Recently discussing with a fellow fashion blogger the growing interest in the Scandinavian fashion world, she quipped that it was very easy for Scandinavians to be fashionable; after all, each and every one of them seem to be all long legs and white blonde hair. Her remark seemed to suggest that perhaps the Scandinavians have no street style genius or imaginative flair when it comes to dressing. Indeed, the stereotype of beautiful dumb models hailing from the North of Europe is far from rare – but there’s something going on over there that’s worth a bit of investigating.
Taking just one look at street style websites Lookbook or the Face Hunter confronts us with the fresh new faces of Scandinavian fashion. The majority of the most ‘hyped’ looks on Lookbook come from sassy, fashionable (and often very young) North Europeans, hailing from Stockholm, Helsinki and beyond. Indeed, for a clear picture of Swedish success on Lookbook, just look at “Shelley M, 18 year old art student and blogger from Sweden,” with her knack of combining little girl cuteness (headbands and bows) with serious sex appeal (short black skirts and lace) topped off with crazy heels and splashes of kitsch accessories straight out of Tatty Devine.
And she’s not a lone phenomenon. Sporting brave and bold urban prints in vivid colours, these bright young things from Scandinavian meccas of style exude a perfect blend of 90s skate culture with Clueless‘ Cher Horowitz, with her high school polished, blonde doll-faced perfection. See Amelia’s Magazine’s recent articles on Daniel Palillo and CTRL for examples of this kind of styling, something that appears to be truly specific to the Scandinavians. The 90s, it seems, are the nostalgic wardrobe reference du jour here, embodying past positivity and youth in a pre-doom and gloom world of the new millennium.
Ever since the Swedish Institute’s exhibition – ‘Swedish Fashion: Exploring a New Identity’ – launched at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum this February, Scandinavian fashion has seen a markedly rising profile in the fashion world. Celebrating a new wave of Swedish design talent, the exhibition questioned the static view that fashion blooms only in the eponymous fashion capitals of Paris, London, New York and Milan. In fact, this collection instead raised the debate over whether globally, we neglect fashion from all four corners of the globe at the cost of fresher and more interesting approaches to design, simply because they have traditionally been ignored by the industry.
Ann-Sofie Back must be considered one of the most influential and successful of these designers, with her place at London Fashion Week and her capsule collection for Topshop, not to mention her collaboration with that uber-successful Swedish brand, Cheap Monday. As seen at her s/s 09 collection, Back is unafraid to incorporate social comment into her shows, holding celebrity obsession with plastic surgery up to ridicule with her bandaged and felt-tipped models.
But then, there are also the clothes. Back’s most recent collection sported ripped and distressed pieces supposedly representing ‘Ann-Sofie Back goes to Hell’. Striking the balance can be near-impossible, yet she really knows how to shock whilst also providing wearable fashion pieces.
And Back’s not the only one causing a stir. Joining her from the recent exhibition for particular note are Sandra Backlund, Helena Horstedt and Martin Bergström, who showcased similarly effortless Scandinavian cool.
If you saw our feature on Backlund’s knitwear in recent weeks, you’ll know that it is really something special; with oversize knotting and draping, with the designs exude wooly coziness whilst remaining edgy and thoroughly modern. Alongside Backlund stands Horstedt whose work focuses on intricacy of shape in order to create highly fascinating designs that swirl and envelope the body with draping and fringing detail, all in solid black.
Indeed, for both designers, it seems that the human body is paramount to their designs, with Backlund quoted as saying the it is her chief inspiration. Finally we have Bergström, who once again predominantly centres on futuristic shapes enveloping the body with volume, but in a more vivid aquamarine colour palette.
It seems then, that the Finns and the Swedes are well and truly indulging in some kind of sartorial breakthrough at the moment. Whatever it is that’s doing it, there is undoubtedly something linking these North European designers spurring them into a fashion frenzy. Hopefully, the fashion world will take notice, and we will be joining the likes of Shelley M in her fashion credentials all too soon.
- Swedish Fashion Exhibition
- Brick by Brick
- Emilia Bariamova Interview
- The Best Designer Murals by Illustrators and Artists on Photowall
- Georgia Hardinge collection at the On|Off exhibition