A recent Ingebretsen’s customer said, “I’ll never have to buy another coat,” while admiring her new purchase of a Lillunn reindeer jacket. She’s right. Lillunn emphasizes quality and careful hands-on production from the sheep to the showroom. When told of this comment, Hanne Messerich, American representative of Lillunn said, “True, your customer won’t have to buy another coat. Though after ten years, she may need to brush it a little.”
Lillun uses wool only from producers who have Norwegian eco-certification for their sheep raising methods. This means strict guidelines on which chemicals can used on the sheep’s fleece (If you don’t happen to raise sheep yourself, you may not be aware that sheep are soaked in chemicals to minimize the parasites that can damage their fleece. Some of these chemicals are so strong that they have caused neurological damage to the farmers that sprayed their sheep.) The guidelines also specify that the sheep are pastured and allowed to move freely, and that shearing schedules are dictated by what is best for the sheep’s well-being, not by production schedules.
During the fleece into wool and the garment seaming is done in Norway, ensuring product quality and good working conditions.
Lillunn started as company committed to quality when it was founded in 1953 by Unn Søiland Dale, the knitting designer who created the Marius pattern. She was inspired by the deck blankets on Norwegian cruise ships such as Hurtigruten and began designing and manufacturing coats made from high-quality 100% Norwegian wool blankets. In the 1970s, she began collaborating with Berger Plaid, a blanket manufacturer, and she revived the polar bear and reindeer patterns that artist Thorolf Holmboe created for Hurtigruten in the 1920s. She used these patterns to make the signature coats most often associated with Lillunn.
Dale not only designed wonderful blankets and coats. She was also a knitwear manufacturer who paved the way for other women to become involved in large-scale clothing production and the first woman to be admitted for membership in Norway’s Industry Federation. Dale designed for Givenchy and Dior, but her own company focused on sportswear and heritage design blankets.
Lillunn is now owned and run by Norwegian designer, Elisabeth Stray Pedersen. She has an MA in fashion design at Oslo National Academy with specialization in local production and Norwegian wool. Her experience within the textile industry makes her the perfect person to take over and continue the production and heritage of Lillunn, with a modern take.
The traditional Lillunn designs, such as Marius blankets and reindeer coats are still part of their product line, with the addition of contemporary coats, jackets, shawls, and pocket scarves. The quality has remained the same and each coat is an investment that repays you with warmth and style for years, if not decades.
Hanne will be at Ingebretsen’s this Saturday, November 4 with a trunk show of Lillunn fashions. Take a close look at the coats and blankets, knowing that they were sourced from happy sheep and made with care. Who knows, maybe a coat will follow you home. Just remember to give it a brushing in 2027.
– Carstens Smith