To Swedes, New York is the new Thailand

A snapshot from my trip to New York.

Apologies for my slight absence… I went on holiday to New York City and Toronto, and didn’t even have time to even say, “Hej då!” But while my trip gave me some much needed rest, it also offered more insight into how Swedish fashion is perceived abroad. And so without further ado, here are a few random things I discerned:

1. Sales staff are much friendlier in New York and Toronto shops.

I don’t know if it’s connected to pay, differing cultures of customer service or both, but even in the hottest (or hautest) shops in New York and Toronto, I was always greeted warmly, asked politely if I needed anything and got informed answers if I had questions. I actually got the warm fuzzies when out shopping.

2. Swedes are flocking to New York City like it was Thailand.

One of the first things I learnt about Swedes was that they are fixated on Thailand. I get it – it’s cold and dark here in winter, so you want to go somewhere that’s hot and bright. But apparently, more and more Swedes are nowadays opting for – gasp! – the concrete paradise of New York City year round instead. I can vouch for that: During my recent stay, I heard conversations in Swedish in nearly every shop, restaurant or street I was in. And it’s not just tourists. The number of Swedish fashion, creative and music types that have made the move to the Big Apple is swelling. Which begs the question…

3. Which came first, the Swedish all-black uniform or the New York City all-black uniform?

4. In North America, skinny jeans are the preserve of hipsters and hipsters alone.

Our Swedish mainstream fashion staple of skinny jeans is only now making its way across the British Isles so we really can’t expect it to have landed in North America yet, can we? Still, I was surprised to see how… billowy everyone’s jeans were. Well, nearly everyone because those nationally derided hipsters are probably just copying all the Swedes that have landed in the vicinity (see above), right?

5. Swedish labels are seriously expensive abroad.

Okay, not exactly rocket science given shipping, export fees, customs, duties and sales tax, but after talking to a few boutique owners in New York City and Toronto, and looking at prices in other EU countries, I believe the high prices of Swedish fashion abroad also comes down to positioning. Understandably, Swedish brands (which are all relatively “new” to other countries) want their products and name to be held in high esteem. Higher prices help. Sad, but true. Of course, Swedish brands are definitely not alone in this practise. (If you’re interested, the latest issue of Bon International talks at great length about this issue in the Fashion Roundtable.)

6. Distance indeed makes the heart grow fonder.

Presumably, all those Swedes in New York are taking advantage of the low dollar versus the strong kronor. But when I was there (and in Toronto), I wasn’t excited by much in the shops, so I bought almost nothing (a pair of khakis from J.Crew did sneak in). Because all I really wanted was waiting for me at home… it’s nice to be back, Sweden.

  • Janerowena

    Skinny jeans have been fashionable in the UK since about 2007, they were around the year before but mostly in London. However, bootcut and straight are just as popular because most people try to dress for their shape unlss they are serious fashion victims. Skinny jeans were worn until only a few years prior to that in the UK, but went out of fashion for about five years. I always assumed that the swedes had simply carried on wearing them while the UK acquired its combat trousers frenzy.

  • PJ

    People in NYC have been wearing skinny jeans since 2004-’05 and they also (like in the UK) became mainstream around 2006-’07. Those billowy jeans are probably tourists-we get around 50 million tourists per year. Although, now the flare jeans are trying to make a come back…

  • Kate Reuterswärd

    I thought you would appreciate this quasi-news article I found today! :)

    It cracks me up about the skinny jeans… I try to buy jeans in the US when I’m there and take advantage of the price, but they are never skinny enough when I get back to Sweden. Then the one time I wore my high waist, flare bottom black sailor pants, I got totally called out as a foreigner. Apparently, the way I look at men’s shoes to see if they’re from the US or Sweden, Swedish girls look at how skinny your jeans are (or aren’t)!