Mon, Dec 21, 2009 - Page 11 News List

North Korean jeans finally go on sale in Swedish capital

AFP , STOCKHOLM

The “first ever” brand of jeans made in North Korea went on sale in Stockholm on Saturday, the Swedish company behind the communist-made denims said.

“There has been a constant flow of shoppers,” Tor Rauden Kaellstigen of company NoKo Jeans said.

Some 1,100 pairs of the jeans went on sale for 1,500 Swedish kronor (US$226) each.

“We have a few pairs left,” Kaellstigen said, refusing to disclose detailed sales figures.

The jeans were to have gone on sale at trendy Stockholm department store PUB on Dec. 5, but PUB decided at the last minute to halt the sale, saying it did not want to be dragged into a political debate.

Instead, NoKo Jeans opened a temporary boutique in central Stockholm to sell the garments themselves.

Kaellstigen, Jakob Ohlsson and Jacob Aastroem — three Swedes all under the age of 25 and with no previous experience in business or fashion — started their project in mid-2007, prompted by a desire to enter into contact with the isolationist state.

The assembly of the trousers — the cut, the make and trim — is all done in North Korea.

The communist state “has been isolated for so long and ethically, we thought that any sort of increased contact with the outside world would be good,” Ohlsson said recently.

The entrepreneurs visited North Korea twice and insisted that the working conditions at their Pyongyang-area factory were good.

NoKo Jeans are black, because North Koreans “usually associate blue jeans with America,” making them “a little bit taboo,” Ohlsson said.

Jeans are not allowed in the North Korean dress code, but the upstarts say they nevertheless hope that one day they can “make clothes that our friends in the country can wear too.”

Rights groups accuse North Korea of systematic and widespread human rights violations, including torture and forced labor.

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