Fashion

What is Swedish Fashion? A Guide to Sartorial Sweden

Swedes have an inherent sense of style, it’s undeniable. With a history of quality and clean design, an eye for vintage, and an appreciation of delicious denim, it’s easy to build an effortlessly cool outfit. Versatile and timeless.

Swedish design has traveled across the globe, with household names like H&M and Acne dominating most high streets and fashion weeks.

But there’s so much more to Swedish fashion than H&M and Acne – though they’re a great place to start.

We’re diving into all things Swedish fashion, from denim brands to retro clogs, thrifted finds to designer splurges:

 

How to Dress like a Swede

To dress like a Swede, you must first consider how to live like a Swede. Located in the most northern part of Europe, there are parts of Sweden that see snow year-round. While the same can’t be said for the capital, the need to dress seasonally (read: for the cold) and still ride a bike impacts Swedish sartorial sensibilities.

Invest in quality. Have you tried to get through a Nordic winter in a poly-blend jumper? There’s a reason Swedes tend to look expensive, and it’s because one well-made wool jumper is worth 100 throwaway pieces once the snow starts.

Dress functionally. Swedes, lovers of green energy, tend to cycle. The cities are perfectly built for it, from flat landscapes to ample cycle lanes, so the outfits must be too.

Douse yourself in denim. The country is home to multiple denim brands, and it’s safe to say that Sweden does denim better than any other Nordic country. Embrace every wash of blue and black, ranging from a rigid raw right through to the velvety stretch.

Layer up! The winters are harsh and the summers are long, but it’s best to be prepared for a drop (or rise) in temperature at any moment. Thermal bases, a variety of knit weights, and excellent outerwear are key.

Lean into pre-loved. Flea markets are a way of life in Scandinavia and Sweden is no exception, but where the Swedes have an advantage is their thrift shop culture. Institutions like Myrorna throughout the country keep Swedish style eclectic, so double down on your hand-me-downs and get thrifting.

 

 
 

Minimalist and monochrome

An easy outfit to throw on when the mornings are pitch black is a coping mechanism, so minimalism rules. Perhaps counterintuitively, given this lack of sunshine, Swedes also enjoy a black and white (and occasionally gray) color pallet.

This doesn’t mean outfits are completely devoid of color, but when black jeans, black leather jackets, and white converse are a universal staple of Swedish wardrobes, it’s easy to end up taking sartorial inspiration from a panda.

 

 
 

Sustainability

Despite originating one of the biggest producers of fast fashion, Sweden has an excellent relationship with sustainable fashion. The independent research body, Mistra, based in Stockholm, invests in “solving key environmental problems and promoting Sweden’s future competitiveness.” From 2011 – 2019, Mistra ran the Mistra Future Fashion research project, the findings of which have been instrumental in discussions about the fashion industry’s impact.

Whether by osmosis or conscious design, the guiding principles of Swedish style – quality, longevity, recycling – make their way into Swedish design. As is the case universally, some brands simply choose to greenwash rather than do the hard work, but there are plenty of Swedish brands pushing the industry in the right direction, like menswear brand ASKET, Swedish Stockings, and Nudie Jeans.

Left: Nudie; Right: Asket

 

 

Fashion Week

In July 2019, the Swedish Fashion Council announced it would be canceling all further Stockholm Fashion Weeks. The move came as little surprise, as the Copenhagen institution has often taken top billing when it comes to Scandinavian presentations. At the time of the announcement, the council said it plans to set up a new model and format in place of its traditional fashion week.

Since then, it has launched Fashion X – a new platform to help further the “transformation of the fashion industry.” The non-profit acts as an open-source information and resource-sharing platform – not too dissimilar to Global Fashion Agenda.

 
 

Swedish street style

Swedish street style has been featured in major publications such as Vogue, Man Repeller, and W magazine – to name but a few. It has captured the attention of an international audience due to its effortlessly cool and relaxed style.

