It’s said that Swedish fashion tends to showcase – rather than upstage – the wearer. That is, if you don’t notice the details which make all the difference. Swedes want clothes that fit their lifestyle, daytime or evening – good-looking and cool, without being too conspicuous. This has proven to be a recipe for international success, as Swedish fashion is becoming renowned for its functionality, quality and price.
Strong profile or not, functionality is key. Denim brands especially, such as Acne, Cheap Monday, Nudie and Hope, have been huge hits internationally. Newcomers like The Local Firm, Dr Denim and Denim Demon have continued to highlight the wearability of jeans – nowadays a must-have part of any Swede’s wardrobe. Well-made with clean lines and personal detailing, they have become the new ”little black dress”. There are styles for every individual; fully on-trend or just classic, with a few prominent details.
Many contemporary Swedish collections are built up around a simple base wardrobe with mandatory jeans, tops and durable pieces. In combination with a creative twist and style consciousness, they create a unique and exotic feel. At the same time, Swedish fashion incorporates elements from Swedish culture by injecting symbolism and material objects; sometimes bordering on historicism and folklore, as in the cases of Odd Molly, Nygårdsanna and Ewa i Walla. Going beyond jeans, Swedish fashion design consists of clean styles, bold cuts, well considered designs, knitwear, perfect fits and casual wear.
Swedish fashion labels – an overview
At Fashion Week by Berns 2010 (among others):
Acne Jeans is a Swedish denim manufacturer and part of the Stockholm-based design firm “Ambition to Create Novel Expressions” (ACNE). Acne is a Swedish group of companies founded in 1996 in Stockholm. Today, Acne consists of companies within advertising, the web, film (commercials, feature films and TV), fashion, magazines and children’s toys. The denim offshoot was started in 1997 when Acne designed 100 pairs of jeans for distribution among friends, family and clients of the company. The products designed by Acne Jeans follow a minimalistic style, which also characterizes other Scandinavian fashions designers such as Filippa K. Today, Acne Jeans has more than ten stores in Scandinavia, Austria, France, Germany and the United States. In 2008/2009, Acne increased its turnover by 33% to MSEK 418 compared with the previous
Back’s first collection under her own label was launched in 2002, but her interest in fashion dates back to her childhood. Then it was about the function of clothes – to be accepted and appear “normal”. Today, the 2 London-based Back questions and challenges what is “normal”: trousers with a hood, a shirt buttoned up wrong or upper class clichés taken to their extreme.
BURFITT was founded in 1998 by designer and illustrator Lovisa Burfitt. The BURFITT collection is
designed by Lovisa Burfitt and includes jersey and woven pieces. All T-shirts are screen-printed by hand – with designs based on original illustrations by the designer – and sold in limited editions of 500 pieces. Each printed garment has a unique number on the neck label.
Today, Cheap Monday is a full-concept denim brand, though the first pair of denims with the characteristic skull logo only hit the market five years ago. That first pair, made of tight-fitting stretch denim, was originally made exclusively for the Weekday stores. The concept and design were a direct reaction to the increasingly expensive denim that flourished on the market at the time. It was an immediate success, and the collection, which now includes a wider denim range as well as tops, soon grew too big to be carried by the Weekday stores alone.
Camilla Norrback has been committed to creating ecologically sustainable garments while striving to maintain her artistic freedom as a designer, since 2002. The brand signature is luxurious materials with a high quality and feminine design with retro-romantic elements.
The brand Carin Wester was established in 2003 and has received several fashion awards. Today, Carin Wester’s collection consists of a female line (“Carin Wester”), a male line (“Wester”) and a limited handmade line (“W”). The collections are sold in several stores in Sweden as well as in stores in Denmark, Finland, Norway, England, Germany, France, the US, Canada and Japan. Prior to this success, Carin Wester designed the women’s line at Paul & Friends for eight years.
House of Dagmar
Since the launch of the Dagmar label in spring 2005, its “arty chic” style has been widely recognized by the fashion industry and the press throughout Europe, the United States and Asia, and the label has received several prestigious awards. The company is run jointly by three sisters – all with prominent backgrounds in the Swedish and international fashion industry such as H&M.
Dr Denim was founded in 2004 by Alexander, Johannes and Mårten Graah on Sweden’s laid-back West coast. The Dr Denim brand represents a deep passion for jeans and a conviction that denim is a science based on in-depth knowledge of denim, washes, patterns and denim’s history. The vision of the brand states joy as its fuel: “Joy – the joy of creating the coolest jeans.”
Diana Orving started her career as a designer in 2000 when she was just 15 years old and began selling her 3 designs in boutiques in Stockholm. Diana soon attracted attention for her ability to create garments with advanced cuts that were special yet easy to wear. Diana has no formal design training, but she has found her signature style in a design technique based on draping and an experimental approach to clothes and fashion. Diana emphasises the silhouette and works primarily with a toned-down range of colours, letting the different structures, lustre and translucency of the material create nuances.
Eva i Walla
Inspiration from Swedish peasant romanticism, the 19th century and modern haute couture has created a unique Swedish designer label that has attracted much attention from across the world. For over 15 years, the company Ewa i Walla has created sensual, feminine clothes with layer upon layer, offering a personal
touch and individual expression. The company has approx 250 retailers around the world.
Filippa K is an established and rapidly growing Swedish fashion label with a distinct design and brand profile that oozes style, simplicity and quality – men’s and women’s fashion that combines timeless design with a contemporary edge. Filippa K has approx 300 employees. It is represented by some 700 retailers throughout Scandinavia, Europe, North America and Australia. Filippa K also has a growing number of concept stores in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.
The Local Firm
A newcomer in the Swedish jeans family, The Local Firm represents functional minimalism based on a combination of high-fashion attire and innovative jeans design. The Local Firm was founded in 2006 by Richard Hutchinson and Axel Nyhage, both former employees of Tiger Jeans.
