Beyond H&M: A Closer Look At Swedish Fashion
December 20, 2010 1 Comment
Fashion is as much a part of the fabric of great cities like Milan, Paris, London, and New York as are pizza, brioche, crumpets, and hot dogs. A closer look at Sweden and you might want to add Stockholm and meatballs to that list.
Over the past decade Sweden, a Scandinavian country with a population of less than ten million people, has left quite the footprint on the global fashion scene. Their approach to fashion is very practical, of high quality, contemporary, muted in colour, almost Bauhausian in nature. I had a chance to visit Stockholm in 2006 and can tell you that aside from the fact that the city is crawling with women that look like Barbie dolls, the Swedes are a very fashion and design conscious people. They are indeed, the kings of understated sophisticated cool.* (http://www.thelocal.se, 2009)
Swedish fashion follows a relatively straight line where too dressy lies to the right and too casual to the left. Versatility for the Swedes is key. Work wear, casual wear, and party wear, are one in the same. They want their fashion sophisticated, contemporary, chic, and cheap. Guess what? It works.
There is however, a lot more to Swedish fashion and design than just H&M and IKEA. Practicing what I preach, I’ve been loyal to Swedish labels for the past decade and they haven’t let me down. In alphabetical order, here are some of my favourites:
Acne – What started as a four-person creative collective in Stockholm back in 1996 has grown into a 200+ person lifestyle brand that includes ventures in advertising, graphic design, internet games, and TV productions. That being said, their specialty is clearly clothing, namely denim jeans. They continue to impress picking up design awards in Sweden and opening up their label to inspiring creations in outerwear, shoes and accessories. Their stores are located mainly in Europe and Sweden, with one in NYC. Their products are also licensed in boutiques throughout the world and shopping is available online. – www.acnestudios.com
Björn Borg – Swede tennis champ of the 1970s and 1980s, Björn Borg is not the first tennis star to venture into fashion, but probably the first to see his name on men’s and women’s underwear. I fell in love with Björn Borg underwear when I ran out of clean briefs on ski trip to Hemsedal in Norway and forced to pick up a three-pack at a ski supply store near the resort. The quality and fit were superior to any pair that I had ever worn, including the big CK. While underwear remains the core of their business, they now offer footwear, bags, fragrances, and even eyewear. Björn Borg products are sold online and 17 markets worldwide, the largest of which are Holland and Sweden. – www.bjornborg.com
Cheap Monday – When Örjan and Adam opened a small second hand store in a Stockholm suburb back in 2000, I’m not sure if they imagined that the unwashed, tight-fitting, inexpensive, skull-logoed denim jeans would be such a hit. With their first 800 pairs of jeans selling out a couple of weeks after their launch in 2004, Cheap Monday has continued to witness incredible success. Cheap Monday is available 30 countries and roughly 1,500 stores worldwide. – www.cheapmonday.com
Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair – Oddly, they are not on Fifth Avenue, nor are they a shoe repair shop. FASR is a quality minimalist design house dedicated to the art of traditional tailoring and pattern making. Their designs can run the gamut from traditional to downright bizarre at times. I’ll leave it to you to explore further on their online store. – www.shoerepair.se
Filippa K – A combination of timeless simplicity with contemporary edge, the clothes are designed for modern urbanites with personal integrity and an eye for good design. The beautiful Filippa Knutsson’s philosophy is based on style, simplicity, and quality – how very Swedish. A veteran of the fashion industry, working together with partner Patrik Kihlborg, Filippa found the fashion label in 1993 and has unmistakably created one of Sweden’s most successful brands. With over €45 million in sales ($60 million), Filippa K is sold in 20 countries, has 40 brand stores in Europe and the USA, and is represented by more than 750 selected retailers worldwide. – www.filippa-k.com
J. Lindeberg – Swedish designer Johan Lindeberg quit his job at Diesel in 1995 to start his own label. Since its first collection in 1997, the label has successfully combined fashion and sportswear to create sophisticated yet sporty designs. The infamous JL logo has been plastered all over golf shirts, skiwear, and casual wear riding a healthy wave of branding success all the way to the bank. Although I used to buy a lot of JL, I’ve found the label a tad pricey and noticed a changed in direction over the past few years. I do like what’s coming out of their “JL Bridge Project” though. Johan and wife Marcella moved to NYC in 2007, have worked with Justin Timberlake on William Rast and left JL last year to create a new label called Paris68. JL is sold in over 30 countries with flagship stores in Stockholm, Copenhagen, Kitzbühel, LA, Miami, NYC, Osaka, HK, Seoul, and Malmö. – www.jlindeberg.com
Tiger of Sweden – Perhaps the oldest of the Swedish fashion labels, Tiger of Sweden was founded in Uddevalla, Sweden by tailor Marcus F. Shwartzman and wholesaler Hjalmar Nordström in 1903. With its roots firmly planted in men’s suits, it wasn’t until 2000 that Tiger of Sweden launched their first jean collection. The brand can be described as classic menswear catering to young fashion forward urbanites, which by now sounds like every Swedish label. Sold to a Danish company in 2003, Tiger now carries underwear, shoes, eyewear, and accessories as well. While the Silver Label is the more fashion forward line in limited in distribution, the Black Label is styled for a slimmer fashion conscious male. Same concept as Hugo Boss’s Red and Black Labels respectively. – www.tigerofsweden.com
Whyred – This Swedish label takes inspiration from the music and art scenes, as well as the iconic style of the 1960s. Established on the style values of the modernist, Whyred is a combination of clean lines, neat shapes and quirky details with the artist, musician or art/music enthusiast in mind. Stores are located both in Sweden and Denmark, with international shopping available online. – www.whyred.com
Other luminary Swedish design houses include Nudie Jeans Co. (maybe the best website in the business), Hope, Tretorn Shoes, and there are several labels that currently only design womenswear, such as Minimarket and Odd Molly. I’m hoping they’ll come out with menswear lines in the future. For photos of my favourite picks please visit my Facebook page.