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Spreading the Swedish Love, One Garment at a Time

Stockholm Fashion Week is around the corner, it kicks off January 28 and runs through February 10.
So read up about the Swedish fashion scene before it hits the runway.  Actually MAG has the scoop, just for you.



What is it about all those Swedish fashion designers?  How come they have such a well-developed sense of style?  Is it something in the crisp Nordic air?  Do the long, dark winters foster a special kind of creativity, or is it perhaps those magical, never-ending summer nights, when the sun hardly dips below the horizon, that inspire ingenuity and a need to dress us all in must-have garments?  It seems as if from birth the Swedes are spoon-fed a particular kind of style sensibility.  Panache permeates their culture, and now it also dresses the world in chic, cutting-edge fashion.

Much like the colossal export phenomenon that is Swedish music, (Think Robyn, Lykke Li, Fever Ray, Cardigans, Peter, Björn & John et al.) Swedish fashion designers are gaining a foothold on the international market.  And you had better get ready to give them more space in your favorite boutique.  Ewa Björling, the Swedish Minister for Trade, has rolled out a campaign to strengthen the already flourishing fashion industry.  By 2015 she aims to have doubled the export of Swedish designer duds.  Garnering wide attention on the international market, the first half of 2012 brought in a record-breaking USD 773 million, the highest figures so far in the history of the country’s garment industry.  (Those figures are however, a bit misleading as they only represent goods produced in Sweden and across its borders.  H&M alone sells fashion abroad for roughly 10 times that amount.)  The Swedish Institute has been given a generous government grant to devise a strategy for making Swedish couture even more visible on the global arena.  So prepare yourself to dress à la Sverige from now on.

The recent recession may have put a damper on the industry as a whole, but it has proven to be a fix of sorts for Swedish fashion.  More than ever, Swedish designers have stronger profiles, they are more in demand and they are making a bigger impact abroad.  Craftsmanship and cost consciousness are greater than ever, additionally Swedish couturiers have established themselves as vanguards of environmental and social issues.


The foundations of Swedish fashion are a reflection of the nation’s design sensibility as a whole; functionalism and an understated, minimalist approach inform the Swedish lifestyle in general.  Never very boastful, that untranslatable Swedish word “lagom” comes to mind: not too much, not too little, just enough.  No lack, no excess.  Swedish clothes are made for those who are fashion conscious, though most often not for the overly adventurous dressers.  The clothes showcase – rather than upstage – the wearers.  And though that might sound a tad bland, take a second look and you will notice sophisticated detailing that make for subtle statement pieces.  Swedes appreciate practical clothing; garments that bridge carefree daytime wear and dressed up evening looks without being too conspicuous.  Swedish fashion is becoming renowned for its functionality, quality and reasonable price points.

Acne Studios, Rodebjer, Fjällräven, Mayla, Tiger of Sweden, Ann-Sofi Back and of course H&M.  Those are just a few of the Swedish brands that have made a splash across the world.  Lesser-known haute couture designers like Lars Wallin and Pär Engsheden cater to the royal family, their creations dress up the lucky few who hobnob at star-studded galas and fundraisers.  That mix of high and low is key to the success of Swedish fashion.  The practical, the quirky and the glam all live in the same walk-in closet.

Denim is denim is denim.  This is one garment that most certainly doesn’t need much tweaking to meet consumer demands.  Nudie, Hope, Cheap Monday (Now owned by H&M), Whyred, WeSC; they have all contributed to making Swedish fashion so ubiquitous.  Newcomers like The Local Firm, Dr. Denim, IndigoFera and Denim Demon continue to highlight the wearability of jeans.  A staple of (almost) every wardrobe, Swedish jeans have even spawned a sarcastic Norwegian brand called Anti-Sweden.



Symbolism, folklore and elements of typically Swedish culture permeate the design sensibility of yet other creators.  Look no further than Odd Molly, Ewa i Walla and Nygårdsanna for a dose of bohemian chic.  Odd Molly always stages dreamy, old-timey nostalgic presentations during New York Fashion Week.  Karin Jimfelt-Ghatan and Per Holknekt, the duo behind the label, have spread their collections to over 1,300 outlets worldwide, from Isetan in Tokyo to Fred Segal in Santa Monica.  Ewa i Walla is represented in nearly 18 countries, she finds inspiration in farmer culture and romantic flounce while Nygårdsanna has quietly been championing the esthetics of traditional Swedish folk costume for over a decade.

The Swedish Fashion Council is the powerhouse behind the non-profit incubator “Rookies”, an enterprise that supports and promotes the establishment of new fashion brands and couturiers.  Initiated in 2005, the Rookies forum aims to help these newbies establish themselves on the market via a range of activities, projects and networking opportunities.  Through an application process 12 candidates are chosen to complete specific projects throughout the year, five of these successful applicants are then nominated for the Rookie of the Year title.  One of them walks home with the grand prize, a scholarship of roughly USD 3,000 from Stil, the Swedish Trade Federation, a dedicated retail space in two selected stores in Stockholm as well as financial backing to print lookbooks.



On January 29 and 30 these 12 Rookies will present a runway show in conjunction with Stockholm Fashion Week.  Among them is Anna Ekre who designs elegantly understated garments with stunningly bold patterns.  Simplicity and finesse is also what c.dellstrand aims for with his carefully crafted accessories, Christoffer Dellstrand’s luxurious leather goods are made by hand in a small Parisian atelier.  These creations are vastly different from Ida Klamborn’s pleated, magical and elaborately sculptural clothes, they bring to mind the maxed out minimalism of the Japanese masters.  Sofie Bly spent 13 years in Florence, Italy honing her skills as a shoe designer with a serious passion for sustainability.  Restructional Clothing is the name Ninna Berger gave her collection of clothing made entirely of reused materials, also with a keen interest in environmentalism.  Nor Autonom makes clothes for a modern gladiator while Lisa Wikander’s label Mes Dames is everything you ever wanted in feminine sensuality.  Orphan Bird is the brainchild of an Italian designer and a Swedish visual artist, the result is a poetic ode to nature.

It has been said that Swedish designers don’t create fashion, but rather, they construct trends.  You be the judge of that!  Swedish bloggers are really wired into what’s hot and what’s not, look to them for inspiration, check out the pictures if you can’t read the language and let yourself be spirited away to the great North.




Text by: Argot Murelius







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