T-Michael has taken the fashion world by storm
Bergen-based designer T-Michael has shops in Tokyo, Oslo, and Paris. He's taken the world by storm with a clothing brand that could only be born in the rain-soaked city of Bergen: Norwegian Rain.
With over 200 rainy days a year, it's only natural that the world's most stylish rainwear first saw the (cloudy) light of day in the Norwegian coastal city nestled between seven mountains.
"What I find so great about Bergen is that it's a small city, but there is still so much happening here throughout the year."
"You have a thriving cultural scene with plenty of concerts and festivals, you have the mountains, you have the sea. It's a perfect place to live, especially for someone like me who travels a lot but can always come back."
"I love Bergen. I even love the rain," T-Michael tells Strawberry. Or Michael T. Nartey, as he is really called.
Put Bergen on the fashion map
The Ghanaian-born designer smiles broadly and confidently as he poses for the photographer. He is, of course, impeccably dressed in his own design, effortlessly gliding through the streets of, for once, a sun-drenched Bergen city. Somewhat paradoxically, considering part of his success is built on the rainiest days.
With the bright Bergen sun in his face, it's not always easy to be a model, but the good weather only adds to the creator of Norwegian Rain's reputation as one of the coolest guys in Bergen. Even the stride of the 57-year-old exudes cool, the photographer notes.
With that as a starting point, it's perhaps no surprise that T-Michael has managed to put Bergen and Norway on the international fashion map.
His very own clothing brand – T-Michael
A passion for clothing and fashion has been in the designer's blood since he was young. As a teenager, T-Michael became fascinated with London's tailoring traditions, and this became the beginning of his interest and passion for the art of tailoring. He brought that passion with him to Bergen, in western Norway, when he arrived there in the late 1980s.
After completing his education in tailoring at a vocational college, he launched the brand bearing his own name, T-Michael, in 1996. With a modern twist on traditional garments, the clothing brand gained a lot of attention in fashion circles both nationally and internationally.
Norwegian Rain and the city of Bergen
But it was a chance encounter that would change everything. A little over 15 years ago, a man with an economics background and an interest in fashion walked into T-Michael's shop in the narrow alleys of the western Norwegian capital.
Bergen native Alexander Helle had long dreamt of creating functional rainwear that would not only keep you dry when the Norwegian weather was at its worst but that would also be stylish, fashionable, and suitable
For both everyday wear and special occasions. It was meant to be a far cry from the traditional sou'wester or the dull rain jackets that so many Norwegians have embraced.
With the most days of rain in the country, it was also something Bergen sorely needed. And, as it turned out, many other places too.
The chance visitor wanted T-Michael on his team, but the designer wasn't entirely convinced. He had no plans to create rainwear. In fact, T-Michael intended to "drop him gently", as he puts it.
"So, we had a coffee at a nearby café and talked. The plan was to tell him I wasn't interested, but an hour into the conversation, we started discussing how things could be done. The rest is history," he says with a smile.
Norwegian Rain makes you look good - no matter the weather
Instead of a rejection, it became the beginning of a long-lasting and fruitful collaboration. T-Michael explains to Strawberry that design and Norwegian Rain are essentially about problem-solving.
"When you live in a city where it rains two out of three days and you have to wait for the third day to look good, you've already lost. We realised that no one out there was combining style and functionality. Since we coupled this with incredible product quality, we believe we've solved a problem many have," says T.
The final piece of the brand's success is found in the philosophy the designer calls a "Japanese sensibility".
"It's about spending a lot of time removing everything that's superfluous in the garment. You're then left with things that matter. In combination, these three elements— tailoring, functionality, and a 'Japanese sensibility' — allow us to create a garment that breathes, is 100% waterproof, and sustainable from day one," he says proudly.
"You should be able to wear your Norwegian Rain jacket every single day. If it starts raining, you're ready," he adds.
Norwegian Rain across the globe
Today, Norwegian Rain designs everything from raincoats to sou'westers and bags. The brand is sold in exclusive stores worldwide, and has its own shops in Oslo, Paris, and Tokyo.
And Bergen, of course.
"Bergen might not be the first city that comes to mind when talking about fashion?"
"No, it might not be. But I think that's an advantage. If we were based in London or Paris, we'd be in the same circles as other designers. Things can quickly become very similar."
"The advantage of being 'alone' in Bergen is that we can create truly unique things and be inspired by what's happening in the city. We create our own stimuli here. Then we can travel the world and pick up influences from other places when we need them," explains T-Michael.
Their flagship store in Bergen, Norwegian Rain & T-Michael, is centrally located in Chr. Michelsen's gate. It's just a few minutes' walk from the boutique Hotel NO 13 and the Clarion Hotel® Admiral. Staying at one of these two hotels, you'll be close to all the shops, bars, restaurants, and tourist attractions in the western Norwegian capital.
Mountain hiking in Bergen
T-Michael draws some of the inspiration for new designs from the stunning nature surrounding Bergen.
The city, better known as the city between the seven mountains in Norway, offers incredible nature experiences just a few minutes' walk from the city centre.
Whether it involves a jog along a mountain side path, a steep stair climb up the popular Stoltzekleiven trail, or a hike to the highest peak in the city, Ulriken.
After some probing, we quickly discover that T-Michael is not an avid mountain enthusiast – even after 35 years in Norway.
"I wouldn't call myself a mountain goat, but it's always lovely to get up into the mountains. Just to clear your head and enjoy the silence."
"But, it must be said, every time I'm in the mountains, I think 'damn, why don't I do this more often?'," he chuckles.
"But it's great to have the opportunity so close to the city. There are few cities in the world that can match that."
Few cities can match the amount of rainfall either. But don't let that deter you from a trip to this beautiful city with its narrow streets and crooked wooden houses.
If it rains, you have a fantastic excuse to don something new you've picked up at Norwegian Rain...