Stockholm Fashion Week aims to make its voice heard
As Copenhagen pulled out all the stops to welcome French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday 29th August, announcing a "memorandum of understanding" on sustainable development with the Institut Français de la Mode (IFM), Stockholm was celebrating fashion in a much more discrete and minimalist manner with its co-ed Fashion Week.
From 28th to 30th August, the Swedish capital welcomed some 50 ready-to-wear brands and 20 jewellery and accessories labels to a three-day event centred around 30 runway shows presenting collections for Spring/Summer 2019. Most shows took place in the reception rooms of the city's Grand Hotel, this Fashion Week's HQ, situated in the heart of Stockholm's central Ostermalm neighbourhood.
Some brands, however, preferred to receive their guests elsewhere, often in their own stores or in larger spaces such as the Carl Johans church on the island of Skeppsholmen, a kind of neoclassical temple inspired by Rome's Pantheon, chosen by jewellery designer Maria Nilsdotter for a magical show accompanied by harp music.
A number of different activities rounded out the programme with conferences, parties and other events, such as the "Fashion Night", which secured the participation of over 300 Stockholm stores to bring proceedings to a close on Thursday, or the celebration organised by Absolut Vodka, where attendees sampled the brand's signature spirit while watching a much-lauded show.
The renowned Swedish vodka maker unveiled a selection of designs from the archives of its "Absolut Fashion" collection, which has been growing since 1987 through a series of prestigious collaborations with designers including Jean Paul Gaultier, Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs, Stella McCartney, Gianni Versace, John Galliano and Helmut Lang.
Over three days, the Fashion Week's attendees – mostly journalists, fashionistas and students – were treated to the best that Swedish creativity has to offer, from new talents to well-established brands. Among the latter was that of 32-year-old designer Ida Sjöstedt, whose couture-like romantic silk and tulle dresses sell mainly in Sweden through 35 multibrand stores.
The overall atmosphere was fairly laid back, a far cry from the hysteria of the Big Four (London, New York, Milan and Paris). A perfect example of this low-key vibe, was the packed-out Filippa K runway show, organised at the flagship store of this Swedish Max Mara. The cocktail party, where pizzas were served up in cardboard boxes by young delivery boys and girls with long blond hair and white jumpsuits bearing a variation of the brand's logo that read "Filippa K Delivery", was a resounding success – as, perhaps, was the show, which was almost impossible to see through the ocean of people crammed into the store.
This season's Stockholm Fashion Week did, however, suffer from some notable absences, with big Swedish brands such as Acne – which is showing in Paris – as well as Hope and House of Dagmar, leaving noticeable holes in the programme. It seems to be difficult for the Swedish capital to position itself as the central hub for Scandinavian fashion when there are three other Fashion Weeks now taking place in the region, in Copenhagen, Oslo and Helsinki. What's more, Stockholm's Danish rival has seen levels of interest sky rocket over the last few years as it has increased the number of trade fairs associated with its Fashion Week.
"The problem is that, unlike in Copenhagen, we don't have a big fashion trade fair. That's kind of a limiting factor," states designer Maj-La Pizzelli. She has been active on the Swedish fashion scene for 20 years, having worked at Filippa K, then as a consultant, before launching her own line of footwear and accessories, ATP Atelier, with Jonas Clason in 2011.
With its Italian-made, Scandinavian-designed vegetable leather products, the label, which showed for the first time at this season's Stockholm Fashion Week, fits in perfectly with the democratic, minimalist vibe so typical of Swedish design.
"Stockholm Fashion Week has lost ground. It seems less important compared to ten years ago, when we saw an explosion of new brands, many of which went on to develop at an international level, contributing to a boom in the sector," explains an industry observer.
Appointed six months ago as the CEO of the Swedish Fashion Council, an umbrella entity which brings together a variety of other national fashion organisations, including the all-important Association of Swedish Fashion Brands (ASFB), Jennie Rosén is hoping to shake things up. "We need to communicate more and create a more dynamic platform to support the whole sector, connecting it with the high-tech industry in particular," she tells FashionNetwork.com.
"Up until now, we've been spread over different organisations and events. From now on, we are reorganised in a way that prioritises unity. In 2019 we're going to launch a single Fashion Week, which will take place in collaboration with the Stockholm Fashion District apparel trade fair. We will therefore have a single event that adresses both the press, with runway shows, and buyers, with the trade fair," explains Rosén.
"Unlike in Denmark, we do not receive any financial support from the government, despite the fact that our fashion industry is more important. Most of the biggest Scandinavian brands are Swedish! Our industry employs 60,000 people and makes a total of 300 billion krona (30 billion euros) in revenue. Furthermore, it plays an important part in exports. Overseas Swedish apparel sales have exploded in the last few years, soaring 90% between 2011 and 2018, with a 30% rise in 2018 alone," she points out.
For a small country with 10 million inhabitants like Sweden, internationalisation is vital. And that's why it's so important to push the visibility of the country's fashion industry, one of its most dynamic sectors in terms of exports. The Swedish textile industry is, of course, propped up by the titanic H&M, but behind this global giant a number of other labels have managed to successfully develop a strong international following, proof of the sector's vitality. These days there's also something of a creative renaissance taking place in the country, with a new wave of young designers who appear to want to step away from the discrete colours, functional design and minimalist elegance on which Swedish fashion built its reputation.
"There's a real energy, with the emergence of a lot more young designers than before. They're different from their predecessors, who were unified by a classic, sober aesthetic. They place more emphasis on colours, prints and unbridled creativity. They're also very focused on sustainable development and gender-neutral clothing," says Erica Blomberg, head of Swedish Fashion Talents, a programme organised by the Swedish Fashion Council to support young designers.
Launched in 2005, this project has thus far supported 84 promising talents. For the last two years, the programme has been restricted to supporting a maximum of seven designers per year, half of them specialised in apparel, the other half in accessories. All participants have the opportunity to show at two Fashion Weeks and take part in the Stockholm Fashion District trade fair, and also receive support in the form of mentoring and business classes for one year.
This season, Swedish Fashion Talents spotlighted three up-and-coming labels: Per Götesson's experimental menswear, Andreas Danielsson's chic minimalist sportswear brand PRLE, and Rave Review, a womenswear label from duo Josephine Bergqvist and Livia Schück, who use recycled upholstery fabrics in their bold, colourful pieces.
Along with these highlights, it's also worth mentioning Lazoschmidl. The brand, which was founded by Josef Lazo and Andreas Schmidl, combined a pumping disco soundtrack with ethereal models in lurex jumpsuits and ultra risqué knitted outfits to offer up one of the most exciting shows at Stockholm Fashion Week this season.
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