Sweden’s fashion scene on the defensive?

When Sweden’s new crop of independent designers are interviewed nowadays, one of the most common questions is: Does it look like you will be able to survive financially? The downturn of the global economy which started 2008 has meant hard times for new designers and small shops.
“It has been tough. I would say that we have to spend about 90 percent of our time thinking about business, and can only spend about 10 percent thinking about our art,” says designer Petra Thoms, 25. Together with partner Linnea Carlgren, she launched the art/fashion brand Noir & Blanc in 2007, the worst possible time to start a fashion business. But the duo is starting to see light at the end of the tunnel.
“We just took part in the Berlin Fashion Week and it looks like we will get into some shops abroad,” says Linnea. The designers have in the past just used black and white in their sleek creations, but this year have added beige tones.
One brand to watch is Minimarket, recently named Fashion Designer of the Year by the Swedish edition of Elle magazine. The three sisters behind Minimarket make youthful-looking clothes, often in bright colors, and with a feminine attitude. Sofie Elvestedt, the oldest of the trio, said the Elle prize will be a big boost to their self-confidence.
Several other Swedish brands which have of late made a big impression from New York City to Tokyo are Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair, Odd Molly, Carin Wester and Cheap Monday. Each of those labels took part in Copenhagen Fashion Week last year, which is a sign of the times. The Danes are trying to woo Swedish brands and consolidate their position as the largest and most international fashion forum in Scandinavia.
Copenhagen is clearly on the offensive. The fragmented Swedish fashion scene seeks to provide a dynamic scene for the country’s local talent.
But there are currently two competing fashion weeks in Sweden: Stockholm Fashion Week (February 15-21) and Fashion Week by Berns (February 1-3). Obviously, a correspondent from Harper’s Bazaar or Vogue Paris who finds their way to the first Stockholm event is unlikely to hang around two weeks to attend the second event. The same goes for potential international buyers.
In marked contrast, four fashion trade organizations in Denmark have been able to coordinate their activities; that means they will all arrange their events during the same week in August 2010. Christer Gregersen, director of the Copenhagen Fashion Week, argues that there isn’t enough demand in Scandinavia for more than one fashion week - and that the single event should be in Copenhagen. Danish fashion weeks staged in the Spring and Fall attract substantially more international designers, journalists and buyers than the Swedish events.
“On the one hand I am deeply impressed by Swedish fashion design, but I see no reason for the events in Stockholm,” he recently told Dagens Nyheter. In August, the Danes will be offering Swedish designers free space to show their collections. The next Copenhagen fashion week is sure to attract media buzz, since it will feature the world’s largest catwalk, with about 100,000 people in attendance.

by David Bartal
For more info, see www.fashionweekbyberns.com, www.stockholmfashionweek.com