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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Stockholm Fashion Week: Day 3/3

By Haidee Findlay-Levin...

After attending so many fashion shows in so many countries over the years—and I say that without bragging—it becomes very challenging to review shows in both a local and global context. Of course there will always be the standouts whose skill and ingenuity shine through—in the case of Stockholm, these were Acne and Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair, and there are plenty other Swedish labels that have made the international leap. But after the dramatics of Paris, the theatrics of London and the slickness of Milan, how does one fairly assess the collections of an emerging fashion community made up of mostly young and enthusiastic talent?

I tried to ask myself what it was I hoped to see at Stockholm Fashion Week—or Fashion by Berns, as it's called—and the answer was clear: new, young street fashion. When shows hit this note, I can't ask for anything more. I got it at the aforementioned Acne collection, which has actually risen to a level all its own, as well as Cheap Monday, for its cool take on the classic jean. The show and publicity shots were styled in such a way that was fresh, fun and playful. It never took itself too seriously and there was a resourceful DIY quality that screamed youth. I left feeling satisfied; I had gotten what I came for.

But a lot of shows fell short of this for various reasons. Some never went the extra mile to really flesh out an idea or to show something unexpected, and instead showed what was not only tried and tested, but had already been on the streets for the past season or two—evidently, as the audience was already wearing it. They played it too safe! Yes, I've heard all about the recession and credit crunch, but no amount of sameness or of last year's trend is going to make me or anyone else rush out to buy it again.

Other designers struggled with their place in the market. They seemed torn between the exuberance of youth and their desire to be grown-up. Never knock youth; there's a lifetime to grow up! I don’t see the point in sacrificing that youthful enthusiasm and willingness to embrace new ideas, as witnessed at the Beckmans student show yesterday, for the sake of looking adult. Grown-up styles work fantastically well when they are expertly cut in sophisticated and sumptuous fabrics—it's all about the cloth. Without fine cloth and fine cutting, the result is dress-up, a child’s pursuit.

And finally, some clothes are great for wearing but not necessarily for showing. Certain ideas often work better as a presentation or installation, others as a video or in print. Putting clothes on models under the glare of runway floodlights is like putting your work under a very strong microscope that reveals every thread, pucker and flaw. It can also be an enormous expense. Without the right casting of models to carry your clothes and your concept, the appropriate music, make-up and hair, you could be doing yourself more of a disservice.

Some of the shows I saw today—Dagmar, Nhu Duong, A-S Davik—had all the enthusiasm and commitment of Alexander McQueen’s first show in London, but they might as well have been made from trash bags. They didn’t have his impeccable skill, an enormous sense of conviction and an even bigger dose of guts. This is what it takes! This is what made that show, even years later, so memorable. I suppose I have been spoiled.

Sweden is clearly very fair-minded and democratic. Everyone gets a chance and a great opportunity to shine. Talent is proudly nurtured, encouraged and supported—something that barely exists in other cities. And generous awards are bestowed. This is all wonderful. But what they don’t do is self-critique. This makes it too easy and safe. No boundaries are pushed, no egos are bruised and the establishment is not rocked. I probably won’t be popular for saying any of this, but maybe it takes an outsider to do it.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Stockholm Fashion Week: Day 2

By Haidee Findlay-Levin...

The fashion industry in Sweden is essentially a young industry. The editors are young, the buyers are young and the designers even younger. As a result, the fashion itself is young. Designers design for their friends and their peers. They design the way they like to dress themselves.

So if the fashion is so youthful, I wondered what a student show in Stockholm would have to offer and went to see a knitwear show at the Beckmans College of Design, representing fourteen second-year students. I was pleased to see that each of them, unaffected by market demands, had an entirely different perspective. At this school, theory and experimentation are clearly valued as much as good craftsmanship.

I was particularly impressed with Heidi Nilausen's collection, called Warriors. Inspired by the merging of cultures into a global system and the extinction of ancestral traditions, she also looked at various dolls of ancient cultures. The clothes were a cohesive series of oversized and incredibly elegant macramé vests and hooded coats, all made with a natural, un-dyed yarn. She paired them with high Bolivian-style hats and caps, along with bold border-striped and draped volumes that were reminiscent of the prayer shawls of religious Jews. The idea could have easily come a little close to Disney’s It's a Wonderful World, but instead landed closer to the elegance of Ann Demeulemeester and Rick Owens.

Heidi Nilausen

I also really enjoyed Erik Annerborn’s collection, Trans Sport, which explored the concept of heterosexual transgression that occurs when men dress in women's clothing. This spring we will see women's fabrics used in menswear from Yves Saint Laurent, Lanvin and Burberry, while Comme des Garçons offers white skirts over suits as an alternative to kilts. So although not entirely new as an idea, the outcome of this student's work was both humorous and playful. Pleated cheerleader skirts were incorporated into oversized sport sweaters and school blazers, while stripy socks and leggings keep it from looking too much like uniforms.

Fanny Ollas also threw menswear traditions and old values to the wind, instead combining Lurex, pink sequins, mohair and sheer yarns in clashes of red with pink or mauve, disregarding cowardice and embracing the courage of femininity in menswear.

I have no idea what Josefin Arnell's eyeball- and script-covered hairy monsters were meant to represent, but I was intrigued nonetheless by her fluffy, floating cocoons on sneakers and cloud-painted platform shoes.

Josefin Arnell

Maria Melinder's barcode sweater dress from her Keeping Up with the Joneses collection was probably another concept that went over my head, but one with graphic and fun results.

I was hoping to discover more of this youthful exuberance, but only found it again toward the end of the day at the Cheap Monday show. Despite the underlying reality that this collection was a new grungy take on recession dressing, there was a certain DIY quality—a welcome change from all that slick luxury stuff we have been force-fed for so long. Jeans were, of course, the highlight here, in fact the reason we were there at all. This time we saw skinnies in traditional faded black and blue, sometimes acid-washed, but always trashed, shredded, frayed or cut up. This idea was just the starting point as jeans were patched, re-paired and then patched again, with contrasting denims and unexpected fabrics such as black lace, mesh, black vinyl, silver gaffer tape and plaid. Jeans were paired with simple long, gray jackets or coats worn with blanket-sized scarves and extra-long clown shoes, which gave it a Charlie Chaplin quality. Painted cardboard top hats, guitars and traveling cases completed the effect, which was both vagabond and runaway child.

Cheap Monday

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Stockholm Fashion Week: Day 1

By Haidee Findlay-Levin...

My second visit to Stockholm for Fashion Week by Berns feels diametrically opposed to the first. I was here in the spring and happily suffered insomnia due to endless beautiful days and the midnight sun. Here I am again for the fall '09 shows, somehow suffering the insomnia again, despite very dark days that run early into long dark nights. A friend told me to pack a flashlight and slushy shoes, which I promptly ignored—evidently along with all the other incredibly well-dressed attendees at the shows.

What is striking about fashion in Stockholm is the immediacy. It seems to go from catwalk directly to the street. People actually wear the clothes and ideas that we see on the catwalk and with the same attention to detail and accessory. These clothes are not the showpieces of Paris, which are strictly for the purpose of press. Instead they are wearable and cool enough to be worn without any need for diffusion or compromise.

Shows began in the early afternoon, which gave me time to pop into the newly enlarged and refurbished Acne store and snap up one of the Acne/Lanvin denim dresses I've been waiting months to get. In fact it was a bit of an Acne day. First, I had been busily transcribing an interview I'm writing for the next issue of Acne Paper, then immediately ran into the lovely Anja Cronberg, the magazine's Features Editor, who became my show companion for the rest of the day—and dinner companion, along with two close photographer friends of mine, Martin Liddell and Fredrik Stogkvist.

Acne opted for a presentation at Millesgarden, on one of the islands on the other side of town. The artist's house was filled with old statues, among which models on pedestals were scattered. In the first room we saw the pre-fall collection, while in the main room the full fall collection for both men and women was exhibited. The pre-collection was certainly cool, with rubber-soled wedge sneakers, bold copper earrings and silver neck cuffs. I also loved the denim: over-dyed pale-green baggy jeans, rolled up and worn with a great 1950’s couture-style short-sleeved tweed coat—one of those fashion oxymorons that somehow appeal to me.

Acne men's

A young Bob Dylan, transported from 60’s America to a contemporary unidentified European metropolis, apparently inspired Acne's menswear for fall. There was the contradiction of printed velvets layered with chunky hand-knits, the odd Lurex scarf and tone-on-tone solids in shades of burgundy with plum, cobalt blue with indigo and grass green with sapphire. The style was certainly folksy, but the Bohemian look was simultaneously elegant. I particularly loved a really squashed suede hat flopped over the eye of its wearer, as well as a series of tightly crocheted hats in much the same floppy style, which pretty much hid the faces of the young boys. The square-toe boots in two-tone leather and suede came complete with one-inch wide zippers and crepe-wedge soles.

But it was seeing the women's collection that made my trip to Stockholm already worthwhile, confirming all the sensibilities I have been feeling for a while. The collection was inspired by the many visits made by Acne‘s creative director Jonny Johansson to Berlin, for its burgeoning art scene, and the flea markets of Paris' Clignancourt. The 60's look of the girls struck me as part Nico and part Joan Baez, by way of early Pierre Cardin. Old tapestry-style paisley fabrics never looked crusty but rather as if they were wound directly off the bolt into clean tubular shaped tunics and mini-skirts. Worn over clear plastic, skinny trousers looked like clear stockings tucked into mirror-heeled wedge boots and massive tapestry-wedged shoes.

Acne women's

But it was the contrast of these cool clothes worn with incredible large precious jewelry that completely took my breath away. A while back, Jonny had fallen in love with the image of an elderly man he had seen sitting in Café Flore who had proudly worn enormous rings on every finger. This led to an incredible collaboration with a German jewelry designer and artist, Michael Zobel, the father of one of the Acne designers. Each one-of-a-kind piece was enormous, from the multiple rings worn on both hands to a huge round mauve jade brooch, worn like a pin on a leather biker vest.

Among Acne's jewelry offerings was a large, low-slung circular silver pendant with a cut-out square, which was replaced with a gold bar, volcanic glass and floating obsidian. Wrist cuffs were made from hammered gold that had been melted over unpolished silver, and then combined with black diamonds and rough wood from the Sahara. Others, in rose gold and platinum were emblazoned with rough coral, aquamarine and Madagascar tourmaline. A lollypop-sized emerald on an 18-kt gold ring sat next to a flying saucer of hematite and oriental pearls. These sculptural combinations of precious stones, hard wood and metals easily looked tribal, but in Zobel’s hands, the result was more experimental 70’s modernist.

The other really impressive show of the day was Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair. The design duo are expert cutters, like no other in Stockholm—in much the same way Junya Watanabe is in Tokyo. This season they were drawn to their theatrical side. They used their 3-D technique of cutting fabric, while drawing inspiration from Picasso’s Guitar and Girl with a Mandolin, to construct outfits in a soft cubist manner. The collection opened with total black and then moved into a series of contrasting dogtooth tweeds and small checks in purples, browns and eventually beiges, resulting in an undefined color. The complexity of some of these forms, further combined with wide plissé, were clearly cubist in inspiration. While other garments, particularly men's, relied more on the loose draping and deft wrapping of fabric around the body, in the way of the artist Christo. A variety of clown-like cropped trousers, complete with baggy knees and bustle were often held up by suspenders and then combined with a jaunty hat, paisley or polka-dot bowties, handkerchiefs and the odd silk scarf. When viewed from a distance, they seemed to grow out of a shirt collar or jacket pocket to create the illusion of seamlessness.

Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair

Meanwhile, design teams such as The Local Firm tapped into a very prevalent gothic, androgynous street sensibility, where the distinction between the layering of cool men's and women's wear was hardly noticeable. Perhaps it was the recent success of the Swedish film “Let the Right One In” that has inspired this vampire sensibility, particularly evident in Carin Wester’s collection of men’s trousers, high-waisted and perfectly pleated, ending in a slightly low crotch then tapering to a cuff and stirrup that ran neatly over the shoe. These were mostly worn shirtless, with a long jacket or cardigan, exposing an almost bloodless white skin to the infinite possibilities of a long winter night in Sweden.

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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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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Stockholm Fashion Week: Day 2/3

Haidee Findlay-Levin...

So this endless daylight is starting to take effect. I didn’t get to bed before 4 am and it was super bright and birds were chirping. I got up after only five hours and was already regretting it. As plans for my trip after Stockholm kept shifting, so did plans to meet another photographer that morning for breakfast. I didn’t ease into the day in quite as relaxed a pace as the yesterday morning.

I had breakfast outside with the sun already beating down on me, then crossed the street for the Hope show (everything here is super local and easy), where an early salmon lunched was served. Being a vegetarian in Sweden isn't such fun, but there's still plenty to indulge in. We are constantly fed, plied with drinks (yes, even at noon!) and given gifts from each of the designers. In Paris you are lucky if they hand you a bottle of water every three days. The best treat, though, was a live outdoor performance by Coco Sumner, the 16-year-old daughter of Sting and Trudie Styler. Equipped with an acoustic guitar and accompanied by one other, she belted out a few really energetic tunes about losing control and another about not being able to sleep (how fitting). The words seemed genuinely her own, yet of someone with a few more years notched on her belt. The voice was distinctly reminiscent of her father's, but with more guts.

The Hope show was good, with lots of cute boys in shortish trousers and narrow pleated khakis, worn with oversized trench coats or shrunken jackets. Longer jackets or light coats were shown with ultra short shorts and turtlenecks. Lavender popped up again among mostly neutral colors, particularly in ankle-grazing men's socks, which I later discovered turned up in my gift bag. Womenswear was stronger than I had seen before, especially when it came to the tailoring. They showed similar oversized trenches, great sleeveless jackets or vests and some 80’s dresses with an asymmetric contrast collar in mostly black, white or beige. Dresses had ease and the usual simplicity; others had some cutaway details that never quite measured up to the tailored pieces, even when worn by top model Freja.

Afterwards, I sat on the grass and waited with a few British journalists for the next show, Tiger of Sweden, back over the road at Berns, our hotel, when Coco Sumner joined us. She had changed out of her Hope garb and back into skinny jeans, high-top sneaker boots, a Rolling Stones T-shirt and Ray-Bans. She was also carrying a beat-up old fur jacket, which was funny considering it was summer and the sun was blazing. People rushed over to snap her picture. I laughed when she described her wardrobe to one blogger as her mother’s shoes, her brother’s girlfriend’s jeans and her brother’s T-shirt. I suppose whatever she has, it's all inherited from the family.

The Tiger of Sweden show felt long, and this more commercial collection was lacking in the subtleties of some of the others we had seen. The music pounded, the men’s suits were not quite as well-fitted, although I was pleased to see they had exchanged the now popular lavender for flesh tones and raspberry, with a touch of green for contrast. They also included some check to the usual sold block colors. This time the womenswear was stronger than the menswear, ironically in the tailoring. Sleeveless or belted jackets were shown with high-waisted trousers or pleated shorts. I also liked two drawstring jersey jumpsuits, one long and the other short, which had a relaxed ease about them. I have noticed in Sweden that womenswear generally comes across as more effortless than menswear. I wondered if this was because men were spending more time in front of the mirror.

There was a particular girl in the audience who had a fantastically pulled-together look. She could have been a ballerina or a young Grace Kelly. Today she was wearing a royal blue collar-less suit with a skinny belt wrapped around her waist, red platform shoes and a tan handbag. She carried large oval white sunglasses, although I never saw her put them on. I noticed she had nipped the pencil skirt in at the back in what seemed like her own urgent alteration work. I shared a Chinese high tea with Jacob from V and Marina, the very pregnant fashion editor at Bon magazine (one of the event's main sponsors), before taking in the Nicolaj D’Etoiles show. This menswear show was a slight departure from the others, much more flamboyant, down to the shantung silk shirts, trousers and jackets with contrasting silk linings. It was also the most accessorized of all the collections, with chain, string or rope belts and neck scarves, or cravats—even though the models were all barefoot. At the end it was revealed that the show was an homage to Yves Saint Laurent, clearly the 70’s/Tangier period.

Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair was by far the most impressive of all the shows I've seen so far. Inspired by the curvilinear, rusted steel sculptures of Richard Serra, the designers managed to bring together concept and cut in a clean and preppy way. Endless blue shirting was turned into full dresses for the girls and multi-layered reconstructed shirts for the men. We saw several examples of perfectly deconstructed and then perfectly reconstructed men's suiting and shirting, often with enlarged stiff collars and cuffs that morphed and cascaded down the body—quite reminiscent of Viktor & Rolf or Harajuku Girl ruffles. They took the method beyond the suiting and shirting to softer jersey pieces on which they displayed still oversized and ultra-low collars, contrasted with strict narrow trousers. These techniques of twisting, distorting, deconstructing and reconstructing men’s fabrics were taken to a level of Yohji or Junya. The inspiration was evident, but they handled their concept expertly while exhibiting an exceptional talent for cutting and draping. The final black short, full-sleeved cotton coat-dress was both wearable and exceptional. This duo is certainly one to watch.

Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair

The day was capped by the Acne show, starting with drinks at their elaborate atelier in Stockholm’s Old Town. The infamous brand, which began in jeans although they've dropped the word from their name (now Acne, not Acne Jeans), just about put Sweden on the fashion map—if you don't count H&M. The menswear portion of the collection integrated Bauhaus, while celebrating 50’s youth and rebelliousness. Womenswear, meanwhile, incorporated Bauhaus with the confidence of the 80s and the Urban Cowboy. Denim featured in both. The result was a nontraditional placement of effortless clothes, perfectly stylized into a strong and confident silhouette. I particularly loved the skirt-like, wide leather pants with a low, extra wide elasticized waist. It sounds tricky, but in fact they were incredibly simple, worn with a closed-collar white shirt and string tie. The leather biker jacket color-blocked to resemble faded paint on an old building was fantastic. This time the men's and women's sides were equally balanced, each with light-as-air, almost transparent suiting and vintage-looking denim in two shades, dark and light blue. Girls and guys wore high taupe felt hats, with snakeskin boots on the guys and fantastic wooden shoes and boots on the girls. These shoes, with their geometric wooden platform heels, even circular in some cases, were a step away from sculpture. The legacy of Bauhaus, which sought to harmonize an object's function and form, is respected by Acne and their concept of building collections as capsule wardrobes. I do think they would have been wiser, however, to stay away from sliced and frayed denim that was a little too reminiscent of the denim that Martin Margiela showed last summer, even if ripped jeans have always been a symbol of rebelliousness, which they were trying to capture.


At show’s end we were taken downstairs once more for drinks, while the room was redressed for a full buffet dinner. I caught up with my friend Thomas Persson, art director and editor of Acne Paper, for whom I also write, and his boyfriend Mattias Karlsson, who styled the show. In fact, we met the same night and at the same dinner that he met Matthias, in London eight years prior. I have become quite the Acne party groupie, going to several of their events in London, Paris, New York and now, finally, Stockholm. The dinner was a really fun sit-down affair. Stockholm’s most handsome and beautiful were assembled, so beautiful that it looked like the dinner was cast with models, along with the show. How can one country be so good-looking? Everyone was a little giddy from the previous night’s party in Paris—one of the few I managed to miss! Jonny Johansson, creative director of Acne, had collaborated with Alber Elbaz of Lanvin to create a denim and accessories collection. It sounded like Alber was as enamored with the Swedes as I was, and in turn they seemed equally smitten by his charm and talent. They had only good (and a few pretty entertaining things) to say about this collaboration. It sounded like a pretty wild party, disco being the music of choice, keeping them dancing until the early hours. Pulling off a show and this wonderfully civilized dinner the night after must have been no easy feat.

