Why the Scandis do it better

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I’ve always thought that Scandinavian fashion was the perfect blend of effortless style and practicality. Outfits are memorable yet straightforward, minimalist yet unique. Whether opting for a muted, dark, light or bright colour palette, looks always seem put together and elegant despite any juxtaposition between textures and styles. And Scandi influencers such as Matilda Djerf and Jeanette Madsen show off these kinds of looks to their thousands of Instagram followers.   

Although it’s easy to draw parallels between Scandi style and the minimalist looks we see in Paris, the Scandinavians don’t confine themselves to black and white. It can’t be denied that many outfits are centred around dark or light neutral colours, especially in Sweden. However, outfits have also been snapped that mix brighter hues in with darker pieces, or opt to create a vibrant, monochrome outfit – perhaps to counteract how early it tends to get dark!  

The perfect blend of effortless style… outfits are memorable yet straightforward, minimalist yet unique

When the fashion world talks about ‘Scandinavian style’, it’s usually referring mainly to Sweden and Denmark, as opposed to the other countries that make up Scandinavia. However, it seems redundant to completely group these countries together and ignore the nuances and subtle differences between Stockholm and Copenhagen street styles. While both have a clean-cut silhouette, the Danes experiment more with bright colours and edgy prints. On the other hand, Swedish style is more muted and elegant, favouring pieces and colours that aren’t quite as loud.  

The cold northern countries require their inhabitants to be mindful of the climate whilst picking their outfits, meaning layering is an intrinsic part. Layering opens the door to play extensively with colour when crafting an outfit – either by mixing different coloured pieces or adding a pop of colour to an otherwise darker outfit.    

What’s more, layering also allows for playing with silhouettes. This is perhaps why Scandinavian fashion is known for its use of contrast. Sporty and chic, masculine and feminine, smart and casual. These contrasts work because their wearers know how to match textures, colours, and structure without seeming like the look is clunky or has just been chucked together haphazardly. A look that’s been snapped over and over in Copenhagen is an oversized, more typically ‘male’ blazer layered over a more girly slip or maxi dress – most likely on top of tights and a turtleneck for some added warmth! Dressing for the cold also means coats can make or break a look – whether it’s a funky coloured wool coat or an elegant leather aviator jacket.  

Practicality doesn’t just apply to the weather. Scandinavian countries have a huge cycling culture – in Denmark alone, 9 out of 10 people own a bike. This means outfits need to be functional for cycling in, meaning Scandis lean more towards a chunky trainer than a high heel, and value comfort and cosiness in their clothing pieces.   

The minimal look also reveals an emphasis on sustainability within fashion. The idea is to buy less but focus your clothes shopping on basics that can be mixed and matched to create hundreds of outfits. There is also less of a throwaway culture. Instead, people invest in high-quality items that will last them season in season out, especially pieces that could be worn every day, like bags, coats, and jackets.   

Whether through texture, cut or colour, giving its own flair of individuality to the classic Scandi silhouette

Copenhagen-based brand Ganni showcases this perfectly. It describes itself as ‘Scandi 2.0’, selling staple, high-quality pieces such as longline puffers, chunky cardigans, and knitted dresses that can be worn every which way without getting tired. The brand lends its own twist to the pieces, whether through texture, cut, or colour, giving its own flair of individuality to the classic Scandi silhouette.   

There are two fashion weeks in Scandinavia – Stockholm Fashion Week and, the biggest event, Copenhagen Fashion Week. The runway looks were emblematic of what’s worn on the street – neutral outfits experimented with layering different textures, bright looks remained put together by using monochrome pieces and complementary colours, and menswear silhouettes weren’t confined to male-presenting models.   

But the looks weren’t the only important things. The philosophy of sustainability, present in so much of Scandinavian street style, was at the heart of Copenhagen Fashion Week. The fashion week has a points system that judges brands’ sustainability, considering the whole picture rather than trusting brands who claim to be sustainable based on one aspect of their production line. Cecilie Thorsmark, the CEO of CFW, told Vogue, ‘fashion weeks need to take action in driving a sustainable transition within the fashion industry and not only be a platform for showcasing collections.’ 

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