The stereotypical gay fashion designer is not that often found in Sweden these days. In fact, the most successful designers tend to be women, with some notable exceptions like Lars Wallin and Jonny Johansson at Acne (the latter who, if we are nit-picking, is not gay).
Not that I’m complaining. It’s nice to see that the overwhelming majority of female students in the design schools is reflected in the roster of successful designers as well.
In fact, the rise of Swedish fashion design during the Noughties was initiated by three women designers, all of whom are still designing. Lovisa Burfitt, Carin Rodebjer and Ann-Sofie Back all contributed something special to the scene, but shared (as I have already mentioned) a belief in fashion as a discipline and a form of expression.
Today the most interesting of the Swedish designers are women almost all of them. I’m talking about Sandra Backlund, who with her organic and futuristic knitwear showed that Swedish fashion design can be original, daring and reach an international audience. I’m also talking about Helena Hörstedt who might not be as well known as the former, but who has a lot in common with Sandra Backlund – they both have a very handicraft-based approach to clothes. To these to I’d also like to add Nhu Duong who marries the conceptual side of designers such as Ann-Sofie Back with the handicraft of Backlund and Hörstedt. (Sadly, Helena Hörstedt is not designing at the moment, taking a hiatus when becoming pregnant. But here’s hoping she will return soon. Sweden needs her.)
Most of the designers I admire in some ways design “against” the Swedish fashion norm, as a kind of reaction perhaps. I wrote about this in the catalog for the Swedish Institute’s fashion exhibition Swedish Fashion – Exploring a New Identity and you can read my thoughts here.
But in a more interesting way, these women show that the idea that women design practical clothes for themselves (while men who design for women are supposedly more interested in fashion as fantasy) is clearly mistaken. The incredibly intricate work of these designers cannot be described as wearable, even though these clothes definitely does transform the wearer into a beautiful walking piece of art. They prove that women designers are just as good at exploring the fantasy side of fashion as male designers have been.