Continuing our coverage of the Scandinavian peninsula, we shine a light on the 20 Swedish brands every Highsnobiety reader should get familiar with. As we uncover, despite their relatively small population, the region’s influence on the world of contemporary fashion is huge.
Swedish corporations like IKEA and H&M have undeniably made a significant international splash, while names like Acne Studios and Our Legacy have been heralded as the new Nordic wave, but below the surface there is much more to be said about Sweden’s creative landscape. The nation is filled with passionate thinkers that seek to uphold and respect the country’s storied design legacy, all while simultaneously striving to innovate in their own way. Sweden’s fashion community is well established, thanks to the close-knit nature of comparatively small cities like Stockholm and Gothenburg, where regional successes are able to incubate and refine before becoming popular exports. Even the Scandinavian arm of McDonald’s recently tried its hand at fashion when unveiling a new range of “Big Mac” apparel.
In celebration of this flush of creativity, we turn to the best and brightest of Swedish clothing design for our latest recap. If you’re looking for more recommended reading, check out our summary of the best brands from Canada, Denmark and Australia/New Zealand.
Purveyors of famously stylish collections for both men and women, the Acne Studios house has also dabbled in magazines, furniture, books and exhibitions in its relatively short lifetime. With headquarters in Stockholm, Acne Studios also operates flagship stores around the world in Paris, London, New York City, Los Angeles, Tokyo and Berlin. The brand has become a hallmark of the Scandinavian country through its refined approach and well executed brand communication.
Shop Acne Studios.
A relative newcomer to the footwear and accessory market, Sweden’s Eytys was founded in 2013, but has already impacted the fashion community with its pared-down offerings. Contrasting purple heel tabs and a hefty cork sole act as defining characteristics of the brand’s footwear division, while a recently launched range of backpacks, tote bags and electronics cases adds another dynamic of interest to the burgeoning brand. Check out Eytys’ “Void” collection of waterproof luggage.
The philosophy of L’Homme Rouge is a response to the overconsumption of today. Starting out by producing unisex knitted hats, the brand’s seasonal offerings have since broadened. Typical of Scandinavian principles, the brand focuses on conscious design while incorporating high quality fabrics and components. Products are a direct reflection of the Swedish West Coast, where the L’Homme Rouge aesthetic of masculine and classic goods came to realization.
Shop L’Homme Rouge.
Possibly the longest-standing marque to make our list, Tretorn was founded in 1891 in Helsingborg, Sweden as a manufacturer of rubber boots. Since then the brand’s catalog has expanded to include sports and leisure footwear, including the ever-popular Nylite model. In 2002, Tretorn was acquired by PUMA, who owns rights to the brand to this day. The heritage brand also holds a warrant of appointment to the royal Swedish court, whereby members of the court order certain articles of footwear exclusively from Tretorn.
Designers Saif Bakir and Emma Hedlund first met studying menswear at the London College of Fashion, and were almost immediately drawn together as partners. Later undertaking design duties for Kanye West in his Paris studio, Bakir and Hedlund continued on to found CMMN SWDN. Moving from strength to strength, Bakir and Hedlund have since honed a clean aesthetic for CMMN SWDN, characterized by international influences while retaining Swedish sensibilities at the nucleus of the brand. The term “tech-noir” has been used to describe the label’s progressive designs, which have been picked up by influential retailers around the globe.
Shop CMMN SWDN.
Polar Skate Co.
Hailing from Malmö, Sweden and led by Pontus Alv, founder, art director, illustrator and filmmaker, Polar Skate Co. is a rising force in the skateboarding community. As things have fallen into place with the emergent skate imprint, the brand has grown exponentially in thanks to honest, simple products that are able to resonate the world over. Although Alv’s prior efforts clipping together DIY skate flicks has been somewhat eclipsed by the successes of Polar, the native Swede still keeps a down-to-earth mentality about his creations.
Shop Polar Skate Co.
Stutterheim is crushing the raincoat game. The brand has found its center by blending tailored fits and fully waterproof materials, culminating a near-perfect balance of function and fashion. For a Swedish brand, the formula is simple enough, as rainwear is intrinsically linked to the Scandinavian country’s climate. Inspired by his grandfather’s vintage seafaring garb, founder Alexander Stutterheim produced his first run of raincoats in a batch of 200, selling them out of his apartment. To this day, each coat is signed and numbered by a seamstress to ensure quality.
When top-tier retailer Très Bien ventured into the field of cut and sew, the blogosphere was set alight. For those that were already fans of the unassuming Malmö-based retailer with the killer brand list, the Très Bien house line becoming reality was nothing short of a wet dream. Founders and brothers Simon and Hannes Hogeman have naturally become the face of the Très Bien movement, and although the collection is only three seasons young, it has already gained a momentous following.
Shop Très Bien.
Eponymously named after founder Filippa Knutsson, Filippa K is a retailer and fashion brand that focuses on timeless basics. Encompassing collections for both men and women, Scandinavian elegance easily bubbles to the forefront of the brand, which strikes a pleasing chord between accessibility and style.
