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
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
Sport
Sean Abbott
cricketSean Abbott is named Australia's young cricketer of the year
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
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: Supply Chain Manager

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

    Recruitment Genius: Online Customer Service Advisor

    £13000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A chance to work for an extreme...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Assistant

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Are you a breath of fresh air? This vibrant bo...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

    £16500 - £16640 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing Finance compa...

    Day In a Page

    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea