Page last updated at 00:52 GMT, Sunday, 6 December 2009

Swedish store pulls sale of North Korea jeans

Jakob Ohlsson, Tor Rauden Kallstigen and Jacob Astrom of Noko Jeans
The three entrepreneurs wanted to increase contact with Pyongyang

A Swedish department store has pulled out of what was to be North Korea's debut in Western fashion.

Stockholm's PUB store has removed the sales space for Noko Jeans, made in the hardline communist state, shortly before they were due to go on sale.

The store said it did not want to be associated with "a political issue".

One of the three young Swedish entrepreneurs behind the brand said when he was told the news he thought it was "a joke".

"Everything has been removed from the store," said Jakob Ohlsson, who set up Noko with Jacob Astrom and Tor Rauden Kaellstigen.

"I sincerely hope (PUB) will remove everything labelled 'made in China' as well."

Rene Stephansen, PUB's director, said the store was "not the forum" for a discussion about North Korea.

"For us this is not a question of Noko Jeans - this is a question about a political issue that PUB doesn't want to be associated with," he said.

Designer price tag

Noko Jeans' founders say the idea of the project is to increase contact with isolated North Korea.

"It's a country that sometimes treats its citizens terribly, but we think our project is a way... to influence things," said Mr Ohlsson.

The jeans are only available in black, because North Koreans associate blue denim with the US.

They were to have gone on sale in Sweden with a designer price tag - 1,500 Swedish kronor ($220; £132) a pair.

However, the Noko sales space at PUB - in a boutique called Aplace - was deserted on Saturday.

Kalle Tollmar, who runs Aplace, said he was told of the decision to remove the jeans half an hour before opening.

"It's a real shame," he said. "But we will continue to sell them on our website and Noko Jeans will continue to sell them on theirs."

The three entrepreneurs first contacted North Korean officials by e-mail in 2007, but the project ran into a number of difficulties.

North Korea's biggest garment company turned the idea down, but eventually it struck a deal with the state's largest mining group, Trade 4, which runs a textile operation on its site.

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