Shop Fillipa K.
The Nudie dynasty humbly started in Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest urban center. Since day one the brand has utilized the same signature swirl-like pocket stitching, combined with unforgettably zany silhouettes like the Grim Tim and Steady Eddie. Here is what you need to know: Nudie produces all products from 100% organic cotton, they run a number of Nudie jean repair shops across Europe, and the brand has played a pivotal role in raw denim resurgence.
Shop Nudie Jeans.
Cheap Monday was initially founded as a second-hand clothing store on the outskirts of Stockholm by partners Örjan Andersson and Adam Friberg. In the brand’s early days, the shop was run under the name “Weekday,” whereas the brand name was later shifted to”Cheap Monday,” derived from the fact that the shop’s opening hours were limited only to Sunday. The distinctive, monochromatic skull logo has become the brand’s most identifiable trademark, and is commonly used throughout the brand’s catalog of jeans, flannels and shirts. In 2002, H&M purchased 60% of the company for $92 million USD.
Shop Cheap Monday.
Like many of the world’s most respected fashion brands, Our Legacy began as a modest line of T-shirts. Captained by Christopher Nying and Jockum Hallin, the two designers have promptly ushered their label to the cutting edge of Sweden’s contemporary fashion crusade. Our Legacy’s inaugural collection was unveiled in 2008, and since then the brand has continued to gain momentum with one hand clinging to the world of wardrobe basics, and the other venturing to seek inspiration from punk, art, film, literature and more. Peep the recent Our Legacy editorial for Spring/Summer 2015 by French publication Codryo.
Shop Our Legacy.
Staunch supporter of snowboarding and skateboarding since day one, WeSC has cultivated an image as one of Sweden’s leading streetwear entities for over 16 years. An abbreviation of “We are the Superlative Conspiracy,” WeSC works closely with individuals known as “WeActivists” who are informal ambassadors of the brand. The WeActivist ranks include the likes of Jason Lee, Ray Barbee, DJ Stretch Armstrong, as well as a grip of prolific Swedes from famed snowboarder Ingemar Backman to big room house producer Axwell.
Purveying classic luggage and backpacks, Sandqvist is one of the most visible Swedish accessory brands on the market. While working full-time at an electronics company, Anton Sandqvist noticed a gap in the market, and took matters into his own hands by creating a small run of functional, military-inspired rucksacks. The brand’s driving force is strongly rooted in the Swedish outdoors – Nordic landscapes with wide-open areas, towering mountains and remote cabins.
Crafted for the sidewalk and not the catwalk, ELVINE’s brand manifesto is based strongly in Swedish heritage, much like its Nordic contemporaries. The namesake of the brand – Elvine Mänd – was an Estonian seamstress who fled to Sweden during World War II. Years after, her grandson Daniel decided a clothing label was the perfect homage. Equally at home in the city as in Sweden’s surplus of rough, uncharted territory, ELVINE’s products maintain a sure-footed legacy of function.
Another brainchild of the Très Bien family, Sun Buddies slots amicably into the eyewear market with a pleasing range of affordable but poignantly stylish choices. The brand utilizes premium components including quality acetate and Zeiss lenses, and although Sun Buddies is still a young label, the world’s leading boutiques and retailers have wasted no time in co-signing the product.
Shop Sun Buddies.
With the lofty goal of transforming the watch industry, TRIWA has excelled in dually appealing to lifestyle markets as well as discerning watch nerds. Working exclusively with Sweden’s Tärnsjö tannery – one of the last tanneries in the world to use organic tanning processes – the brand is able to deliver sophisticated product that is also naturally entreating to a younger audience. Although timepieces constitute the larger part of TRIWA’s catalog, the brand also purveys a line of eyewear. Check out our recent conversation with TRIWA Creative Director Ludvig Scheja.
Those living in Northern Europe will be familiar with the Hestra brand name. The reputed maker of deerskin gloves has been around since 1936, priding itself on offering options for all occasions and climates. In recent years, Hestra has formed a longstanding partnership with Danish label Norse Projects to produce a hardwearing line of assorted mitts and gloves.
Established over 50 years ago, this outdoor label is fully about providing the best wilderness kit; backpacks, jackets, tents, sleeping bags, you name it and Fjällräven is making it, alongside other crucial gear for bold expeditionaries. The brand’s story started with a single Timber-frame backpack created by original founder Åke Nordin, and the qualities of this robust new design acted as the prelude for a longstanding brand name. Your friend probably owns a Fjällräven jacket, and chances are you still aren’t pronouncing it right.
Perhaps an underdog on this list, Majls represents a true grassroots effort in the Swedish scene. Innovative prints and creative cuts are the backbone of the brand, which is based in Gothenburg. Majls takes a head-to-toe approach, proffering goods that range from printed T-shirts and denim to 5-panel caps. To elucidate their most recent collection titled “Wizard Anthology” the minds behind the brand provided the following copy; “Wizards fared then from far and from near, Through long, stretching journeys, To bring forth a wonder, Finely woven garments of yore.”
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