The evening—or was it morning again?—ended with more drinks (and boy can they drink!) and chatting back at Berns, along with some of my British friends from Dazed and Confused and Another magazine, who had flown in for the event. We were then joined again by the Acne lot and my photographer friend Andreas Larsson. Jonny was intrigued and soon mesmerized by my wooden glasses, which was the general idea. He promised to show me around old Stockholm when all the festivities were over. I guess no one sleeps here.

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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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Sunday, February 3, 2008

Stockholm Fashion Week: +46

Preserving the progressive spirit of +46—a semiannual fair of hot new designers from Sweden and beyond—Annika Berger (of Skyward) created an installation for her small art-terrorist collection. Thrillingly spooky and confusing, the show was a cross between a haunted house and a construction site, entered through a dark hallway full of tree branches and blasting with strobe lights and a soundtrack of noise. This dropped you off in an enormous trashed-out room with cardboard boxes, cables that snaked into infinity, floodlights with minds of their own and random industrial ephemera. Black tarps suspended from the ceiling sectioned off small cubicles, inside which models stood motionless (minus one on a treadmill) in top-heavy, graphic-print getups that focused on headgear. White arrows on the floor directed you in circles, making the experience an unnavigable environment that, through reverse psychology, gave Annika's collection a sense of place.


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Saturday, February 2, 2008

Stockholm Fashion Week

Also seen at Stockholm Fashion Week: flannel-loving friends of Melissa Etheridge; dirty dock-workers; runaway Holly Hobbys on heroin; WWII-era homerun hitters; bearded pipe-smoking den daddies; and ball-busting working women.





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Friday, February 1, 2008

Stockholm Fashion Week: Helena Hörstedt

Helena Hörstedt—who's as much an artisan as a designer—banished us naughty children to a gloomy, low-ceilinged basement, where we crammed into rows arranged to resemble a spider's web. Models as black widows attacked from all directions, speedily weaving through the audience in all-black dresses and bonnets in fabric obsessively folded and knotted into geometric shapes. (See Helena's previous collection.)

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Stockholm Fashion Week: The Local Firm

Before I left for Stockholm someone advised me to pack all black, “or else you’re going to feel really self-conscious.” I was a little skeptical, but listened anyway. Well, that's pretty much what was on the runways (occasionally mixed with navy, petrol, gray or even—gasp!—white), and done really seriously and earnestly. That is, until The Local Firm came along and spoiled everyone's un-fun. Sweden's lighter version of Martin Margiela sent out super-sharp jeans that look like one pair from the knee up and another from the knee down, umpire-inspired knit spats, color-blocked tops & tees, baseball caps with PVC-trimmed brims and, for women, veiled with a swatch of mourning widow's tulle.

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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Stockholm Fashion Week: Cheap Monday

The price-conscious folks at Cheap Monday say pigeons, ducks and foxes inspired their fall collection. That’s all well and good, but really there’s no need to make such claims. We don’t look to Cheap Monday for strokes of genius—we just want to find out what the skinny-jeans set will be wearing next season. Here’s a preview.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Stockholm Fashion Week: Carin Wester

