Stockholm Fashion Week: is Swedish style having its own Ikea moment?

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Harriet Walker goes to find out

As the snow melts and re-freezes and Stockholm turns its eyes to the autumn 2013 catwalk shows, it's easy to forget there'll be a spring and a summer before then. This of-the-moment feel is one of the Swedish fashion scene's main strengths: more and more pieces from homegrown brands have, in recent years, strolled straight off the runways and into the shops. Reasonably priced, well made and commercial without being too obvious, is Swedish fashion having its own Ikea moment?

“There's a certain pragmatic aspect,” says Melissa Drier, the Berlin correspondent for Women's Wear Daily and in town for the shows. “Sometimes they're just good clothes that you want to buy. It's not necessarily directional, but there's a gentility to them, and then at the same time, a little bit of rock and roll too. ”For anyone who's in the contemporary part of the market, Sweden is a real base,“ she adds.

This is the sector that most brands showing in Stockholm fit into: everyday pieces at mid-range prices, not so high flown as the designer bracket proper but more considered, design-wise, than the upper echelons of the high street. And it's a niche that is doing well despite the downturn, as shoppers of every type converge on it, from above and below according to either aspiration or thrift.

“Many of the brands are quite small, and they're struggling” says Susanne Ljung, host of Stil, a weekly public radio fashion show. “But there's an optimistic vibe – you can trace influences from 'Swedish Modern', a term introduced in New York at the 1939 World Fair. It's a blend of modernism, craftsmanship, beauty and comfort.”

Labels on the schedule differ vastly, of course, and range from established names such as J. Lindeberg to H&M's indie arm Cheap Monday, with countless up-and-comings in between, and even the odd heritage brand looking to bolster its fashion credentials.

It isn't quite the same melting pot that gave birth to the Belgian designers in the late Eighties, but the current geographical vogue for all things Scandinavian hasn't hurt designers here in terms of international recognition.

The Swedish look – long hair, androgynous tailoring, grunge and an ankle boot – is in right now, not least thanks to l abels such as Acne and high-street brand COS, which have sown the Swede seeds of success abroad already.

“It's important for us to be accessible with our price points,” says Carl Malmgren, denim designer at Cheap Monday after the brand's show. Entitled Artificial Grunge, the collection mixed Nineties references with lace and neons to create a futuristic, punkish look for autumn – one that its young British fans will be only too happy to pick up at the flagship store which opened in Carnaby Street last year.

“It's a challenge for us to do fashion-forward stuff that people can actually buy.” He smirks at the suggestion that this is a particularly Scandinavian notion, but ultimately agrees. “That's fair – it's a socialist ideal.”

Cheap Monday's creative director is Ann-Sofie Back, a Central St Martins graduate, who has run a successful line under her own name for almost a decade, and has collaborated with Fred Perry and Topshop, and shown at London Fashion Week. Her diffusion line, Back, is on the Stockholm schedule and her worldwide sales increased 60 per cent last year. The autumn '13 collection was a riot of hazard tape-coloured workwear-inspired pieces, shown to a soundtrack of rowdy blokes chanting the designer's name.

“I always work with things I don't like,” she explains backstage. “I had to find a way of dealing with fashion that was different to anyone else's.

“My clothes are for someone with a sense of humour; someone who doesn't take fashion too seriously and who dresses for herself, rather than for a man.” Back's philosophy resounds through many other Swedish labels, even though few of them share so extreme an aesthetic.

Whether because of their national taste for functionality and asceticism or not, many womenswear designers here play with male and female tropes to create a new version of femininity that is far from girlish or traditional, but is in no way cumbersome or intimidating.

“We wanted to bring in parts of menswear, such as suits and military coats, and match them with a more poetic style,” explains Karin Soderlind of Dagmar, a knitwear brand run by three sisters and named after their grandmother. This they did in teal tailoring, marble prints, lace and sharp coats softened with cape sleeves. “We call it 'the awakening' – to a new lifestyle and a new feminine style.”

Carin Wester, whose clothes have been picked up by Urban Outfitters and ASOS, also looked to that mix, with unstructured and oversized greatcoats and duffels in blush tones, nude double-breasted suits – even a pinstripe crop-top worn with pinstripe hipster slacks. At Whyred, too, tailoring was mannish and boxy – inspired by Peter Saville's artwork for New Order's “Power, Corruption and Lies” – while archetypally couture-era feminine blanket coats came in utilitarian olive and khaki.

“I love sensual silhouettes and the female body,” agrees designer Elin Nystrom after her Stylein show, which saw silk tunics and fluid gowns cut geometrically to make them less soft and more severe. “But you also need the straight lines, the more masculine feel. When the two meet, that's when the magic happens.”

Apparently so: such is the interest in Swedish – and Scandinavian – designers that the largest ever showcase of their wares will be unveiled at Somerset House during London Fashion Week later this month.

More than 40 labels will exhibit there, nine of which are Swedish, and emerging talents will be given the opportunity to show their collections – to an audience far bigger and far more influential than one they might command in their native capital.

Great Swedish export H&M is also keen to promote young talent, and one draw of the Stockholm shows was its Design Award, the culmination of a talent search across Europe's best design schools. The winner, Minju Kim of Antwerp's Royal Academy of Fine Arts, will see parts of her collection produced and sold by the chain.

Kim's flair for fit, proportion and texture – all the while referencing bold and bright Japanese manga comics –was a colourful addition to a schedule where a modern and litotic take on good taste was primarily the order of the day.

But there were homegrown newcomers showing in Stockholm, too, and ones that promise to join the Nordic invasion of our boutiques and wardrobes.

The much-hyped duo behind Altewaisaome offered minimal but glamorous sports couture: iridescent, petrol blue shift dresses and wide-leg trousers with zip, drawstring and bugle bead detailing provided opulence in among expertly cut trapeze-line coats in felt and boiled wool, cut deliberately flat and boxy.

At the Mes Dames show, too, classic elegance was undermined by way of paint-spattered maxi-skirts and oxblood silk jumpsuits, even a dirndl skirt made from shiny green PVC.

While the trend for pigeonholing these names according to their origins may help with recognition for the time being, the aim for these designers is to break free of such associations and emerge on to the global market in their own right. For labels as commercially viable as many on the Stockholm roster, this shouldn't be too difficult at all – but the next stage for them may well be the shopfloor rather than the international catwalks: Swedish designers make clothes you want to wear rather than watch.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
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

    SEN Teachers and Support Staff

    £50 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an SEN Teacher or L...

    SharePoint Engineer - Bishop's Stortford

    £30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organ...

    Planning Manager (Training, Learning and Development) - London

    £35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glob...

    SEN Teaching Assistant

    £50 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a Teaching Assistant...

    Day In a Page

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering