Cari Simmons has picked up the latest Swedish trends at a design fair. It seems that Swedes will soon be swapping their obsession with minimalist “light and fresh” for a more flexible, colorful and slightly crazy twist.
The return of colors in Swedish design? Photo: Formex
Browsing through the catalogue at the Swedish Formex design fair, I read: “The look is sophisticated and elegant, with a modern jet-set feel. The impression is graphic and stylistically pure, yet at the same time relaxed and humorous, based on style rather than money.” Makes sense, then, that the theme of the fair is “Glorious Mix.”
According to the Formex design gurus, Swedes should expect turquoise, lilac, jade green and lemon-yellow against “almost white shades” and touches of gold. “Glamour is back!”
But will Swedes, who are generally recognized for their good, albeit conservative design taste, really release their white on white and woodsy tones to go for this slightly kitsch, lemon-yellow, let-loose, playful style?
One of the exhibitors, designer Britta Teleman, believes so. “I think people are getting tired of ‘light and fresh’ and everything being white and perfect,” she says. “It’s becoming more common to mix clothing or interior design styles.”
Her design group partner Kajsa Willner, recently back from the Netherlands, welcomes the change. “Everyone tends to look alike and dress alike in Sweden,” she says, “but I’m noticing a little less of that on this trip home.”
While Kajsa Willner and Britta Teleman create new design, trend analyst Vincent Grégoire (right) predicts new design trends. Photos: Cari Simmons
Teleman adds: “Light and fresh may be replaced by a mix of styles, but with everyone doing that we’ll all be alike anyway. We’re so trend-oriented in Sweden.”
Swedes up for a radical shift?
Sweden does appear to be a trend-following nation. In the recent Julia Roberts film Eat, Pray, Love, a group of people from different countries is eating, drinking and chatting around a big table. Each of the guests is asked to sum up their home city in one word. The Swedish character says: “conformist.”
Generally speaking, that word tends to sum up fashion and design attitudes in Sweden. Once the trend is set, Swedes follow it in droves. Now, after a good number of years with the “less is more” minimalist focus, trendsetters are telling everyone that not matching is perfectly fine.
Vincent Grégoire, lifestyle manager and trend analyst at Paris-based NellyRodi, gives his view on future trends: “It’s going to be glamorous but twisted as well, with a sense of humor and irony — having fun is the only way to react,” he says.
The Swedish Fashion Council’s (Svenska Moderådet) Sara Winter and Helena Mellström predict that Swedes will continue to be influenced by nature and locally produced sustainable designs.
“Cotton prices have more than doubled in one year,” Mellström says. “This is one good reason to work with alternative materials. There’s an ecological interest to change, but with cotton prices reaching an all-time high, it’s ‘money talks’ that will really force us to change.”
One alternative to cotton is Tencel, made from the cellulose found in wood pulp. As it comes from nature it is fully biodegradable and, as Winter points out, “Sweden has plenty of wood.” She also notes that linen, which grows well in northern, cold climates, could also become increasingly attractive as a replacement for cotton.
In addition to an increasing interest in new materials and products from the forest, the Swedish Fashion Council also sees the folkloric influence picking up and anticipates a revival of traditional Swedish handicraft designs in fashion, as a part of the sustainability wave.
Traditional, yet new
Looking around the Formex fair, I certainly caught glimpses of this trend expressed in natural linens, hand-woven fabrics and earthy fashions. But, if what the international trendsetters say is true, these traditional fashions will require a twist to survive.
Traditional clogs à la 2011. Photo: Cari Simmons
Some typical Swedish wooden clogs revamped with funky polka-dots and bold colors caught my eye. They appeared to be traditional, sustainable, natural — and yet with a “sense of humor and irony.”
Certainly the young Swedish designers featured at Formex seemed to be leaning in this direction with their functional and sustainable items updated with humor.
Designer Charlotte Elsner says she tries “not to be trendy,” gesturing toward her very practical but still original coffee table and candleholders designed to be lit from the side rather than from above.
“I think it’s important to make simple items that last a long time,” she says.
Tina Backman finds design inspiration in her kitchen. Photo: Cari Simmons
Another designer, Tina Backman, creates kitchen-inspired designs on tea towels, eco-friendly trays, wallpaper and posters. Her designs are influenced by the 1960s and 1970s, but updated for the 2010s with some contemporary characters and images.
“A lot of my ideas come from spending so much time in the kitchen with my young son,” Backman says, referring to her hand-drawn designs.
I left the trend-predicting design fair feeling torn. Even if Swedes may be ready for some color, irony and jet-setting elegance, I don’t think they’ll trade it in completely for their love of minimalist white. But I may be wrong. After all, Swedish trendsetters do love to follow new trends.
Having never mastered the minimalist “light and fresh” trend that swept the Swedish capital, freelance writer Cari Simmons can say that her home, while far from “glorious,” is most definitely a sustainable “mix.”
The author alone is responsible for the opinions expressed in this article.
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