Hope is a Swedish fashion label for men and women created and run by the designers Ann Ringstrand and Stefan Söderberg. Hope’s signature style is low-key, clean, raw and authentic with ingenious, high-quality details. The design stems from a masculine platform and inspiration is derived from classic men’s wear and vintage uniforms. Innovative, traditional fabrics with subtle structures and patterns are sourced to achieve a unique and exclusive feel. The collections feature a limited number of garments and are designed with much attention and creative freedom to guarantee top-of-the-line quality and exquisite detailing.
Helena Quist has just finished her second year of the fashion design programme at the Swedish School of Textiles in Borås. In her latest project, Helena wanted to create a collage based on different cultural references. Helena Quist won the Mercedes-Benz Young Fashion Industry Award 2010.
Odeur is a Swedish brand created in 2006. Today, Odeur is designed by Petter Hollström and Gorjan Lauseger and has spread to a number of countries around the world, from Japan and China to shops in 4 Europe and the US. Odeur was originally an experimental project exploring the possibilities of replacing a traditional word logo with a signature scent integrated with the garments, as well as a graphic symbol – a picture of the scent which is itself androgynous – a white, light and clean fragrance.
Minimarket is a Swedish clothing label designed by sisters Sofie, Pernilla and Jennifer Elvestedt. Minimarket has been a women’s wear label since 2006. The line has now been extended from just clothing to include accessories, with the focus on shoes. This autumn, Minimarket will launch the diffusion label “mini for many”, which will be sold in selected stores in Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Spain.
Whyred embodies a grown-up, no-fuss approach to dressing with collection pieces that become classic wardrobe staples year after year. The Whyred brand is influenced by the music and art scenes, and also displays an intellectual appreciation of the mods’ way of dressing. Whyred’s first collection was launched in the spring/summer of 1999 by former H&M employees Roland Hjort, Lena Patriksson and Jonas Clason. Whyred has now set out to turn the company into a leading European premium fashion brand.
Other Swedish fashion labels worth noting:
Björn Borg ruled the game of tennis back in the 1970s and 1980s. He’s also famous for being the first tennis star/celebrity to see his name appear on a range of men’s underwear. His name is now also appearing on a range of men’s and women’s fashion characterised by quality with creative and innovative design based on the sporting legacy that the name Björn Borg represents. The underwear is the core business.
The founders of Denim Demon share a cultural heritage with the indigenous Sami people of Swedish Lapland. Denim Demon jeans carry details inspired by traditional Sami artwork. Of particular interest is the Project Wear-Outs: “We gave seven pairs of jeans to seven different Samis. The aim was to give the denim trousers their own history and create authentic wear-outs. The Samis will wear the trousers for six months without washing them, resulting in new denim washes for the forthcoming collection.”
Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair
The fashion design company Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair’s style is minimalist with clean lines and a dedication to traditional tailoring and pattern making. FASR consists of the fashion design duo Astrid Olsson and Lee Cotter.
International giant known for high fashion at low prices. H&M is currently represented in 35 countries, and has 73,000 staff. Philosophy: offering you fashion and quality at the best price.
J. Lindeberg successfully combines fashion and sportswear. J. Lindeberg’s styles are popular with golfers and are worn by several PGA stars. J. Lindeberg can be found in 25 countries around the world. The most recent complement to the J. Lindeberg team is the appointment of Pierangelo D’Agostin, former design director at Jil Sander with his own Japanese luxury brand hLam.
Nakkna, founded in 2003, is known for its avant-garde yet commercial designs with complex styling and draping manifested in clean shapes without unnecessary embellishment. Nakkna is sold in fashion stores in Europe and selected cities in Asia and the USA. Nakkna is run by designers Camilla Sundin, Claes Berkes and Ella Soccorsi, who all met at Beckmans School of Design in Stockholm from which they graduated in 2001.
Nudie Jeans is a Swedish premium clothing brand originating in Gothenburg on Sweden’s West Coast. It was founded in 1999 by Maria Erixsson, a former employee of Lee Europe. Nudie specialises in raw prewashed denim jeans, though the company’s collection includes many other items of casual clothing and accessories. The trademark of Nudie Jeans is its orange thread work, especially noticeable on the back pocket. The philosophy is about a passion for jeans: “As a true jeans brand, we are not looking for the short-term trends. The inspiration is far from glamour and catwalks.”
Odd Molly is a Swedish fashion brand that already sells in 38 countries around the world. This fashion house recently opened a flagship store in Stockholm, and more ‘brand-extending’ goodies are apparently on the way, including a cosmetics range and a menswear range. ‘Love, courage and integrity’ is the message behind this brand.
Sandra Backlund is Sweden’s knitting artist extraordinaire. Backlund describes her design aesthetic as “a combination of science fiction and sheltered, warm pieces of fantasy.” She enjoys exploring the human form through fashion: “Designers have always used things like corsets and shoulder pads to shape the body — I’m just doing it with wool. I consciously dress and undress parts of the body to seek dynamic shapes. I like the softness together with the sharp silhouettes.”
Tiger of Sweden is an off-the-peg brand founded in Uddevalla in 1903. From a start in very traditional clothes, it is now a designer company and one of Sweden’s leading off-the-peg fashion companies with the collections Man (Black Label and Silver Label), Woman, Jeans, Underwear, Shoes and Accessories.
WeSC is a street fashion brand aimed at “intellectual slackers”. The Superlative Conspiracy is the idea and philosophy behind the brand, which addresses like-minded people. WeSC works with informal ambassadors, WeActivists, people who “have a streetwise mentality, blaze their own path, have a humble persona and are extremely good at what they do – world famous or completely unknown.”