Swede nothings


FASHION:Calm colours and clean lines make Swedish fashion the antidote to current trends. By DEIRDRE McQUILLAN

Fashion chain H&M launches its latest collaboration next Thursday with Maison Martin Margiela. The Swedish giant will be reprising many of Margiela’s most familiar and best-selling items.

Images of the collection have been circulated widely on social networks and include skintight leggings, Grecian-style draped dresses, quirky sweater dresses, skirt pants and “fusion” coats at affordable prices.

Some of the more surrealist items associated with the conceptual designer include upside-down purses and faceless watches. Keep a sense of humour at the bra printed t-shirts.

H&M has long been a trailblazer in bringing luxury brands to a wider audience and its previous engagements with Stella McCartney, Marni, Lanvin and more recently Anna Della Russo have been very successful. I remember seeing mile-long queues in Paris for Marni last year.

At the same time, H&M’s more minimalist and upmarket Cos collection – with its ground-level prices, plain quality fabrics and high-level finish – defines the modesty, coolness and lack of fuss at the very heart of Swedish design. Its pieces transcend trends and remain fundamentally modern. Its appeal is continuing to spread and the first Cos store outside Europe has just opened in Hong Kong.

At the other end of the spectrum is Scandinavian fashion leader Acne, a label founded in Stockholm in 1996 by four creatives who have steadily steered its mix of innovative shapes and unisex jeans (with their distinctive red stitching) into the sort of dressed-down day-to-day looks that chime with style leaders. Brown Thomas has many pieces from its current collection, which are made from a mix of natural fabrics such as stiff cottons, shoe leathers and washed wools with technically innovative netting and padded nylon.

Stiff red vinyl coats anchored by metal belts have that hard-edged functionality and nonchalance that defines the Acne look. Other up and coming Swedish newcomers include Dagmar, which is defined by its unconventional tailoring. It is stocked in Ireland by Indigo & Cloth, upstairs at Smock.

This feature, styled by Karl Patrick Smith, which includes items from Cos and Acne, has a more familiar Swedish, almost puritan look to it, a deliberate reaction to the season’s rich colours and prints.

“I was very tired and jaded of prints and colour blocking and wanted to do something that counteracted that, something simple and pared back,” Smith says.

Function, aesthetics and affordability are central to Swedish design whether in fashion or furniture and, though some items here are expensive, the look, expressed in clean-lined outfits has a refreshing lack of ostentation and calm, quiet colours.

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