Please all, let's stop making so many statements through our wardrobe about our toughness—there’s been so much permutation on the theme already—and let's start making them about our vulnerability. Carin Wester has figured out how with her women's and men's fall collection. At first glance, the gender roles we've seen the last batch of seasons seem to be reinforced: the men appear to be the teddy bears, little characters outfitted in a sweet mixture of Where’s Waldo, Marcel Marceau and the type of sailor we romanticize when we think of sailors—silent, tattooed, muscly, poetic—and women are once again calling the shots in leather gloves and head-to-toe black. But the longer the study, the more the blinds part and we’re left blinking in the sunlight of an inspired vision. Dresses, which cover the front of the body, totally open up at the back, complete with slit-vented elbows. If an exposed back doesn't scream unguarded, please tell me what does. Men, meanwhile, are bundled up and then some, down to gigantic Aspen-cozy mittens whose proportions deem them sinister. Throughout the collection—and this is where Carin slyly shows her hand—hemlines on women tilt backward, pitching garments slightly upward and open; on men, hems tilt forward so they seem more enveloped, brooding and potentially ready to pounce.

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Stockholm Fashion Week: Rodebjer

There was a special flavor of punk in Rodebjer's collection—not city or suburban punk, but small-town punk, the realest kind. It doesn't rebel against anything systematic, corporate or manufactured, but something inherently stifling in its surroundings. Confrontationally sullen, the collection had an undeniable sweetness to its surly enterprise, the way it feels when a teenager hates you with such passion that it's endearing. Models with flyaway and greasy hair wore narrow corduroys rolled up at the bottom, not-cool farmer’s daughter jeans, cafeteria-server smocks, cat-eye glasses, long-sleeved mini-dresses decorated with a tiny box of a vest, menacing hoodies—hood up, of course, hands stuffed in pockets—and blouses with bitchy little ruffles. Blank-faced, they skulked to the end of the runway in a black cloud of apathy, like when your mom summoned you from across the house and you'd take your sweet-ass time getting there. Add to that enormous elephant-eared tops that tied around the neck in a bib, a double-breasted Donald Trump sportcoat as dress (which is showing up everywhere, actually) and an incredible jodhpur jumpsuit, and you have an evocative, wearable collection—the kind of curled-upper-lip clothing you wear when you roll out of bed expecting to have a bad day and want to revel in it.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Stockholm Fashion Week: Filippa K

Designers thumb their noses at trends by either deconstructing them or ignoring them. Filippa K is in the latter camp. Until this season, she had never participated in Stockholm Fashion Week, instead throwing a party in a small art space and inviting pretty much everyone to cram in and look at her latest women's and men's collection. This time though, for fall 08, she rolled out a black rubber runway at the opulent Swedish Royal Opera and blasted, among other rock-punk anthems, Patti Smith's "Free Money."

At first the whole production seemed a little off. Models were well-behaved in well-executed monosyllabic designs, and the audience sat still, begging the question: Why go to great lengths to secure such a massively gilded space and set up a little strip of contrast if she didn't want to show utter decadence, chaos or rebelliousness? And then it started to sink in. All the men's ties, which so rudely clashed with plaid shirts, were tied improperly and worn outside the collar around a bare neck. Bulky, near-shapeless sweaters or mean leather jackets crushed delicate, hand-painted silk dresses and tops, while belts were not threaded through loops and suspenders were not on shoulders. Richly subversive and rewarding, the quiet anarchy belied a compliant appearance, subtly emitting a strong message: all is not quiet in the land of the acquiescent. Watch out.

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Stockholm Fashion Week: Sandra Backlund

Sandra Backlund's knitwear—or, more accurately, wearable knitscapes—possesses a violent gentility, with its cascading bells, bouncing caulifloral clusters, baseball-sized chenille pompons and knotted drainpipes. Her indefatigable dresses, resembling armor made from soufflé, seemed to burst with joy as they pulled and ached and exalted the body, not unlike the way a chandelier dangles precariously from a ceiling to shower light across a room. Which is exactly what Sandra did, lowering the theater's huge glittering light-beasts to runway level so her models could walk around them, which perfectly hammered home her message of strength through fragility.


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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Lost footage from Stockholm Fashion Week. In the first video, Helena Hörstedt's impeccable, all-black spring collection and a visit to her studio. In the second, the fairy-tale collection of Nikoline Liv Andersen, winner of the +46 Fashion Award. (Click here for Hint's backstage montage of Stockholm Fashion Week.)

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