Scandinavian invasion: How Swedes and Danes have stormed the British high street

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Mix sleek, simple design with a quirky sensibility: how the Swedes and Danes have stormed the British high street

The Vikings are coming, and this time, they aren't wearing silly hats. It might seem reductive to talk about fashionable geographies, but sometimes it is unavoidable. The Japanese in the 1980s, the Belgians in the early 1990s, and now the Scandinavians: all culturally specific aesthetics that have had a broad industry influence. The Japanese designers Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto turned the discipline's traditionally bourgeois nature on its head, while the Belgians Martin Margiela and Ann Demeulemeester worked from the margins to revolutionise the mainstream.

The current clutch of names arriving from Sweden and Denmark are not a homogeneous mass – their methods and motivations are as idiosyncratic as their characters and inspirations. But they do share many traits – such as strong silhouettes and bold use of colour – as well as values: attention to detail and the importance laid on "good design" broadly; and, more specifically, an offbeat, quirky and often humorous sensibility that pervades the clothes from their visual aspect to their virtual ideology, and a sense of investment and practicality.

Trends come and go, but the development of a broader outlook, along with the emergence of new talent and a rise in attendance of international press and buyers at Stockholm and Copenhagen Fashion Weeks, are more enduring. And the British high street is also feeling the effects, with H&M, Cos, Cheap Monday and, most recently, Monki all making their presence known. This may be something of a "Scandinavian moment", but these labels are much more than a flash in the fashionable pan.

2nd Day

Founded in 1997 by three Danish creatives, Copenhagen-based label Day Birger et Mikkelsen has since gone on to open stores across Europe, supplying faithful customers with an edgy version of latterday prettiness that suits all customers, from teens to yummy mummies. The new line from the label, 2nd Day, launched in August, with a focus on more street-led, youthful denim and jersey casuals, again informed by a relaxed and minimal version of grungy tailoring and easy, modern elegance.

Peter Jensen

Every season, Danish designer Peter Jensen takes a muse as inspiration for his colourful brand of winsomely naïve but feminine pieces. Past icons have ranged from the actress Jodie Foster to the Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut, and most recently, the singer Nina Simone, with prints on skirts and blouses that range from jazz clubs and piano keys to safari scenes and broderie anglaise.

"Scandinavia is more of a classless society," he says, "and the fashion is the same, more in the middle, so we don't have the very expensive luxury things and we don't have so much cheap tat as you do in Britain; there's more of a focus on function and quality, maybe."

Carin Wester

This up-and-coming Swedish designer launched her first collection in 2003 and has concentrated since on simple, smart and modern pieces in an unusual palette of rich colours. This season sees the launch of a capsule collection in collaboration with hip department store Urban Outfitters, which will doubtless bring her refined clothing to a broader audience. The range is inspired by the early 1960s – with particular reference to Roman Polanksi's Rosemary's Baby – and includes easily worn shift dresses, as well as naïve dungarees and wide-leg trousers.

Acne

While the name may initially be off-putting, it stands for Ambition to Create Novel Expressions, and this mission is at the heart of every garment produced by the Stockholm-based collective. Headed by creative director Jonny Johansson, Acne's slick urban look – which blends statement sculptural minimalism with grungy denims and wardrobe staples – started off simply as a jeans brand before blossoming into the cognoscenti's label of choice, and showing at London Fashion Week.

"If I could design something that people can have a long-term relationship with, I would be very happy," explains Johansson. "I want to design a garment that makes you feel stronger and more self-confident."

Filippa K

A household name in her home country of Sweden, Filippa Knutsson is, perhaps, the Armani of the Scandinavian scene, rolling out sleek, sharp and modern separates since 1993. And like Armani, she associates strong with the values of minimal design and functional apparel.

"Our design history, in a wider sense than just in fashion, is based around clean, pure and simple lines," she says. "It's the aesthetics and environment we have grown up in. What appeals to me in having a brand that has minimalism as a core value is also that there's no room for anything other than high quality in materials and well-thought-through, flattering cuts and fits – you simply have nothing to hide behind."

Dagmar

Sisters Kristina Tjader, Karin Soderlind and Sofia Malm had all enjoyed successful careers in international fashion before founding their Stockholm-based label Dagmar in 2005. In their collections, trendiness is offset by classically sophisticated femininity, and girlishness is underscored by darker influences. Texture is key, with cardigans and coats made from uncommonly hairy wools, while drape and fit are also important, with cocktail dresses shaped from the fall of eco-friendly jersey as it cocoons the body inside. Having won several prestigious industry awards and shown in New York, as well as launching in Harrods last year, Dagmar is on the rise.

Ann-Sofie Back

From horror films and online gaming to plastic surgery and the ascetic Swedish Jantelagen movement, Swedish couturier Ann-Sofie Back searches high and low for her inspiration, rendering

classic tailoring and elegant dresses in sumptuous fabrics with offbeat harness detailing, metal inserts, body-con elements and gauzy panels. She has designed her own line since the early Noughties, but recently developed this into her more grown-up Atelje collection, featuring minimalist classics, and diffusion line Back, which caters to a younger crowd. Her quiet luxury and wry sense of humour epitomise the Scandinavian flair for eccentric understatement. "Who wants to design for the weak and mindless?" she quips. "What sets my woman apart is that she needs a sense of humour."

Minimarket

"Look smashing and feel relaxed!" are the instructions from the trio of sisters behind the Stockholm-based label Minimarket. Sofie, Jennifer and Pernilla Elvestedt founded the brand in 2006, aiming to refresh the market with quirky and humorous womenswear that fitted easily into everyday life. The current collection is inspired by Vikings and Valkyries, with deep reds contrasting with geometrically cut black pieces, all topped off with bowler hats and stompy boots with plenty of attitude. Look out, too, for their leather flatform brogues, topped with a furry Mohican. "We are hard workers," they say of the Scandinavian invasion. "There's no getting away from us!"

Fancy footwork: The star shoemakers

Swedish Hasbeens

The "toffel" clog is one of Sweden's most conspicuous exports, and burst back on to the hipster radar with the explosion in vintage stylings, as well as the rise in popularity of the 1970s mum look. Swedish Hasbeens has cornered the market since its founders unearthed a warehouse of pristine original 1970s toffels and launched the company in 2006. They have since expanded from strappy platform sandals to loafers, heels and clumpy boots, featuring the signature wooden sole and soft but supple leather uppers.

Camilla Skovgaard

Skovgaard's signature spike heels and moulded platforms have become a fixture on the front row. The reason? Despite their gothic looks and tottering trendiness, they're also shoes women can walk in.

The Danish designer first worked in Dubai, creating couture looks for the families of sheikhs, before taking her talents to footwear and enrolling at London's Cordwainers College, the accessories equivalent of St Martins.

"I tend to use monasteries, graveyards and elements of Bauhaus as reference points," she says. "Combining contrasting elements such as fluidity and severity, restraint and sophistication plays an integral part in my design. The emphasis is on form, materials and style, rather than decoration."

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
musicOfficial chart could be moved to accommodate Friday international release day
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
News
i100
Sport
Italy celebrate scoring their second try
six nations
Sport
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against West Ham
footballWest Ham 1 Crystal Palace 3
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

    £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

    Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

    Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

    £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

    £18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower