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Inspired by Scandinavia, made in Southwest Portland
Ingvill Montgomery taps into her Norwegian heritage to bring back the traditional busserull work shirt
On a quiet afternoon at home with her two young daughters, Ingvill Montgomery spreads a dozen new shirts across her kitchen table.
The tops come in a mix of neutral colors and simple fabrics, such as linen, cotton and wool. Many are designed, sewn and sold within a few miles of Montgomery's Garden Home house, and they're made to last — this isn't "fast fashion," she says.
But for Montgomery, the Hovden Formal Farm Wear clothing company she founded two years ago carries even greater significance. These traditional Scandinavian work shirts connect her to her hometown of Vingelen, Norway — where many of her family members still live — and to the culture of her ancestors, who donned a similar uniform for daily life as long as 150 years ago.
The company gets its name from the family farm that Montgomery's ancestors worked several generations ago.
The idea for the business started with her dad, she says, recalling a conversation they had during the holiday season of 2013. Her dad had a day job in Norway, but he also spent part of his day doing farm work. He wanted a work uniform that could easily transition between the two roles, like the traditional busserull work shirts that his mother used to make when he was a boy.
"He was looking for a shirt that he could look nice in, but be true to himself," Montgomery says. "I did a lot of Google searches (for busserull shirts) and realized there was nothing out there."
So Montgomery started tossing around the idea of starting her own line of busserulls. When she shared the concept, a friend who designs clothing was "blown away," she recalls, because the shirts are traditionally designed with square and rectangular pieces to avoid wasting material. Her friend made a prototype and connected her with a sewing team in Spain, and Montgomery launched a Kickstarter campaign, raising $15,000 in August 2014.
The company now produces 20 different types of shirts — all inspired by traditional Scandinavian work clothing — as well as leather suspenders and hats. And Multnomah Marketplace, which opened in Multnomah Village in June, recently began carrying the shirts.
Montgomery says Norwegian-Americans are her largest market, so she recently transitioned some of her manufacturing to NW Apparel in Beaverton; some of the shirts are sewn by Doben Textiles in Pamplona, Spain. Eventually, she hopes to have all the shirts for Americans made locally in the Portland area, and the shirts for Norwegians made nearby in Spain.
The loose-fitting tops, with a belt in the back to keep them out of a worker's way, can be worn by both men and women. The company also produces shirts for children. The adult shirts range from $98 for a cotton shirt to $220 for a wool one.
Montgomery says running the business has given her a greater appreciation for "slow fashion" pieces that can stand the test of time and reduce fabric and manufacturing waste as a result.
"I just love everything about the concept," she says. "I love the shirts themselves, and I love being part of the maker movement."
What: Hovden Formal Farm Wear
Where: Shirts and accessories are sold online and at Multnomah Marketplace, 7642 S.W. Capitol Highway.
Info: Call 503-317-1613 or visit hovdenformalfarmwear.com.