 

 

 
 

Swedish Denim

The US might be the birthplace of the classic 5-pocket jean, and Japan of artisanal weaving, but Sweden has its own spot in the denim hall of fame.

“What we do well here is dark, clean denim, because that suits the dark winter climate; it’s less expressive of itself and more about your relationship with a pair of jeans and how they age. It is fashion, but a slower kind of fashion,’ explains Maria Erixon Levin, former head designer of Lee Jeans and co-founder and owner of Nudie Jeans, one of the biggest denim brands to come out of Sweden in the past 10 years.

Hardly surprising that the Swedes are so denim orientated then, when they naturally gravitate to classic, well-made, quality items with a long life.

Most probably account denim’s popularity in the country to Acne Studios, who started out exclusively selling jeans, but Sweden’s history with the indigo cotton goes further back. In 1966, pioneering brand Gul & Blå was formed by Lars Knutsson, starting a jeans explosion for a young market unable to buy Levi’s or Lee Jeans from the US. At their phenomenally popular Stockholm shop, queues and sales of 1,000 pairs a day were not unusual, particularly for the signature wide-legged jeans.
 

Nudie Jeans

 

Swedish Denim Brands

Nudie Jeans

Based in Gothenburg but loved by denim heads worldwide. Nudie Jeans’ commitment to sustainability makes them an easy win for environmentally conscious shoppers looking for a slice of Swedish style. Their free repair services make them an easy win full stop.

NEUW

Technically based in Australia but started by three friends from Melbourne and Stockholm, NEUW is a testament to the far-reaching appeal of Swedish denim culture. The brand is inspired by vintage denim so all styles feature details like “repair stitches” or “revision darts,” soaking the collections in the rich variety denim can take.

Dr Denim

Don’t let the “family-owned” element of Dr Denim fool you – this brand is anything but quaint. Founded by brothers Alexander and Johannes, who inherited their obsession from their denim-tastemaker father, the brand has been on “a personal quest to be the global cure for half-baked denim” since 2004.

 

 
 

Big Swedish fashion brands to know

Swedish designer brands

Acne Studios

A titan of the fashion industry with humble origins, it would be remiss to discuss Sweden’s contribution to fashion and not start with Acne. Launched in 1996 as a denim brand, Creative Director Jonny Johansson has since turned Acne studios into a luxury design house sold globally and the original source of the world’s obsession with “Scandi-chic.”

Filippa K

Timeless, minimalist design that’s true to Swedish style and sustainable, Filippa K is a classic Swedish brand. Launched in 1993, Filippa K is the epitome of Swedish style, as the versatility and comfort of the collections make them ideal for office–bike–evening transitional looks.

Rodebjer

A brand beloved by fashion-forward women who want a comfortable silhouette while still looking put-together, Rodebjer is The Swedish Look at its peak. Incredibly modern and compelling, Rodebjer’s pieces are always the right combination of timeless and on-trend. A brand we love.

J Lindberg

The Swedes are an active bunch, so it’s only fitting that one of their major 3 fashion houses is also a designer of golf and ski clothing. Alongside activewear, J Lindberg also designs contemporary men’s and womenswear, focusing on simple tailoring and quality basics.

HOPE

A brand loved in Sweden that hasn’t had the recognition it deserves from outside yet, HOPE is for the unisex, minimalist, and androgynous design fans. Plenty of oversized yet sleek tailoring lifts wardrobe staples from standard to Scandi.

House of Dagmar

Founded in 2005 by three sisters, Karin Söderlind, Kristina Tjäder and Sofia Wallenstam, the brand continues the sartorial legacy of their late grandmother, Dagmar. Inspired by their grandmother’s confidence and timeless style, the sisters create considered womenswear collections full of extraordinary craftsmanship. The pieces themselves are imbued with quiet elegance, architectural shapes, and feminine form.

