The idea of “formal” and “farm wear” in the same sentence may at first seem odd. But Hovden’s founder Ingvill Montgomery has successfully married a century- old Scandinavian farm shirt design with high quality fabrics to create clothing that is at once contemporary and timeless. The logo itself – a similar combination of the modern with a nod to historical roots – is a circular graphic made up of nearly the same number of rectangles and squares as the shirts themselves.
“Hovden” is the name of Montgomery’s family farm in Norway, where members of her family have lived for over a hundred years. She remembers her grandmother making the farm shirts, though the original fabrics were generally some sort of coarse cotton; sometimes burlap bags or other scraps that were available got repurposed into shirts. Montgomery loves that she is able to preserve part of her heritage with “more refined” fabrics like natural linen, wool, and fine cotton.
The shirts are made in small batches and by hand, with an eye to fine craftsmanship and detail. Most are produced locally and some in Spain; Montgomery’s founding business partner was from Spain, and had personal connections to both suitable, affordable fabrics and small-shop craftspeople (“Fortunately my Spanish degree came in handy,” says Montgomery). When her business partner left and moved back to Spain, there was such a good working relationship in place with the Spanish producers that Montgomery decided to continue to have the wool shirts made there. She is passionate about Portland’s maker movement however, and so the majority of her shirts are made in a small shop here.
Montgomery finds it challenging to try to keep up with marketing and traveling with a new baby in the family, but she also realizes that her work is a through-line connecting her heritage with her community and her family’s future generation, and she finds that satisfying.
Because of the small-batch production and higher price that necessarily comes with individually handmade garments, the Hovden shirt “doesn’t fit in everywhere” says Montgomery. But that’s okay. Her intent is to grow her business slowly and organically. As it turns out, the word is getting out there and people are finding her:
To her surprise and delight, eighty percent of her customers are from the Norwegian-American community – a special group of customers who want to acknowledge and celebrate their heritage. Shirts are purchased for personal use as well as for costume in Nordic festivals and period plays; A Monterey Bay theater company commissioned a group of shirts for a production in 2015
Most recently, Montgomery just found out she has been invited to show her work at the summer 2016 runway show at Alley 33 – an annual showcase for Portland-made fashion. She is thrilled to be included: “Who would have thought that these shirts are THAT cool? Portland, watch out!”