Thora Valdimars: "Never do anything to fit in because that will change you. Always remember, you’re unique for a reason."
Alice Gee | 11/05/2023
Thora Valdimars, stylist, mother, fashionista brilliance, and half of the Scandi-born fashion brand Rotate Birger Christensen. As I sit down online, waiting for Thora to join me, I reflect on how long I’ve been a fan of hers, following her every fashion move on social media. Ever since I was introduced to Rotate, I’ve been fascinated by the power it encapsulates, encouraging women to feel sexy and powerful. Like Thora, the brand is unapologetically bold and outgoing, celebrating partywear and everyday glamour. Sat in my Rotate camouflage track pants, correctly paying homage to Thora and her co-director Jeanette’s work, I come to find that her love for fashion is and has always been part of her identity.
For me I am a firm believer that the clothes you wear have the power to alter your entire being. Over the years, my love for fashion and identity has blossomed. I’ve never been one to shy away from something I love for the benefit of what others may think. All you have to do is ask my friends about some of my fashion choices, and you’ll learn I wear what I love, not what society and the mainstream say I should affirm. Clothing should give me confidence so that even on my most insecure days I can wear my faith through the designers I put on my back. Fashion to me is an expression, and Rotate Birger Christensen is to me confidence.
Starting at the beginning I ask Thora about her movement in fashion and the inspiration that’s called her from the very beginning. “I’ve always been really creative,” she tells me, “I remember the first time someone planted the seed in me. I was getting dressed in the soccer locker room when one of my friends said, ‘Oh, my God, you really should be a stylist’.”
With her fashion being duplicated by her online followers, I can’t say I’m surprised it’s always been her calling. At the ripe age of 12/13, Thora tells me how her older sister’s influence inspired her as she eventually turned to one of the UK’s top fashion schools. “I moved to London when I was 20 to study. While I was there, this whole new world opened up. I was around all these creative people. In a way, it was much easier with schools there than here in Copenhagen. Here there are about two schools you go to for design, whereas in London there are some of the most prestigious schools with so many options. A whole world opened up to me when I moved there.”
Introduced at a party to Jess Hallett while out with her cousin, who herself has modeled, Thora, later became her assistant. It was another deciding factor that she was destined to be in the world of fashion.
Slightly Biased (living in London myself) about what makes London one of the world’s best cities, I wonder about Thora’s opportunities in the capital city and how the city became the love language behind her personal style.
“I think because I worked for a fashion magazine as the fashion editor and then as the fashion director, I learned so much. Copenhagen is special because there’s this Scandi minimalism, so it was very different when I returned to Denmark. I just came from London, where everything is out there; you know, you go to the vintage store and find big sequined tops with tight trousers. It was just a different kind of creative vibe in London compared to returning to Denmark. My style doesn’t fit in with the Danish magazine side of things. When I started styling shoots, it was such a relief to be able to do what I wanted to do creatively. I could finally adapt to my creativity and style and do what I was inspired by.”
Born in Iceland, Thora has found home in Copenhagen, known for its style, becoming the host of its own fashion week. Its attendance quickly became sought after by fashionistas globally. Known for its minimalist and incumbent styling, I can’t help but point out the difference in aesthetic, assuming it’s another reason Thora loved London’s street style.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love that Scandi, minimalistic look, but I just think I always wanted to have more of a sexy or street element. It was always so difficult for me to do the knit-with-nothing style. I need to put chains on or pair them with baggy trousers. I would always kind of fuck the norm up.”
I’m here for it, telling Thora that subtlety is not my thing ask how musing for fashion affected her every day?
“For me, it’s totally therapeutic. First of all, I think that it’s so much fun to look at people, old music videos, to get inspired and think, if I put this with that, that’s gonna look insane, or when I see what someone is wearing, I need to go home and try to recreate it and do my own version of it. For me, that is my outlet, my creativity. It’s super important to me. I’ve found out that once you meet people that actually understand your sense of style and the way that you think and what you want to say with it, then you’re on top.”
