Flamboyance is largely a foreign concept in Sweden, where the jante law, a concept that prioritizes collective, over individual, effort and expression, is very much in place. This emphasis on fitting in goes some way toward explaining the appeal of s slinimalism in Scandinavia. Simple shapes in somber colors blend in rather than stand out. The result is that it’s the smallest details that speak the loudest.
But some change might be afoot. In Copenhagen, Kristin Anderson discovered fashions that were “a bit whimsical, wonderfully weird, or some combination of the two,” and we’re hearing about organizational changes at Stockholm Fashion Week, too, where emerging talents will be getting the lion’s share of the spotlight and showing in some exciting venues, including the famed Moderna Museet.
Where there is some precedence for flashy dressing in Sweden is in its music, one of the country’s best known, and most beloved, exports. ABBA’s sky-high footwear and costumes can only be described as OTT. “In my honest opinion, we looked like nuts in those years,” band member Björn Ulvaeus has written. Decades later The Hives would create a distinct visual identity, sans platforms, with their matching, dandified black-and-white outfits. Here, just in time for Stockholm Fashion Week, 13 Swedish musical acts that haven’t played it safe with style.
If ABBA took some iffy chances onstage—Lyrca bodysuits, matching kimono ensembles, and cat dresses come to mind—their eye-catching real-life looks, heavy on platforms and flares, were perfectly on key. As for their denim game, well, it was right on the money. (About those fashion don’ts: Ulvaeus explains them as a numbers game. Costumes that couldn’t be worn on the street could potentially be claimed as tax write-offs.)
Sweden, too, had its hair bands, foremost of which was Europe. Onstage, lead singer Joey Tempest (born Rolf Magnus Joakim Larsson) paired his poodlelike ’do with pink lipstick, a piratical hoop earring, and tight leather pants. In publicity stills the band could evoke a team of amateur hockey players (a sport Tempest once played) gone glam.
Cherry spent much of her youth in the south of Sweden, where she was born, but she came of age musically, and in fashion, when she moved to London as a teenager. (Her first job there, she told The Guardian, “was stapling together issues of i-D magazine with a girl called Scrubber.”) Cherry was part of a group of creatives that included jewelry designer Judy Blame and Scottish stylist Ray Petri, whose concept of “Buffalo” style the singer brought to a wider audience with the release of her 1989 album, Raw Like Sushi, featuring the hit “Buffalo Stance.” The album mixed genres like Cherry mixed her wardrobe, pairing street staples (bombers, high-tops, et cetera) with more fashion-forward pieces and accessorized with bling in the form of oversize earrings and outsize medallions. “I guess I like clothes that make me feel attitudinous,” Cherry told Vogue.
This year marks the Swedish duo Roxette’s 30th anniversary in the biz. Among Marie Fredriksson and Per Gessle’s career highlights is the inclusion of “It Must Have Been Love” on the Pretty Woman soundtrack as well as performing at the Swedish Crown Princess’s palace in 2010. Look Sharp! was the title of their sophomore album; it could also be the band’s style mantra. Fredriksson and Gessle worked an androgynous, New Wave style.
“I am a total pop monster,” The Cardigans’s Nina Persson once told The Guardian. “I’m from the country of ABBA!” At the beginning of their career, Persson’s five-person band played on their Swedishness; the album art for Life features the blonde, blue-eyed, and dimpled Persson dressed in a pastel-color ice-skating outfit, playing an ingénue look that was well suited to their then “kitschy,’60s-pop sound.”
Fashion has been part of The Hives’s identity from the first, and this March, almost 25 years after the band was formed in the small town of Fagersta, a Swedish magazine named frontman Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist one of the country’s best-dressed men. In 2002 Vogue described their sound as “a combustible mixture of ’60s garage pop and ’70s punk rock,” while noting their “dandy-come-lately’s sense of style.”
The band members dress somewhat formally and strictly in black and white, and they follow their own fashion diktats. “We make no concessions to weather, that’s the second rule of style,” Almqvist has said. “The first rule of style is you always have to be at least a little bit uncomfortable, otherwise you don’t look good.”
The Shout Out Louds
Though they sometimes sound a bit like The Cure, there’s nothingly remotelty goth about The Shout Out Louds, an indie band from Stockholm. Style-wise, the male members of this gang of five favor button-downs, cardigans, and desert boots.
Linda Carlsson, aka Miss Li, is telegenic in more ways than one. Not only has the singer appeared on Swedish TV, but her songs have been used on popular series (like Grey’s Anatomy and Weeds) and for commercials. Carlsson’s sound is an amalgam of jazz and pop, and her preferred look is a retro one. This is a woman who knows how to work a floppy hat and channel a bohemian vibe.
“People listen both with their ears and eyes somehow,” Little Dragon lead singer and sometime Opening Ceremony model Yukimi Nagano has said. Knowing this, her performances have become feasts for the senses, featuring mesmerizing experimental fashions like this voluminous feather skirt by Jimmy Paul Rinsum and Marie Burlot, the Dutch design duo behind MaryMe JimmyPaul.
Fashion loves Li, and she returns the favor, having performed live at fashion shows, appeared in a video for Gucci, and collaborated on a line with &Other Stories. What the Swedish songstress isn’t keen on is color, preferring goth-y all-black looks to which she adds variety through texture and shape. “I hustle,” she told Vogue.“There’s no time for florals.”
If you’ve heard “I Love It,” Icona Pop’s breakout single—and there is almost no chance you have not—you can be certain that Aino Jawo and Caroline Hjelt “don’t care” if you’re into their style or not. “You want me down on earth, but I am up in space,” the duo sing. As if to drum the point home, they often dress in futuristic space-age gear, like the linked plastic dresses à la Paco Rabanne, above.
Avicii might sound like the name of an Italian wine, but it’s the stage moniker of a towheaded Swede, Tim Bergling. This March, almost a year after Mike Posner’s inescapable single was released with the lyrics “I took a pill in Ibiza, to show Avicci I was cool,” Bergling, 26, announced he was retiring from touring after a decade on the road (with a reported $75 million in the bank) . His last concert will be on August 28. “I’ve always had a pretty basic style,” the baby-faced, backward-baseball-cap-wearing Bergling has said. So how did he make this list? The superstar EDM DJ was embraced by fashion when he was cast in Ralph Lauren’s Denim & Supply campaign in 2013.
He sings about Louis Vuitton, IGs his Guccis, and appears in brands as diverse as The North Face and A Bathing Ape, yet fans of Yung Lean, aka Jonatan Leandoer Håstad, have made his bucket hats their accessory of choice. It should be noted that Leany’s album art, as well as related Sad Boys gear, has long featured the gothic lettering popularized by Vetements. The singer himself is featured in Calvin Klein’s Fall 2016 campaign.
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