Surrounded by mountains and fjords on Norway’s west coast, Bergen is among the rainiest cities in Europe. But locals will tell you that what’s worse than the rain is the wind.
“It’s the umbrella’s graveyard,” said Karine Trellevik Lunde, a fashion designer who moved to Bergen 12 years ago from Norway’s east coast, where the climate is colder but less windy.
Dressing fashionably in the gusting rain can prove challenging, Ms. Lunde said, so she eventually teamed up with Ros-Mari Tobiassen Gaundal, a fellow Bergen transplant with a business background, to start the outerwear brand BRGN.
“We both were struggling to find clothes that could protect us from the Bergen weather without looking very sporty,” she said.
The first BRGN collection was ready in 2016, and it was quickly picked up by independent shops across Norway. Ms. Lunde said their idea was to create rainwear that doesn’t look like rainwear, like a belted poncho or trench coat that happens to be both waterproof and windproof with a hidden hood zipped in the collar.
“In Bergen, it rains approximately 260 days a year,” she said. “And when it rains three out of four days, three out of four coats in your closet should be waterproof.”
Last November, a BRGN concept shop opened in Bergen’s central train station with an on-site cafe catering to travelers in need, whether that means a sandwich for the trip ahead or a raincoat for an unexpected downpour.
The shop joined an array of independent stores around the city that today stock a range of clothing suited to the local climate, from chunky wool sweaters and tailored jackets for style-conscious city dwellers to insulated coveralls for surviving an arctic night beneath the northern lights.
At Aksdal i Muren, the mission is largely the same, though the family-owned shop has been around a lot longer: outerwear has been its focus since 1883 when it started selling gear to local sailors, farmers and fishermen. Still located in its original location, this Bergen landmark remains a go-to for rainwear, oilskins, boots and accessories to keep you dry, whether it’s a pair of windproof pants from the Norwegian brand Blaest (2,200 Norwegian kroner, about $260) to wear on a hike in the mountains, or a puffy parka from the Swedish activewear brand Didriksons (2,700 kroner) to stay warm on the wettest winter days.
For a wider variety of clothing, look to newer multi-brand shops like Lot333, a clothing store for men and women stocked with Scandinavian and international labels. (The shop’s unusual name is a tribute to the auction lot number of the artwork that funded its opening: an early work by Banksy.)
“Living and selling clothing in a city like Bergen, where it rains a lot, we stock a collection based a lot on the practicality of the clothing,” said Marcus Smith Hvidsten, a co-owner and native Bergenite who opened Lot333 with his partner in 2008.
A former D.J., Mr. Hvidsten said he had spotted Banksy’s work in London around the year 2000 while shopping for records to play at nightclubs, and invited the then-unknown street artist to create some art for a new hip-hop club in Bergen. A few years later, Banksy had become internationally famous and those artworks had grown in value considerably, so Mr. Hvidsten decided to sell one in hopes of financing his own shop.
“I had already decided that if we get enough money, we would name the store after the auction number,” he said.
Now in a larger location in the city center, Lot333 is the place to find layering essentials, from merino-wool turtleneck sweaters from the Danish brand Andersen-Andersen (3,150 kroner) to Norse Projects’ Gore-Tex trousers (2,200 kroner).
“It’s always about the weather, in a way, when you dress here,” Mr. Hvidsten said. And this time of year, that means wool base layers as well as all sorts of waterproof outerwear.
“When it rains in this town, it really rains, and it rains sideways,” he said. “So if you’re just wearing a waterproof jacket and your pants are not water-repellent or waterproof, you will get drenched.”
Nearby, Bergen-appropriate clothing can also be found at Regn (“rain” in Norwegian), a women’s wear boutique that stocks winter parkas from the Swedish brand Elvine (from 3,499 kroner) and waterproof rucksacks from the Danish label Rains (from 699 kroner).
But for those ready to invest in tailor-made rainwear, the name to know is T-Michael, a distinguished designer and bespoke tailor with Ghanaian roots who moved to Bergen over 30 years ago.
“You get to know the rain very well, you understand how the rain works,” he said. “And the best way to beat the rain is not to wait for it, but to get prepared before the rain comes in.”
Impeccably dressed, with thick horn-rimmed glasses and tailored jackets of his own design, T-Michael (born Michael Tetteh Nartey) is the creative catalyst behind multiple projects, including his own men’s wear label and the raincoat brand Norwegian Rain.
Norwegian Rain now has stores in Oslo and Tokyo, as well as a brand-new, three-level space in Paris. But you’re still most likely to find T-Michael at his flagship shop in central Bergen, which doubles as a design studio where clients can try on Norwegian Rain’s various styles, choose fabrics and have a made-to-order coat delivered within a few weeks.
“They don’t look like raincoats but you have all the protection that you need when it starts to pour,” he said. “It’s all elegant and stylish, so when the rain comes, you button up and you’re protected.”
The unisex Raincho style, for example, is an updated poncho in a technical fabric that is both windproof and waterproof yet breathable, with carefully considered details, like a cashmere-lined collar (7,300 kroner); the men’s Moscow coat, with a wool shearling lini
ng and detachable hood and storm flap, is designed to protect the wearer against both winter rain and arctic cold (10,900 kroner).
“You don’t wait for the weather to dictate,” he said. “You sort of take charge of it.”
When asked how to approach everyday dressing in Bergen this time of year, the eminently stylish designer had seasoned advice.
“You need to have your wool,” he said. “Wool will always keep you temperate, whether it’s cold or hot, and obviously you have to get a Norwegian Rain coat.”
“Most importantly,” he added, “don’t underrate the weather.”