The term "Scandinavian fashion" rings few bells in the United States. This is unfortunate, since so much of the fashion from this part of the world would appeal to Americans, if they only knew about it.
Apart from a few shops in the Big Apple and other urban areas, it’s not easy to find Swedish, Norwegian, Danish or Finnish clothing in the USA. The main exception to this rule are the giant retailer H&M, as well as Gant–a leisure wear brand few realize is Swedish-owned. It’s about time that we Yanks also had a chance to put some cool Nordic threads in our closets.
"It isn't possible to live only on any one of the Scanddinavian markets today," Lena Kvarnström, a fashion instructor/designer at Beckman's School, a top-notch greenhouse for Sweden’s designers. Young fashion wannabes have to reach out far beyond the boundaries of Scandinavia, if they are to have a reasonable chance to make a living from their own creations. Some pack their bags and head for the airport.
Why is fashion so central in many people’s lives? What makes clothes become so much more once we wear them? “Me? I am always fashionable, for a while at least every 10 to 15 years..,” used to be my own father’s favorite saying. I heard it first when as a teenager I was refused my first highly impractical and blessedly short-lived jeans with a sewn V-seam at the knee. I think I’ve heard it many times since. Did I say it myself..?
What makes it New York’s most important industry or a rapidly growing export sector in Scandinavia, couldn’t be only New York’s special status in the world, or in the case of the Nordic countries, their long term position as design centers in the world - is it the pretty faces, the fantasies the clothes or the models concoct, the exotic lifestyles we wish we had or may pretend to have for some time? Be that as it may, much of many people’s attention circles around appearance and presentation on a superficial level - how we look and what we wear is part of how we’re being perceived, like it or not.
Scandinavian style in clothing in the US is fast becoming synonymous with H&M, the Swedish based fashion giant with over 800 stores in 14 countries. It started operations in the US in March 2000 and was covered in our premier issue of that year. Three years later there are 56 stores in the US (April, 2003). Four years later yet (April 2007) there are hundreds of stores in twenty states in the US and well over 1,300 stores world-wide in 30 countries.
Needless to say, and as evidenced at the Scandinavian fashion events or shows, there are many other designers in all of Europe’s northernmost countries. You will find some of them on the pages of Finnish Matti Pykko’s potography. Pykko accompanied six designers through the city of Hanko along Finland’s easternmost borde— for many years a favorite playground for Russia’s elite. While Pykko spent time in the woods, our Scandinavian editor, David Bartal, went to a number of fashion venues all over Scandinavia, to capture the present state of the industry.
We also disclosed the youth-oriented H&M:s secret weapon and bring you a variety of alternatives should you venture to the Nordic region to shop for clothes this summer or fall.
On U.S. ground there are only two names of any significant size at this time. H&M and a company with a long American story and its main roots in this country.
Few are aware that the phoenix-like re-emerged Gant, which represents a much more conservative or rather time-less American style than our other mentioned clothing giant, at present has its main ownership in the Scandinavian countries. Founded by a Swedish troika 25 years ago as a licensee of the old US company, it turned around after a long, successful period of work in Europe and Japan, to buy its former parent.
From alternative life styles and architecture, to new trends in music, a new children’s movie and a few spicy words from B&O’s chief designer, to a special section on fashion trends in Scandinavia, our summer issue brings you some of the best experiences from Scandinavia right now.
Text: Ulf B Martensson
Photography: Nikolaj Alsterdal, Henrik Olund
A new store with a variety of fashions opened in the New York area: HUS, at Christopher Street, just off Sixth Avenue /www.husliving.com and Tretorn, the trendy footwear is opening this summer on Spring Street /www.tretorn.com