If you're not a skater, you're probably not that familiar with SWEET SKTBS, but this underground label has partnered with legendary heritage Norwegian outerwear brand Helly Hansen for one of the dopest and slightly-left-of-center collaborations we've seen.
The community-focused skate label hails from Sweden’s west coast. A cursory glance at its online store reveals a label that’s on it when it comes to the sartorial and aesthetic zeitgeist—that being, namely, the '90s. Perhaps its the Helly Hansen brand as well—this is an outerwear label whose designs, speaking personally here, evoke a strong sense of the era—but the two’s resultant collab is one of the most impressive, seamless and yet low-key melding of two brand aesthetics we’ve seen. And maybe it's the Nordic vibes, but the muted color palette mixed with strong sea-worthy yellows and reds make the collection that much more of a statement.
The collab spreads across the FW17 and SS18 seasons, with each season consisting of two very limited edition releases and is being stocked at a few selected stores worldwide, including junkyard.com and VFILES in New York City. While Junkyard is the mover behind the collaboration, acting as SWEET SKTBS longtime distribution partner, the inclusion of NY’s VFILES on the retailers list should give you some clue as to the expected hype around this release, and the crowd it’s designed to speak to.
The collection coincides with Helly Hansen's 140-year anniversary. That's 140 years of making rugged outerwear designed for the perils of the high seas that hard-as-nails Norwegian fishermen and globetrotting sailors face on the daily. "We wanted to take this heritage and put it in our context: for the street and for skaters," explains Per Rynvall, the towering 28-year-old Swede, skater, and the lead designer at SWEET SKTBS. I meet Rynvall at the summer-edition of the Bright trade show in Berlin a few weeks ago, held in the sweltering Arena complex of warehouses and clubs on the banks of the city's Spree River. He’s holding a bottle of fizzy water that’s turning lukewarm and is dressed head-to-toe in his apparel, surrounded by the fruits of his labor and collaborative works. There’s the remainder of the SS17 collab collection with Pepsi (yes, as in the cola brand) behind him alongside photographs of Ola Billmont smattered across some of the label’s latest board designs.
"For the first [FW17] release, it's '90s inspired and based on Helly Hansen’s iconic super puffy yellow reversible down jacket, as well as their half-zip polo," he explains, wearing the pure white half-zipped polo himself. "The second release is inspired by Helly Hansen's sailing products more broadly. It's an exciting boat-club collection that weaves together the regatta style with skateboarder's demand for functionality," he adds, explaining that the standout items for him is the sailing jacket and the woven water-repellant pants.
SWEET SKTBS was founded back in 1999 after Rynvall decided to take his designs he used to sketch when he was growing up in Gothenburg, and when he wasn't skating with his mates, more seriously. Starting out as a furniture designer and craftsman, he then pivoted to his passion for apparel and the looks for the skaters he was actually skating with. Now, some 18 years later, SWEET SKTBS is solidly rooted in Europe's growing skate community, buoyed by its tight family of SWEET riders, including Philip Eidenborg, Áron Buzas, Victor Larsson Blé, Erik Svedberg, Jesper Lind, Vilbur Fritzon, Jonathan Carelle and Fabio Colombo. "For us, it's super important that we support all these skaters," adds Rynvall, who runs SWEET along with Per Lindblom, the Team Manager. "Everything that we do always comes back to them, the team."
However, FW17 is just the first of two collaborative drops with the HH. The second follows for SS18 and whereas the first built upon the two label's shared experiences in the harsh Scandinavian winters—both on- and offshore—the second continues the '90s flavor but hones in on a thoroughly European streetwear phenomenon, and one that's perfectly suited to the technical underpinnings of the Helly Hansen brand: it is of course, the tracksuit.
The first SS18 drop, explains Rynvall, "took Helly Hansen's '90s technical Seagear heritage and made it in a new take for the streets." We're now stood by the collection, measuring ourselves up against the pieces while footage of the SWEET riders plays on the widescreen TV behind us. "It’s a water repellent soft shell capsule with a soft shell hoodie, soft shell pant and soft shell tee that keeps you dry. There's also a fleece capsule, made with Helly Hansen’s Polartec fleece that keeps you warm without being weighty in the cold Nordic climate," he adds.
The standout piece though for SS18 has to be the second drop, which uses classic '70s Helly Hansen fiberpile pieces and the ultimate in Nordic outerwear: the Fisherman's suit. Marked with the revived Helly Hansen logo from the 1970s, SWEET and HH's all-yellow suit comprises a rain coach jacket, a rain dungaree pant and a rain hat. It's a full fisherman look with baggy comfort and ultimate outdoor protection for skaters. Strong looks all round. And while it may not be used against the elements on the high seas, we're pretty confident we'll see elements of this collab working its way into street style reports come next year.