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Monday, June 30, 2008

Stockholm Fashion Week: Day 1/3

Haidee Findlay-Levin...

Stockholm Fashion Week (aka Sthlm Fashion Week) is pretty much a local event as the shows are concentrated around Berns Hotel, where I'm staying. It's the first time I have attended, curious to see what some of these emerging brands were all about. So often a label can be really cool in person, especially when worn by any one of these super good-looking Swedes, always so impeccably turned out. These clothes may also look pretty cool on a rack, especially when housed in a trendy store among other similarly cool brands. Their style is generally crisp and precise, paired down to its essential details: a great pocket, a certain turn of the collar or a zipper detail that confirms your need to hand over your cash. In short, these kinds of labels tend to work on the high street. I was here to see if these clothes could, in fact, translate to the catwalk.

My day started fairly slowly, watching the crew set up the Mercedes-Benz display as I ate my breakfast on the sundeck. As I was leaving the hotel to go meet a friend, I surprisingly ran into Malcolm McLaren, in town to give a lecture the following day. He was equally surprised to find me here, as opposed to Paris for Couture Week. We hastily made dinner plans for that night, post-shows. I ran off to meet up with photographer John Scarisbrick, a local but regular to New York, at his studio nearby, in a neighborhood that reminded me of the classic and well-tended streets of the perfectly bourgeois 16th arrondissement in Paris. He showed me his most recent shoot, filled with images of a burnt-out Swedish forest, a white-blonde model enacting dark and wonderful themes, with a distinct air of witchcraft. All pretty surprising from John, a “one fun-loving guy” who just wrapped shooting the new Diesel campaign with an equally dark and macabre approach. I was wondering if this was preparation for a style I was about to see, emerging among local designers who had also spent endless months in the dark.

On the contrary, the opening shows of the week seemed to draw more from the long summer days and midnight sun, with nary a Gothic reference. Liselotte Westerland was the first out of the gate. Her collection was filled with monochromatic satins in white, navy and aqua green, some floor-length dresses while others were so short and skimpy that they provided us with quite a lot of unnecessary information! From a runway point of view, the best pieces were the navy satin bikinis and belted bathing suits.

Next up was Agunandagirl (pronounced A Gun and a Girl), the first ever collection created by the duo Gun Franzen (designer) and Lotta Signeul (PR and communications). The name alludes to Gun and Lotta, but also to French filmmaker Jean Luc Godard's reply to the question of what makes a good film: “All you need is a Gun and a Girl." It is all meant to stand for courage, individuality and timeless beauty, which translated into an homage to none other than Grace Jones! Referencing aside, I was happy enough to hear the soundtrack of Grace Jones: Slave to the Rhythm sampled with Nina Hagen’s African Roots. There were, of course, a few hooded pieces and a sharp trouser suit that showed some promise. Best of all was a gray Montana-like, strong-shouldered dress, worn with long plum leather gloves. There was a cute denim-like overall, which was more romper suit than jumpsuit, and a little out of context. On leaving the show we were handed a leaflet of well-styled and -shot images of the collection, which had clearly benefited from subtle lighting and some retouching that a show can never provide—proving my point exactly.

The brief interludes between shows were often more entertaining. The men, naturally, enthralled me, particularly by how impeccably they dressed, showing courage with color (reflected soon after in the Whyred show). I noticed, among the more typical palette of khaki, black, navy, gray and white, men in skinny ankle-grazing lavender and bright red trousers, worn with sock-less shoes. Meanwhile, some narrow suits were worn with open leather sandals. Floppy bow ties, a la Lanvin, and flowers were pinned to the jacket lapels of young men, with short cropped or asymmetric haircuts. But really, THE accessory du jour among men, and NEVER women, were angelic-looking babies carried confidently in their arms or pushed in strollers. I counted at least five, including the man in the lavender trousers!

The strength of Whyred was again in the menswear: a variety of Members Only-style jackets worn with cropped narrow trousers and great colored thin-soled sneakers. I particularly loved a pair of turquoise sneaker boots, as well as a ribbed turtleneck in the same vibrant shade. Blazers were shown with rolled-up shorts in as many contrasting colors as American Apparel, as well in tonal shades of one color—especially effective in shades of green. I very much liked a light gray cotton parka shown with bold red trousers and loafers sans socks. The womenswear, apparently designed by a different designer, was somewhat less successful. They would have faired better had they borrowed more of the playful menswear touches, but were best with the initial printed dresses, shrunken bomber jackets, narrow and cropped pleated trousers and short jumpsuits. If only they had avoided such styling touches as the frizzy-wigged hair worn with long floaty dresses shown under cropped denim jackets.

Filippa K is the most established and successful of the Swedish brands, as was evident by the plush carpeted location (at The Arts Club) and the somewhat large turn-out of international press. I had been attending all the shows with my New York neighbor and fellow journalist Jacob Brown from V Magazine. Jacob is a regular in Stockholm, having been to Stockholm Fashion Week seven times in all. He could easily pass for a local and often slipped in a few Swedish phrases and observations, which made it all the more entertaining. We arrived late, squeezing ourselves into the last two front-row seats, which just happened to be right next to an ex-editor of mine from London. Panic! We had had a horrible falling-out many years ago and hadn’t spoken since. We were both so shocked by this inescapable situation that I became overly friendly and chatty throughout the long wait for the show to commence, as was he! The clothes on display, meanwhile, exhibited a relaxed and cool ease that was quite the opposite of my personal predicament. I saw an endless array of soft long dresses and dirndl skirts on the girls in gradations of off-white through grape to black. On the boys we saw blazers with contrast piping worn with crisp narrow trousers or rolled-up shorts, where even an un-tucked shirt looked neat and intentional.

I found it hard, however, to focus on what seemed like an endless collection of clothes for what I understood is a very short few months of summer. But then again, my own temperature was noticeably rising to match those I had felt when leaving sweltering Manhattan. I literally ran out at show's end, not only to escape my former employer, but also to meet Malcolm McLaren for dinner.

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