Björn Borg

Hitting the sweet spot between athleisurewear and Royal Tenenbaum fancy dress, the eponymous brand from the 70s tennis star and heartthrob is full of athletic performance wear, athleisure, and undergarments.

Selam Fessahaye

Named Sveriges modemirakel, or Sweden’s “fashion miracle”, Fessahaye is a Swedish-Eritrean designer pushing for greater diversity in Scandinavian fashion through her poetic and bold collections, worn by “one of the most diversely casted runways in Copenhagen Fashion Week history”. Her work is exaggerated and personal, as she plays with proportion and takes inspiration from her Eritrean heritage. Although this is not classic Swedish design, it is definitely the future of it.

Stylein

Stylein launched in 2001 by founder and chief designer Elin Alemdar. They always stay true to their core aesthetic – sophisticated, sleek, and elegant – while finding a way to hit trends so that the collection feels timely.

 

Selam Fessahaye

 
 

Swedish menswear

ASKET

Aiming to slow down consumption with their “meaningful essentials”, ASKET creates beautiful basics designed to last. They’re fully transparent and offer a traceability percentage for each garment, working towards full traceability.

Our Legacy

Swedish menswear brand Our Legacy is all about pared-down, high-quality, and timeless design. They specialize in button down shirts; they’re the epitome of contemporary Swedish style. Their other wardrobe pieces, however, are just as well-made.

Tiger of Sweden

Tiger of Sweden was founded 1903 in the Swedish town Uddevalla, by the tailors Markus Schwartzman and Hjalmar Nordström. It is a classical menswear brand. Tiger of Sweden began during the 1990s to develop suits attractive to urbanites.

Lazoschmidl

Gender-fluid raver kid of the early aughts grows up but stays the same; that’s the vibe from this cooler-than-cool Swedish brand. Lazoschmidl knows how to rock a pattern, a mesh, and a ruffle – all in the “menswear” category. We’re all about it.

 

Lazoschmidl

 

 
 

Swedish fast-fashion

ARKET

Another member of the H&M family, ARKET offers contemporary and quality basics and essential products, plus trend-driven pieces that can fit in a capsule wardrobe. There is an emphasis on recycling (in production but also through an in-store incentive to return old clothes) and transparency, as ARKET lists its suppliers openly onsite.

Weekday

Home of the infamous Zeitgeist t-shirt, a weekly print project that creates a design reflecting pop culture and sold with limited availability.

COS

A contemporary, minimalist brand heavily inspired by art and design. COS’s approach to design is one that includes “buy less wear more,” as beautifully designed basics are meant to fill wardrobe gaps for years.

& Other Stories

With ateliers in Paris, Stockholm, and LA, & Other Stories offers designs that range from romantic to ranch hand. They also have a hugely popular beauty range, favored for its fragrances and hand creams.

Monki

Dressing Gen Z and Millennial Swedes in Instagram pinks and teddy bear coats.

 
 

Emerging Swedish brands

Rave Review

Entirely recycled collections that speak truth to climate crisis denying powers. Sustainability is at the core of everything head designers …. do. Their politically charged show at Copenhagen Fashion Week.

 

 
 

Swedish shoe and accessory brands to know

Swedish shoe brands

Vagabond

What started as a men’s shoe company has grown to be a global shoemaker for everyone, with fashion-forward and classic designs available for reasonable prices and uncompromising quality.

Swedish Hasbeens

Inspired by the enigmatic “Anita”, a mother in 1970s southern Sweden who rocked a clog and whose impressive collection found in a factory basement was the basis of their first collection. The environmentally conscious shoes are made using chrome-free tanning and EU regulated wood.

Tretorn

Founded in Helsingborg in 1891, Tretorn started as a rubber factory, producing galoshes for farmers to protect their feet. Over time, it has since become a producer of high-quality boots and sneakers, artfully marrying style with practicality.

