Written by Veronica Mike Solheim
Photography by Nina Granerød & Frode Grønvold
After a series of passionate conversations by the kitchen table, married couple Nina Granerød and Frode Grønvold decided to start their own fashion brand, Fall Winter Spring Summer. It was 2012, the timing was right and FWSS was a success already after its first year. And the curve continued in the right direction. One thing led to another, a sales partner joined the board and before they knew it, the couple found themselves working round the clock for a brand they felt had lost its original idea and identity. Nina and Frode had lost their balance in life, something had to change. And it did. Today the couple’s Instagram bio reads as follows: ‘Vogue Magazine said green was the “trendcolour of 2017” so we bought a 1977 GMC Palm Beach and made it our home and office’.
Hi guys! Please take me back to the beginning. How did FWSS come about?
It probably started the moment we met each other, after Nina had moved back from London in 2006, but it truly came to life at the kitchen table, where we had passionate conversations about work and all the possibilities we found in the market at the time. Our conclusion was that we were two extreme personalities and we needed to use it wisely. To talk about something, without actually doing anything, is a waste of time and energy.
FWSS became a great success. Why do you think it did?
FWSS was supposed to be a brand for the commercial market. We knew quite well how hard it was for designers and fashion brands at the time, and were convinced that we could prove that it was possible to sell and make money on Norwegian design, without tacky prints of tractors or sportswear. The timing was crucial. When FWSS launched its first collection, there was a gap in the market. Design-driven brands with high-quality fabrics were quite expensive at the time. We wanted to make it affordable. It worked. Our collections stood out, but at the same time it appealed to both the everyday girl and the fashion people. We had a good team of really talented people in a variety of fields.
In an interview with DN in 2013, you said that ‘If you truly want something, it will happen’. Can you elaborate? Is courage everything?
Absolutely not, but a lot comes down to it. That sentence was meant to be an inspiration––If you want something, go get it. It’s crucial if you have a start-up—you have to continue working, no matter the challenges you meet on your way. Nothing happens if you don’t dare to take the first step. If you truly want something, you do what you have to do. If you meet challenges, you work your way around them. Things might not turn out the way you planned, but the road is made as you walk it. A lot of people give up way too easily.
The news about you leaving FWSS and Blender taking over the brand, came about a year ago. Why did you decide to leave?
We experienced a massive growth and a huge success, but eventually we felt more and more trapped in a direction we neither wanted or believed in. We felt as if our original idea and identity slowly faded. The collaboration between the different partners didn’t work at all, something that eventually affected the results. This escalated the conflict, and eventually we lost all joy and the ability to create. Happiness and trust is important if you want to make good stuff.
And that was the beginning of a completely new journey, literally. You left it all, bought a green van and decided to travel the world. How did this idea come about?
We had been working round the clock and gave it all to build Fall Winter Spring Summer. At the same time, we became parents, worked round the clock, didn’t manage to get a spot in the kindergarten, had three different babysitters, and completely lost balance in our lives. We went from a 70 sqm flat in central Oslo to a big house and hours of traffic jams every day. Fortunately, digitalisation makes it able for the world to eventually move away from industrialisation and the nine-to-five-existence. The possibility to work from where we want, whenever we want, or even more important—when it actually pays off, is finally here.
We believe in the nature’s clock. When the sun is shining or the surf is good, you’re supposed to enjoy what’s important to you. Then you probably do a better job afterwards. Quality time is something you experience in the moment, not the one you book in advance. We chose a life where we surrounded ourselves with less, but important things. Where we get out in nature, where we play together each day, eat local food based on seasons, where the world and its nature is our garden.
There were great expectations for this lifestyle in the 60s. Human kind went to space, which inspired creatives to think differently. Even the car producers wanted to make our world mobile. General Motors collaborated with Conde Nast on creating a home-on-wheels. The result was a GMC motorhome that was produced from 1973 to 1978, right before economic downturns killed the optimism, and the project. We picked up a well-preserved example of this icon from an eccentric gay couple in Los Angeles and decided to continue the vision. It’s a world out there, and we think we become better at work, and life in general, by continuing to be curious and taking in everything that is happening right now.
I’m sure the idea sparked quite some time before you found yourself on the road? Do you remember the moment you realised that it was actually going to happen?
It’s easy to say you are going to do it, but it takes time to make it a reality. We can’t even remember the moment we actually decided to do it. But there are moments when we look at each other and remind one another of the fact that we are here. That we are living the life we always wanted.
You’re not travelling alone. How’s life on the road with a two-year old?
Vinter, our son, loves his life in ‘hjemmebussen’ (the home bus), as he calls it. Everything is quite compromised and we live closely together. To be able to just open your door and run to the beach to play. To experience new places, to meet kids from other countries. We were a bit concerned that it would be a bit too much for him, but he quickly created his very own nest. Every time the motor stops, he says ‘HOME!”, when he’s tired, he just says the word ‘drive’. We believe his need for security and stability is fulfilled by his parents not being bound to a planned week, which means we can be there for him when he needs us. We can discover things together and only use our screens and digital displays for work or special occasions.
People can follow you on your Instagram Meet the Jetsons. Why did you decide to make an Instagram account?
It works as some sort of travel journal—for us, for family and friends, but also for others. It feels right to share this experience because we want to inspire others to do the same. The journal is also a way of being creative while being on the road.
Would you say your experience with running FWSS has had some sort of significance in this? If so, how?
Yes. You meet a challenge or two when you’re on an adventure. It’s nice to know that we’re good at fixing problems together. It’s kind of like we are working as a team on this experience too. It’s a lot of work to preserve a vintage van, a bit like taking care of a boat. We have to share the everyday tasks, and when you have a hyper two-year old, it can be quite similar to running a business.
Where have you been, and where are you going?
We started without the bus, in a jungle in Central America. And while we were working on making the bus project come true, we were exploring the Canary Islands. We then went to LA, bought the bus and drove the California coast line before crossing the United States. We always try to set up a route that’s a bit tough getting to. We’ve both had up to 200 days of travel during our careers, and we were both pretty sick of travelling. Airports is far from as inspiring as gas stations, and the attempt to keep up some sort of healthy lifestyle eventually made the hotels more and more expensive. Now, as we have the house and comfort no matter where we go, the travel part is a bliss. And the most inspiring places have turned out to be the ones far from the airports. Marfa in Texas is a perfect example. Another one is Ojai in California. Asturias in Spain is also truly magical.
After the States, we did Norway. It’s no secret that we come from a beautiful country, but to be able to travel around the west coast of Norway, without having to stay at shitty hotels and eating junk, felt like the only right thing to do. Norway is quite the destination, but still has a long way to go before it’s quality at all levels. Europe, on the other side, has done a good job in preserving a lot of its uniqueness and variation in flora, fauna, and food culture.
I’m guessing you are happy with your choice? The typical tips to others would probably be ‘just do it’, but it can’t be all fun and joy all the time, can it? What are your top three tips to others who are thinking about leaving everything they have to follow their dreams?
No, it’s not easy at all, and the situation is different for everyone. But yeah, 1. Plan ahead to make it possible. 2. Be willing to give up on stuff and to live a more simple life. 3. Just do it (you’ll be fine!).