Working in one of the most demanding industries, I’m intrigued as to how she’s found strength in being a female powerhouse, making her voice heard, and the support those around her have had on her confidence in finding her identity in an often loud environment. It’s an unapologetic attitude I’ve sought for years that exudes from Thora. But even with certainty, there often comes imposter syndrome.
“It’s funny. I was talking to my CEO about it the other day. My parents raised me to know there are no limits to what you can do. No matter how crazy I sounded, they never said, ‘Are you sure?’ They always said, "Okay, if that’s what you want to do, then it’s fine. We’ll support you." Back in the day, I would have all these crazy ideas, and I would always tell them to my parents and friends. They would always support me. Sometimes I didn’t know where to put them, but then all of a sudden, everything added up. My crazy vision was paired with another, and then it just happened suddenly. So you have to believe in that. There’s a place where everyone fits, and if you have dreams, even if they’re big, they can still happen.”
Jumping on the ideas train, I’m here for the craziness; the bigger, the better. “The way I like to think of it,” Thora explains, “Is like how people figured out that the planet was round. All these crazy ideas. Maybe 1000 of your ideas are crazy, but 1001 may work. We’re programmed to think it’s so easy, and if not, it will never happen. The difficult thing is to persevere and keep telling people more about it. Don’t get me wrong it’s still a real pinch-me moment. Maybe it’s because every time you do something, like every time we finish a collection, there’s a new collection that must be done. So that whole process keeps me humble.”
As Rotate approaches the launch of its S/S23 collection, I wonder what’s on the cards for Thora in the future?
“I’ve been so focused on my work life for many years. So I’m now more focused on myself, my son, and my family. I travel to Paris twice a year, and my son has been asking me for years if we can go, so it’s time to do that. It’s about creating a balance of family and work. I really want to keep developing Rotate. Both Jeanette and I are so happy with what we’re doing. We see all these as opportunities. We want to do everything. So, it will continue. We’re talking about an accessory line and a shoe line. It’s in an extremely exciting place at the moment.”
At this point, I may as well sign over my bank account. If I wasn’t obsessed enough with their clothing line, I have no doubt I’ll fall in love with an accessory and shoe line. As we go a little deeper, I want to pay homage to her life as a mum, and the determination I can only imagine goes into balancing both worlds.
“I think there are different factors that have made it hard. I am alone here with my son. His dad lives in London, so it’s not like I have every other week or weekend off. He’s with me nonstop, and then they see each other maybe, once a month. It’s a little bit of a different way of being a single mom, but I have the most amazing mum who helps me. My dad was also sick for the past few years before passing away last year. So I was a single mum, and I cared for my dad as well. That wasn’t easy in terms of balancing everything on the go. I’d be at Fashion Week and then sit on Saturday at my son’s basketball game, and then I’d go and take care of my dad. Just before COVID happened, I think my body just kind of stopped. I went to fashion week and I was so sick. I would go to shows then I would go to the hotel. If I had to go to dinner, I would pull myself together, stay for an hour, and then return to the hotel. It was tough. I was here, there, and everywhere abroad. And then COVID happened and I thought to myself I really need to take care of myself.”
The complications often go alongside the recognition that she isn't invinsible, with burnout being at the heart of her recent experience with both her physical and mental health.
“I went down with stress because I was overworked and had too much on my plate. I couldn’t do it anymore. I don’t want to define that, but I can still feel those things that made me sick. It comes back to my body if I get too stressed or do too much. I reached the point where I had to take care of myself.”
With that in mind, I’m curious about the advice she would give her younger self, knowing what she knows now.
“I would probably say don't change to fit in. You don’t have to fit in and it’s okay. You will find the people you know you are meant to be with in your life, and they will love you the way you are. And if I’m honest, the same for your work life, never do anything to fit in because that will change you. Always remember, you’re unique for a reason.”