My colleague has just bought a new bag. It is neon pink and she says people are staring at her strangely here in Stockholm. This reminds me of when I was wearing a rain cape with a kaleidoscopic pattern. It felt like a provocation, an affront to everything that Swedish fashion stands for.
Black is of course the internationally approved fashion colour, and Swedish minimalist leanings make people opt for the colours that don’t stand out when choosing what to wear.
In a way it is strange, because the Scandinavian design tradition is full of colourful patterns and our textile and graphic design are bold, brash and boisterous. Just look at Svenskt Tenn and the patterns by Josef Frank or 10-gruppen and you will find that colour is very much a legacy of Swedish design.
In fashion and clothes, the preferred colour combinations range from black, white and beige, to navy blue and grey. It is muted rather than loud and it makes for a cool and refined style. Patterns are avoided.
But there are designers who break with the reigning mood. Take Ida Sjöstedt for example. She launched her label in 2001 and has shown on schedule in Stockholm ever since. Sjöstedt describes her design philosophy as “tasteful kitsch”, the latter word not often being part of the Swedish fashion vocabulary.
Sometimes it amazes me that she has continued designing, enduring the minimalist cool of Sweden and even prospering. These days the Ida Sjöstedt line is doing better than ever, having launched a made-to-measure line and becoming somewhat of a fashion blog favourite with her latest gilded and laced spring collection. She might be a rare bird, but people like her makes the Swedish fashion scene richer.
That colour is not anathema any longer in Swedish fashion was also evident during the last fashion week, when both Rodebjer and Whyred showed strong and bright colours. Maybe my colleague’s neon pink bag won’t turn that many heads come autumn.