Swedish style makes a big splash in the UK

The Swedes have had a lock on the stylish, low-cost furniture market for ages; Ikea is almost a category of its own in the line of practical, sleek and streamlined chairs, desks, beds, couches and all manner of home furnishings. They have a knack, you see.

Now it appears they are approaching the fashion market in a similar manner, and it’s working very well indeed. Swedish style has come to London in a big way.

One of the great and mysterious truths of the British fashion industry is that it tries valiantly to look as if it’s not trying very hard. In London, you’ll see an eclectic blend of street fashions, some blatantly trying too hard, but on the streets of Stockholm, for example, the general impression is understated, practical and effortless, and it’s been that way all along. It’s just that now the Brits in high street are really starting to pay attention.

The first indication that the Swedes were onto something that London wanted came when Acne (note they don’t apologise for the acronym of Ambition to Create Novel Expression) showed up at the atumn 2010 London Fashion Week. The designs from this Swedish fashion label founded by Jonny Johansson were a huge hit; directional tailoring with that understated (and so desirable) look brought a lot of big name designers to their knees, figuratively speaking.

The London opening of the Swedish high street chain COS brought Acne and Swedish fashion in general into the mainstream market, and the owners of COS, the H&M Group, are forging ahead in the fashion market. H&M also owns two more of the brands that are sweeping London off its feet: Cheap Monday and Monki.

Monki may be mostly a teen brand, as it is said to target “the young-at-heart girl” and is sort of a blend of individual street style and Scandinavian fashion, according to its chief, Henrik Kastberg. Cheap Monday is already very much ‘in’ with Eastenders, who have been gobbling up the beautifully-fitting pencil-slim jeans as well as the skull logo for several years. A new Cheap Monday store opens this week on Carnaby Street.

Swedish fashion writer and director at Bon magazine Daniel Bjork says that the appeal of Swedish fashion has a lot to do with the trend towards fashions that can be worn for every occasion, not just some special event. He notes that Swedish designers have to work with not only the Swedish weather but the overall Swedish preference for durability over splash.

David Hellqvist, editor of Hemma, the Swedish style magazine, says it’s got to do with the lifestyle.

Swedes tend to dislike clutter, approve of safety-oriented cars, and prefer clean lines in furniture and clothing, right down to the colours, where the tendency is towards black and white.

If the Swedish style magnates are to be believed, the idea for fashion design is to create clothing that can be worn anytime, anywhere, doesn’t cost too much, can be thrown in the washing machine, and will last for much longer than a season, both in the literal and the fashion sense. When you look at it that way, it makes perfect sense, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with a bit of good sense.


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