RAH Oslo – from causual chat to million kroner business

When Anita Gjengedal and Siri Thomassen met each other through joint acquaintances, they quickly discovered that they both shared the same desire: to create something of their own. With 30 and 20 years of industry experience behind them, in 2018 they delivered their first RAH Oslo collection to retail stores. Since then, the brand has been sold in over 100 stores, and named gazelle company of the year several times.

By: Chilli Media Photo: RAH Oslo

“We both spotted a gap in the market and had a burning desire to do something together,” say Anita and Siri who founded the RAH Oslo brand in 2018.  Both could boast extensive experience of the textile industry, and both had a burning desire to focus on Norwegian design made for and by Norwegian women.

“The Norwegian market is dominated by a number of Danish suppliers, and Danish fashion isn’t always suited to Norwegians. Here in Norway we have four clear seasons and six months of snow. Us Norwegians need and use colours in a different way, and that was something we both wanted to do address.”

Available in all sizes – from 34 to 46

They began scouring foreign vintage markets for inspiration for different prints and colours that they could use in their collections. They have kept a constant eye on fashion beyond Norway’s borders, and have strived, above all, to keep the customer in mind at all times.

“We’re following what’s happening in Europe and don’t pay much attention to what others are doing here at home. Our focus is on trends that appeal to both young and old, and on clothes in all sizes. We offer a vast range of sizes from 34 to 46, which gives our collections a wide appeal,” says the duo.

The brand’s name comes from a locket that Anita wore around her neck with the letters R, A and H.

The team behind RAH Oslo: Ragni Gjengedel, Lena Madsen Elgaaen, Anita Gjengedal and Siri Thomassen Photo: Tekstilforum.no

“RAH are the initials of my three daughters, Ragni, Amalie and Helene, but it was Siri who suggested using the name,” says Anita. And that’s how the brand RAH came to be. Now both Anita and Siri’s families are involved in the business, pitching up whenever extra staff are needed for warehouse sales or other things.

“We were two families who have merged into one big family. That’s what happens when two entrepreneurial women get together and have a flurry of ideas and a solid wishlist.”

Timeless clothing with fabulous details

Anita and Siri split their days between Gol, Hønefoss and Oslo. Anita splits her time between Hønefoss, Oslo and the store at Gol, while Siri works partly in the Hønefoss office and partly in the Oslo showroom. Once a week they try to meet in person, and occasionally they head off on an inspiration and manufacturing trip to destinations such as Italy and China.

RAH Oslo’s success criteria include hard work, a healthy dose of creativity, excellent teamwork and daring to venture out. Even in the down periods. 

“We’ve been through some fairly tough times since we started, what with both corona and the exchange rate, but we never backed down. We have faith in what we do and I think that’s very important,” says Siri.

Counting around 100 outlets on their customer list, they have grown to an impressive size since their foundation five years ago, and have remained focused on making clothing that suits many different occasions.

“While our focus is on making timeless garments that last a long time, we also use prints, details and colours that appeal to the Norwegian market. Both for work, leisure and evenings out. This makes our garments more versatile in terms of use, and therefore more sustainable. While our clothing reflects current trends, we also blend in our own colours and cuts.”

Sequins, velvet and evening dresses are the look this autumn

In its start-up year, RAH Oslo had a turnover of around NOK one million. After five years of hard work, the brand now has a turnover of about NOK 15 million, a figure that’s only going up.

Previous seasons focused on knitwear, dresses and tops in linen, as well as a variety of viscose and cotton garments. This autumn the spotlight falls on a collection of eveningwear, where sequins and velvet dominate to create looks that ooze confidence and finery. Knits in fresh colours will also make an appearance.

Prices range from NOK 499-4000 for the bigger outerwear products. Dresses range from NOK 899-2000, with knitwear at the same price level.

Their key target audience is women of 25+ years of age, who are looking for Norwegian designer clothing of a high quality and a good sense of detail and colour. RAH Oslo is sold in everything from small niche shops in smaller locations to larger cities. From north to south RAH Oslo is well established in Norway. The brand is sold throughout Norway, but this summer the owners noticed an extra push on their products south of Trondheim.

“With a hot summer we quickly ran out of items such as our terry caftans, and have sold lots of our linen products. We have a wide linen range, which is extra popular in summer,” says Siri.

RAH Oslo has established a faithful customer following, and now has multiple stores stocking the brand.

“Many have been with us right from the start, and that’s good to know!”