Myrqvist

Launched from a Kickstarter campaign, Myrqvist produces Goodyear Welted shoes for men. This is a complex and labor-intensive form of shoe construction: it stops water from leaking through but most importantly, it enables the possibility to replace the outsole when needed. Consequently, Myrqvist shoes can be worn for decades.

Flattered

Finely-crafted women’s shoes that reflect contemporary trends, Flattered is the place to go for slick everyday basics and high-fashion inspired designs.

Gram

A playful brand for men and women, Gram makes shoes that look like something you would’ve wanted as a child but grown up.

ATP Atelier

Super chic leather goods, all handcrafted in Italy. Ethically sourced, sophisticated women’s shoes (and bags) are all in line with the brand’s Smart Luxury ethos: inspiring women to make smart choices – both for themselves and for the sake of the world they live in.

Eytys

Uber cool Stockholm-based Eytys blend 90s nostalgia with cyber punk for sneakers, loafers, and boots with attitude. Likely to chime with those who follow the Balenciaga “ugly shoe” school of thought, these bold designs are anything but minimal, but a comfortable cork footbed and considered manufacturing techniques make for a high quality shoe with confident proportions that’s easy to wear.

 
 

Swedish bag brands

Fjällräven

This is the bag that carries the sweet arctic fox emblem. Fjällräven originates from Örnsjöldsvik, a place where the mountains meet the forest and the sea. They make clothes and equipment for outdoor use, and are dedicated to making nature more accessible. Their bags are durable and long-lasting, but they’re also very sweet.

Sandqvist

Swedish brand Sandqvist makes timeless bags that will last for ages and look good the whole time. Their bags are often made of recyclable materials, and you can bring them back to their stores for repairs.

 
 

Swedish Gloves

Hestra

If you need heavy duty gloves, Swedish brand Hestra is where you go. These ones are made from Elk leather and have a thick fleece lining, as well as touchscreen pads on the thumb and index fingers so you can still use your smartphone while you’re out in the cold. These are the kind of gloves you have for decades – they’re really that good.

 
 

Swedish Outerwear

Peak Performance

Born out of a need for practical skiwear in the 80s that didn’t succumb to the flashy trends of the time, Peak Performance is still ubiquitous with skiing in Sweden. Selling a wide range for men, women, and children, their outerwear is second to none when it comes to staying warm in the northern parts of the country.

Stutterheim

Scandinavia is lovely, but it doesn’t half rain a lot… Stutterheim is a popular choice with men, women, children, and dogs when it comes to keeping dry. The handmade raincoats are crafted using rubberized cotton and feature double-welded seams, snap closures, and cotton drawstrings. They also make boots that look great and keep toes dry.

 

 
 

Challenges to Swedish fashion

Sweden has struggled to keep its homegrown talent actually at home, as major label Acne would often show at Paris Fashion Week and the country’s mid-weight designers would cross the bridge to show in Copenhagen. Although Swedish brands are beloved around the world, since the dissolution of its fashion week and the launch of Fashion X, some questions have been asked around its relevancy as a high-fashion power.

Given that it is home to multiple, enormous fast-fashion brands, it’s undeniable that Swedish fashion is an important country in terms of the globalization of fashion and rethinking damaging structures, but Sweden could have more influence if it joined forces with other Scandinavian fashion powers – rather than trying to carve out a new identity in an already saturated market.

 

 
 

How Swedish fashion differs from other Scandi countries?

Undoubtedly, the Swedes’ embrace and eye for quality, stylish denim helps them to stand out from the Scandinavian crowd.
 
Their super-slick minimalism doesn’t contain the same irreverent playfulness you could expect to find in Denmark.
 
Swedish fashion is more formal than Danish fashion
 
Although it is highly functional, Swedish fashion doesn’t center around technical clothing in the same capacity as Norwegian fashion.
 
Swedish fashion is more known on the highstreet than any other Scandinavian brand.
 

 

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