and bold colors and motifs of this beautiful region of the world. Visiting Mali, Burkina Faso, and Ghana, we were surrounded by vivid color.  Against the minimalist backdrop of earth buildings such as the great mosque at Djenne, women went about their daily duties wearing brightly patterned swaths of cloth that kept them cool against the hot sun.  Marketplaces were a visually stimulating cacophony of scarves, head wraps, fruit, piles of fabric, and food cooking in the sun.

While there we learned a huge amount about the unique textiles that are so prevalent in this region. One printing method is to use all natural dyes made from leaves, the hand-wove cotton is colored first, followed by mud painting which is used to illustrate patterns and symbols. The cloths are laid out to dry in the sun and the dry mud is removed, exposing beautiful symbols that can represent such core West African themes as family, journeys, or fathers and mothers.

The vibrancy of these cultures traveled with us all the way back to San Francisco, where we created our West Africa collection. Enjoy!

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