I bought my first Oleana sweater — actually my only Oleana sweater — at least ten years ago. I still love it, wear it year-round and get compliments galore. These are gorgeous creations from Norway but not like the typical Norwegian ski sweater you may be mentally picturing. They're made for women in fanciful color combinations, exquisite fibers and timeless styles.
I usually wear my Oleana sweater (above) with jeans and heavyweight Pacific Cotton brand long-sleeved T-shirts in one of the colors that appear in the sweater. I also have matching "wristletts" (fingerless gloves) which are perfect for cool weather. The Oleana catalog at the time I bought my sweater showed it in a much more glamorous context (below, and a different color combo).
I bought my sweater on vacation in northern Wisconsin and have always wanted to add another to my wardrobe. Though it's possible to buy them online I wanted to be able to see them and try them on in person. They are so variable in the colors and patterns that you really want to make your decisions with the sweaters in front of you.
So I was thrilled when my sister-in-law told me that Century House in Madison was carrying them. We went over to the store yesterday afternoon so I could see them in person and try them on. Century House currently has three styles in stock including the one shown below. I think the photos don't begin to capture the subtlety and the richness of the colors and patterns. The sweaters for this season are a combination of wool and silk making them soft and smooth to the touch and lightweight compared to a winter cardigan.
These are classic pieces that will never go out of style and the price (around $500.00) reflects today's economy as well as the materials, workmanship and the philosophy of the company. They are long term investment pieces. All the sweathers are designed by Solveig Hisdal and both knit and sewn in the Oleana factory just outside Bergen, Norway. At Oleana, they "believe that we have to buy fewer, but more beautiful clothes in our part of the world." Oleana sweaters are "slow clothes, fair made." It's a philosophy that is timely and one I think many women in Madison and elsewhere are beginning to adopt.
Sizes run small, and the sweaters are not on the Century House web site. You'll have to stop in and see them in person which is the only way to appreciate these beautiful creations. Do notice how the pocket on the sweater (above) is matched so the design lines up perfectly. I fell in love with the sweater below which was a deeper, richer blue than it appears in the photo. It's a very flattering fit and style. I like the sophistication of the color and pattern and then the playful striping on the sleeves. It also has a dramatic button at the neckline closure.
I think it is worth knowing the very special attitude of the Oleana team which helps to explain both the quality of their products and the cost. This is from the company's web site (my italics):
"Oleana was founded in 1992, with the aim of creating new jobs in Norway's textile industry. Most of Western Europe’s production had by that time moved to countries with far cheaper labour, but we wanted to show that it is still possible to produce textiles of good quality in a high-cost country like Norway . . .
People all over the world are becoming more aware of what they buy. By thinking more about the choices we make when we shop, we can share in taking care of our planet. Clothes made from natural fibres,— like wool and silk,— are good environmental choices.
It is becoming more important for us to buy clothing that is produced in a responsible manner. We can no longer accept the humiliating circumstances that many women and children work under in order to produce inexpensive textile products."
There is the Oleana factory by the fjord. It is located in the building that housed Arne Fabrikker, founded 1846, the first textile mill on the west coast of Norway. According to Oleana's web site, that company grew to be the biggest one in the country until it closed in 1978. Oleana has turned the lights back on — in the industry and the factory.
And, no, I didn't buy the blue sweater but I am definitely tempted!