Tiger of Sweden: the brand which has become the epitome of Scandi-cool

It may still be a relatively new import to the UK – but it is getting bigger all the time and has won over influential fans. Rebecca Gonsalves takes a look at the Swede success

Lots of fashion brands like to think of themselves as families – albeit often slightly dysfunctional ones – but how many have such a clan spirit that they have commissioned and produced their very own tartan? Thanks to an inspired idea from menswear designer Ronnie McDonald, Tiger of Sweden can boast just that.

David Thunmarker, CEO of the 111-year-old brand, is proud of the family mentality that has been fostered over his 10 years in charge, "Everyone wants to be their best," he says over lunch in a Stockholm restaurant on the day of the brand's autumn/winter 14 catwalk show. "You don't want to let a family member down, do you? The philosophy we have is that it's the people who make brands, it's people who make ideas come alive – we all decided that Tiger of Sweden, the brand, is bigger than all of us."

In the scheme of its long heritage, Tiger of Sweden is still a relatively new import to these shores – but it is getting bigger all the time. Earlier attempts to launch in the UK were not particularly successful, but the persistence of Thunmarker and his team paid off when Selfridges picked up their menswear for 2011. "When we first came to Britain it was really tough for us," confesses Thunmarker.

"Just before we broke Selfridges, I shook hands with our sales director that if it didn't happen in one more season we would withdraw. So it was very close, and then Selfridges came on board. I think we strongly believed in what we were trying to do with men's fashion. Sooner or later, you're going to get some more response, you're going to have some more friends that believe in you." Now the brand has three standalone stores in London and is stocked by key department stores.

As buying director at Selfridges when it launched Tiger of Sweden, David Walker-Smith was integral to the brand's success in the UK. Since taking on the role of managing director of Fenwick of Bond Street last January, Walker-Smith has brought the brand to his new customers, too. "I've known about the brand for a number of years," says Walker-Smith. "The brand was quite relevant in the UK back in early 2000; however, it has since been redeveloped and has come back with real vigour and relevance. The simplicity, the fit and the very clean lines of the Scandinavian aesthetic appeal to British shoppers, and Tiger of Sweden's men's suits are fantastic."

Although it is a brand well known for leather, accessories and denim, it is the tailoring that comes up time and time again when talking about Tiger of Sweden – understandably so, as it was founded as a tailoring company, albeit one in which the salesmen travelled to their customers rather than the other way around.

As the brand expanded, the innovations of the original retail method were not matched with forward-thinking design, and over the years it became associated with an older, and old-fashioned, customer: "old farts with hats," says Thunmarker bluntly.

In 1993, the brand decided to reposition itself keeping the original name, despite advice to drop it. "They started to do razor-sharp suits, very mod-inspired with bold checks," Thunmarker says. "This was just after the Swedish bank crisis, no one wanted to look at the suit because then you were in one way or another connected [with the banking industry]. When people dressed up, if they really stretched themselves, they wore a shirt and tie and a cardigan, this was when grunge was huge." And it was when the Tiger philosophy of "Taking the suit out of the bank and on to the street" was born: "A lot of the creative society and rock'n' rollers started to wear these razor-sharp, four-button mod suits in the clubs here in Stockholm. This was a way for them to say: 'This is something new.' I only have memories of the new Tiger. When I grew up, I didn't want to wear my father's brands and Tiger was really a brand with a young rock'n'roll spirit."

Since then, slim-cut suits have become something of a signature for the Swedish label, which has helped to win over influential fans such as Luke Day, fashion director of GQ Style: "The suits are an achingly cool cut, but look expensive and chic on a gentleman, too. Their aesthetic has the perfect balance of understated cool yet classical elegance – it is the epitome of the Scandi aesthetic. The Scandi aesthetic feels eternally modern. It has many positives; it's aspirational, achievable and inclusive. It has become the aesthetic that other brands now strive to emulate."

It's not just the aesthetic that represents typical Scandinavian values –practicality and equality underpin the brand philosophy which prioritises the needs of the people at the heart of the business. "We were one of the first to have an integrated kindergarten," says Thunmarker, which meant that they retained skilled female staff with young children. "There was a big textile crisis in Sweden [in the early 1990s], the company almost went bankrupt, so the government went in and took it over just to keep the people employed." By 1993, turnover was negligible and Thunmarker's predecessor saw an opportunity to turn the house's fortunes around.

Thunmarker has been CEO for five years, and held other managerial positions in the company before that appointment. In that time, he has seen a huge change in the way the business is done, and, just as importantly, where. One surprising market for the brand is South Africa – there are two Tiger of Sweden stores in Johannesburg and a third in Cape Town: "Of course, South Africa was never the key market, but we had a partner following us for a number of years."

Thunmarker and his colleagues eventually went over to South Africa out of curiosity, and became fascinated by the whole country. "South Africa is literally on the other side of the world from where we actually design, but when I speak to consumers down there they buy Tiger for exactly the same reasons as the customer in the flagship store in Stockholm. That's what you dream about."

News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
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

    Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

    Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

    Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

    £40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

    £40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

    Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015