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Friday, July 4, 2008

Stockholm Fashion Week: Day 3/3

Haidee Findlay-Levin...

This is beginning to feel like one long day, with a few naps thrown in! I overslept and missed the morning event, whatever it was. Instead I had breakfast with Fritz from Another Man and, between us, managed to have quite a critics pow wow. I tried to get some work done before heading off for an early lunch with my friend and photographer Martina Hoogland–Ivanow. She lives in Stockholm's Old Town, although we shared an apartment when I first moved to New York, and will be my host for the rest of the week. She looked great and glowing, which she attributed to swimming and saunas (I immediately signed up for both!) but as the conversation progressed, it was evident that she had that glow from being seriously in love.

We made our way back to Berns Hotel, where I was meeting Ben Gorham, a friend of the creative director/editor of Fantastic Man, one of the publications I contribute to. Ben works for a company called Byredo and develops fragrances, candles and beauty products that I had already had the pleasure of experiencing in my room and all over the hotel. [Read Hint's write-up in Beauty Duty.] He was in the process of developing a fragrance for a particular international men’s magazine, which will apparently have its own fantastic scent shortly. Ben is a bit of a Renaissance Man, not only running Byredo, but also injecting new energy into an old and long-forgotten Swedish bespoke men’s label.

I can’t say it enough, but in Swedish fashion, the focus seems very much a male domain. They have a solid grip on the concept of functionalism and refined the art of paring down design to its absolute essentials. There is a great courage of color, and they seem unafraid of wearing a bold primary or anything pink or purple. The only downside is that everything becomes quite two-dimensional and flat, with little surface texture or depth of tone.

My impression of the shows that I've seen so far this week, in general, has been that designers seem very much in the moment. People on the street are already wearing what was shown on the catwalk and sometimes in more creative or flamboyant ways. If all these clothes are for next summer, and there is still a long, long winter to get through, I get a sense that should I return in a year, everyone would be still looking and dressing exactly the same. I know menswear tends to move forward only in increments, but here there is already a forward-looking commitment to fashion among men, who seemed to fall into three distinct tribes: the squeaky-clean and posh prep who could have stepped out of a Boston college; a more modern version of that, with narrow chinos, shrunken jackets and a dash of dandy; and finally, a graphic 80's Berlin-like street style. Transcending gender was a palette of black, white and gray, spray-on skinny jeans and men's shoes. This style was especially prevalent in the collection of The Local Firm. The androgynous aesthetic was complemented with German punk music and shirtless male models, whose chests were painted with the same script that cropped up as a print on shorts that were shown over pushed-up leggings.

Other than this predominantly androgynous tribe, I saw very few women with distinctive personal style and even less of a direction on the catwalk. When you strip womenswear of its right to provoke and distill it to its absolute function, little substance or emotion are left. It was as if the street, and in this case I mean high street, was directly influencing the catwalk and not the other way around. This was my reaction to shows like Cheap Monday, the closing show of the day, and a collection that really functions best on the actual street, not the runway, even if the backdrop was of a street sprayed with graffiti. Granted there were some cool ripped jeans and denim finishes—over-bleached was my favorite of these—but this, along with their recent infusion of H&M money, was not sufficient to satisfy an audience already saturated with jeans.

I was looking forward to Minimarket, a completely women's collection designed by a pair of twins and their older sister. I was hoping a collection just focusing on girls would fair better. Granted, it was a cute collection of mostly tiny dresses—I'm talking micro-minis that should not be worn unless you own the most perfect pair of 16-year-old legs—and high-waisted mini-skirts. There were some neat shirts and blouses and the odd tailored trouser suit, but for the most part it was one silhouette. They showed bold blocks of primary color with a series of intricate tucks or a kind of smocking that added a little more surface to otherwise flat cotton. Then this capsule of styles was repeated, but this time in a taffeta, I suppose as eveningwear.

Relief from this sense of sameness came from Carin Wester's collection, shown in a park and open to the public. The music was the first clue as to where we were going, evoking images of Sylvia Kristel, the Dutch actress most famous for her soft-core title role in the 70's French film Emmanuelle. The casting was completely different to the army of skinny youths that had moved from show to show, but was a more unusual casting of atypical-looking boys from Marion Vain agency. They sometimes wore two pairs of glasses, one on top of the other, to quite bazaar effect—even for me, the world's biggest eyewear enthusiast! And the girls, in a variety of heights and sizes, were from a new Swedish agency called Kids of Tomorrow, which, according to my photographer friends, is apparently doing quite well here. Their hair was perfectly rolled with ringlets, while the lips were an obscenely bright red. There were traditional granny-floral high-neck blouses, but mixed with stretch-lace body suits, fingerless gloves and ankle socks. One of the British girls next to me commented that it was everything she wanted growing up, but her mother wouldn't let her wear. It was very much reveal and conceal, alternating between provocative nude jersey stockings with white garter belts and full-sleeved dresses in shades of peach and purple, both short and long. It reminded me not only of Swedish porn, but also of those hippie films showing Swedes hanging out in Goa or Majorca. The boys wore baggy trousers and long “grandpa” shirts in the same floral print, while there were also a lot of long over-shirts worn with a series of drop crotch knit trousers, which could also have been a sweater worn upside down. There were long cardigans, and finally, not only a sense of texture but also a most welcome sense of humor! Carin made my day.

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