destination styleFriday, February 17, 2017

Scandinavian Style: a guide to a chic and effortless wardrobe


As shoppers collectively scratch their heads about how to pronounce hygge (it’s who-gah), and foodies pore over their Noma cookbooks, cultural observers can safely say that Scandinavian Style has returned with a vengeance. This should hardly be news. For much of the last century, Nordic style has never been far from the minds of the world’s tastemakers.

From the 1930 Stockholm Exhibition that showcased Scandinavian style, to the celebrated Scandinavian design show that toured the museums of the United States and Canada between 1954 and 1957, the unique, minimalism of these small northern European nations has riveted the design world. Their passion for simplicity, authenticity and the veneration of simple arts and crafts has revolutionised contemporary design and architecture. But what about Scandinavian fashion style?


Compared with furniture design, fashion from Scandinavia has received scant attention from the global media. But with Nordic stars like Alicia Vikander dominating international fashion headlines, it looks like Scandi fashion might finally have its moment in the sun. As with all disciplines of design, the nation's style takes its cues from philosophies of minimalism and simplicity. 


Dress down to dress up: minimalism in Scandinavian style 


In the 1930s, Scandinavian style was a welcome corrective to a world accustomed to highly wrought, over-designed furniture and household objects. The 1930 Stockholm Exhibition is now famous for introducing the world to a new, minimalist vision of the good life — one unencumbered by unnecessary objects. Scandinavian fashion operates by the same rules. When fashion from Scandinavia first started appearing on the international style scene in the 1960s and 1970s with labels like Marimekko, the fashion world was shaken by the stark simplicity of the house’s unfussy designs using primary colours. 


Scandinavian style is still deeply indebted to this ethos of simplicity. Even in the 1990s, as the fashion world embraced opulence and excess, Scandi houses like the Danish By Malene Birger flew the flag for minimalist Scandinavian style on the world stage. The house developed a reputation for allowing the Scandinavian ethos to permeate every stage of the design process, becoming famous for its contemporary updates on traditional woollen garments — the very essence of this hygge notion. The tendency to return to tradition is not a rarity for Scandi brands, with other labels like Henrik Vibskov also drawing inspiration from the region’s long history of producing finely woven knitwear to offer up their own contemporary versions of this classic style.




Nordic-style isn’t just about minimalism and comfort. A burgeoning number of Nordic actors are showcasing Scandinavia’s emerging high-fashion on the world’s red carpets. This is in part thanks to Nordic Noir maintaining its unrelenting grip on the world’s television viewers with programs like The Killing and The Bridge making global celebrities out of their stars. However, even in this crowded field, one actress stands out: Alicia Vikander. Picking up an Oscar in 2016 for her role in The Danish Girl, Vikander is perhaps the most famous Swede since Abba – and her influence on the fashion world has been no less marked (although she's resisted the bell-bottoms and flares uniform).


Vikander’s red-carpet prowess is a high-concept reworking of classic Scandinavian trends. The passion for traditional handicrafts, appreciation for minimalism and focus on line and colour blocking is all still present, but reimagined through the medium of haute couture. Arriving on the international fashion circuit in 2012 after appearing in Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina, Vikander’s early red carpet appearances have fixated on detailed craftsmanship – albeit with a distinctive nod to her northern European origins. At the Oscars in 2013, Vikander famously wore a meticulously embroidered Elie Saab gown – emblazoned with an intricate sequin pattern of foils over silver lattice. Here and now, Vikander continues to wear red carpet gowns featuring traditional embroidery, choosing an Oscar de la Renta-style embroidered dresses with a subtle tulle to promote The Danish Girl on the awards circuit in 2016.


Scandi street-style


Street-style was seemingly invented for Scandinavia. For a style that privileges subtle minimalism and the poetry of the quotidian, it’s little surprise that cities like Stockholm and Copenhagen are favourites of street-style photographers like Scott Schuman and Tommy Ton.


The key to creating Scandinavian style for the street is using basic elements like line and silhouette to lead the outfit, without reflecting too much on detailing. New Scandinavian labels like Denmark's Wood Wood – which has created a stir with its eclectic Copenhagen Fashion Week shows – favours simple and subdued palettes, clean silhouettes and an uncluttered energy. Houses like Cecilie Copenhagen do offer a break from this trend, with busy, patterned dresses and knitwear — however, a clean, enduring silhouette remains. 


Scandinavian style has always punched above its weight in respective global terms, with the design aesthetic in homes the world over indebted to these small countries. With their global style reach now extending into fashion, the future certainly looks bright for this striking yet unassuming style philosophy.



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