“Less is more” is the Swedes’ favorite way of describing their sense of fashion. Much like the Danes, their Scandinavian neighbors, Swedes have developed a taste for loosely-tailored and simplistic clothes spiced with what they would say is “an abundance” of color and prints. Yet, to most outsiders Swedish fashion is synonymous with Acne, skinny jeans and Fjällräven jackets and rucksacks.
But during last week’s Stockholm Fashion Week, we discovered that while denim is continuously appreciated, Swedish designers have a vision that goes way beyond. Included was a collection made entirely from paper, a social exploration, and of course denim. Three particular womenswear designers’ idea of Swedish fashion stood out.
Ann Sofie Back is described as one of the bad “boys” of Swedish fashion; when she launched her eponymous line in 2002 she reversed her catwalk shows so that they started with the finale, a clear indication of her resistance to succumb to fashion’s unwritten rules. She has since grown to not only design two lines of her own—one being BACK—but the Central Saint Martins graduate has also functioned as the creative director of the new Swedish powerhouse, Cheap Monday since 2009.
Inspired by her 2005 atelier collection, the diffusion line BACK resembled a concept of “bricolage”: raw edges, loose tulle scarves, massive leather belts and oversized denim left the impression of a girl not scared to experiment. “We design for a woman that is dressing for herself rather than a man. She must have a sense of humor and basically does not care about being "sexy,” Back noted, while mentioning that her theme evolves from collection to collection rather than being based on new concepts each season.
Bea Szenfeld is not a designer in the usual sense of the word; she doesn’t dream of dressing any celebrities. Actually, she can’t imagine dressing anybody at all. “Preferably no one... The garments are very fragile and made out of paper. People sweat and cry and play with fire, and that destroys the paper,” she exclaims, when asked whom she’d most like to wear. She hopes her garments will be seen at the MoMA in New York or the Victoria & Albert in London rather than any store worldwide.
Despite her clothes not being particularly functional, her creativity is hard to ignore. Inspired by “furries,” Szenfeld designed a paper collection of pet shapes. One model walked down the runway draping a cat over her shoulders, another hugged by a gorilla, and a third dressed as what mostly looked like a peacock. Her love for animals is evident, and so is her inspiration from Björk, as lines could easily be drawn to the Icelandic singer’s now notorious swan dress.
“Minna Palmqvist explores the obsession of the female body, by merging social commentary with fashion and art,” reads Minna Palmqvist’s bio. The Finnish born designer set up her namesake label in 2009 after graduating from Konstfack College of Arts in Stockholm with a final project called “Intimately Social.” A project she’s continued ever since basing each collection on her social observations. “The obsession with the female body and a strong belief in sustainability on all levels: aesthetically, ethically and environmentally,” is how Palmqvist describes her brand.
Her loosely fitted S/S '14 garments left the models unrestricted and portrayed well her source of inspiration: “I was inspired by the thought of a woman and a body that had enough of being controlled and repressed, which can be seen in the cracked seams, the sweat marks made from crystals and the characteristic leather quilts being pressed out through the cuts.” The almost entirely white, yellow, and brown garments were cleverly matched with sneakers to emphasize freedom.
images courtesy stockholm fashion week