I’m fascinated by this story and interview with artist Oscar Olsson that leaves me with more questions than answers.
FLAUNT reports — To put it bluntly, Oscar Olsson seems like a visitor from a distant, highly productive planet. Headstrong and disciplined, he claims he gets by on just a few hours of sleep a night. He begins each day with an intense workout and an extended meditation session, letting his mind wander the universe, before he pulls it back down to earth. And then, mostly, he works. “I have this intensity level where if I do something, I do it 80-100 hours a week. That’s just how I’m wired,” he tells me matter-of-factly. With a prophet’s beard, glacier-blue eyes, and cryptic symbols tattooed on his arms, he’s not who you’d expect to be leading the latest disruption to the world of fashion. He has no social media presence and no experience as a designer, though he had a precocious preoccupation with fashion—“As early as four years old, I had strong opinions about what I wanted to wear,” he states, not without a bit of pride. So, what is he up to?
/Nyden, they call it. The website offers no information,just a space to enter your email.When you do, you receive a message—“Welcome to the tribe”— and a link. If you decide to click the link, instead of answers, you are presented with an Instagram page, @wearenyden, which consists of nine images, all black save for one in the center, which shows a bold slash. This is where the rabbit hole ends, for now. Click it: an explosion of colorful imagery,––– and a lingering sense of mystery.
So, what is /Nyden? It’s not an easy question to answer. In one sense they’re a fashion label. But to leave it at that would be like saying Apple makes cell phones. True, but unenlightening. To learn more, I spoke with Oscar Olsson, the—how to describe him? Thought leader? Chief? Creative Director?—behind the concept.
Olsson speaks carefully but with clear excitement for the project, and he has a penchant for knotty philosophical discourse. “/Nyden is the result of three years of research, four years of tinkering, and four years of trying to develop a vision that actually means something for the industry. The essential question that drives us is: how do we empower people in ten years?”
To answer that potentially unanswerable question, Olsson takes his own voluminous research into sociology, biology, psychology, leadership strategy, and futurology and combines it all with a years of data analyzing consumer shopping habits. “We have a fundamental belief that the future is not this thing that we can just sit back and eat popcorn and watch, like a movie, as it unfolds,” he says. “It’s a question of agency. We believe that a group of individuals with a mission, organized to take action, can create the future and shape its path.”
Olsson believes that the primary driver of the future—as well as more or less all of human history—is the idea of the “tribe,” an well-known anthropological concept that he applies to contemporary cultural and social structures. They are central to /Nyden’s creative vision. As framed by Olsson, a tribe is an organically and democratically assembled group of people who align themselves around shared interests, ideals, and goals. There is no rigid hierarchy. Tribes are always changing, always evolving. Everyone within the tribe serves a purpose, and leaders develop and recede based upon the shifting preferences and ideals held by the rest of the members.
“We think that a company should function as a persona. It’s not an institution, it’s not this aristocratic function that stands on top of the crowd and looks down on it,” he explains. “I love the metaphor of the underground club, where there is a DJ at the same level as the audience. They’re there as a curator but also there as an event maker. They can lead the crowd and direct the energy, but the crowd decides if it wants to be lead, and without the crowd there would be no event. They’re an empathetic tribe leader, and that is something fundamentally different than the top- down structures of most brands today.”
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Oscar Olsson | photos by Clay Gardner | Fashion credits: GLOBAL EFFECTS INC. spacesuit worn throughout.
Written by Sid Feddema
Photographed by Clay Gardner
Styled by Santa Bevacqua
Groomer: Michelle Harvey using Oribe and CHANEL Palette Essentiell at Opus Beauty
Location: WeWork DTLA Glass Tower