Imagine being handed the chance to run your own fashion brand exactly as you want. Funding is taken care of; the only limit is the number of hours in a day. That’s the (admittedly wonderful) situation Penille Andersen found herself in back in December of 2006.
Andersen applied for a design job with Second Female, a popular Danish womenswear brand founded in 2000. Instead, owner Preben Laust offered her the chance of a lifetime. “He said, we’re actually looking to start a sister brand with Second Female, and would you like to run it?” Andersen laughs at the memory, “I was 26, I was ambitious, and I said yes!”
They began with a simple 20-item collection that, as Penille describes it, “was made up of pieces that weren’t related. It was a one-by-one collection. Even though we don’t work like that any more, it was pretty amazing to get the chance to just design the exact things I wanted!”
Ten years since being handed the reins, Andersen is still heading up the company. After two maternity leaves, she saw the brand through a re-launch in 2015 that has given them serious momentum in the Scandinavian and European markets. It’s a wave they continue to ride as they gain more global exposure.
Though Penille focuses on overall strategy and, of course, design, she says that she’s still doing some of the nitty-gritty herself. “When you’re a small team, everyone does a bit of everything,” she explains. “If something goes wrong at the printer, I’m the one calling and getting it fixed. There’s no part of Just Female that I don’t have a hand in!”
It is designing the clothes, however, that gets Penille out of bed in the morning. “What really sets us apart from other brands is that we don’t necessarily adhere to trends – although we keep them in mind. We’re able to do what we want, create the clothes we would wear ourselves, and that is very freeing,” Penille says. “When we began, we were very experimental.
The clothes were hyper-Scandinavian; clean lines, quite androgynous, mostly black, white and grey. We’ve graduated from that a bit but our DNA is still very much the edgy Scandinavian look. Now we add a lot of color and pattern. It’s about being able to have choice and have some fun with your look.”
A unique feature of the Just Female collections is that they’re not aiming at a particular age group. “You can’t put an age on style,” Penille explains, adding, “Our pieces are for the fashionable person. The age shouldn’t matter.” And indeed, each collection is full of pieces that are very wearable, go easily from office to casual to evening. Many of the basics like shirts and simple dresses have a little something extra – a ruffle, a pattern or a buckle that makes the look complete.
In addition to four yearly clothing collections, Just Female produces accessories like scarves, hats and bags. Their bags are particularly gorgeous and display a range of fun, colourful designs. They’ve even collaborated with Turkish leather goods brand Petek 1855, making a series of elegant, minimalist bags in brown and black leather.
International collaborations, bright color, playful details; Just Female is a brand that has somehow taken these assets and made them feel distinctly Scandinavian. The power of the brand lies in the fact that they are beholden to no one but their own preferences, and their desire to create a collection of clothes that is inclusive, high-quality and exciting to wear.
“Clothes are something that help you tell the story of who you are,” Penille says, “so we’re always looking for new ways to tell that story. It should never feel ordinary!”
See more on Just Female.
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