Text Ilona Marx Photos Peter Lorenz
Stockholm glistens in the late summer sunlight. A short exploratory bike ride and you’ll soon discover breathtaking cityscapes. And no wonder, considering the geography of the place: the Swedish capital is spread over 14 large and small islands, as if a dozen dice had been scattered around the point where Lake Mälaren opens out into the Baltic Sea. A spectacular location, which, combined with the legendary Scandinavian light, gives Stockholm its unique character and justifies its often-praised beauty.
As if all of that weren’t enough, what you find on the streets, in the shops and in the restaurants, seems so beautiful in the classic sense too: the interior design, the people, the fashion, everyday items and, yes, even life itself. That may sound naïve and innocent, but what Central European traveller doesn’t enjoy being blinded a little by Stockholm’s beauty? Especially when you come from a country where the number of architectural blunders sometimes seems to outnumber actual residents. And where the population seems to be more interested in waterproofing and breathability than in the elegant cut of their clothing or the use of high-quality materials.
Of course the grass is always greener on the other side and so when you’re there it’s easy to see that some fashion-savvy Swedes certainly have grounds for complaint: everyone seems to be wearing a kind of fashion uniform, everyone is wearing the same brands – all of them local labels in minimalist styles and always in the same colours: navy and black. One should add that the critics themselves are far from wearing crazy prints with exotic colours by newcomer brands from, let’s say, Estonia; they also stick to the Swedish fashion codex – looking just as smart, fashionable and minimalist as a noticeably large proportion of the public. When we did our street style shoot it was clear that the men of Stockholm in particular enjoy a little armchair grousing about the city’s fashions. And it’s not just in terms of fashion that the men seem to have caught up with women. When it comes to childcare, the Swedish man is thoroughly egalitarian too – the cityscape is dominated by men pushing prams, over 50% in fact.
There’s no doubt about it: the small-town feeling of cosiness that comes over you as soon as you turn off one of the main shopping streets provides the ideal conditions for family life in an urban environment – accordingly, the Swedes are having less of a struggle than the rest of the European countries when it comes to negative demographics. This is especially palpable in the district of Södermalm, which borders the Old Town, Gamla Stan, to the south. This is the indie epicentre, with rows of small vintage and designer shops, record stores and galleries, cafés and bars. And the place to spot styles that won’t be hitting our streets for another two years.
And as you can see from the streetscape in Södermalm, the days of minimalism, which even their most advocating proponents are starting to complain about, are numbered. In SoFo (short for South of Folkungagatan), as the hipster district calls itself in ironic reference to New York’s equally hipster district, people like to experiment. The centre of ‘cool’ is fashion-forward, has its finger on the pulse and is currently pushing for an individualistic, humorous, print-dominated oversized look. Just think Henrik Vibskov from neighbouring Denmark. So we are eager to see what the independently-minded, aesthetic Swedes will be bringing to the table over the next few seasons. Check out our recommendations for a taste of what’s to come.