SCANDI N AV I A N I N VA SION WHY HAS THIS DESIGN MOVEMENT BECOME SO POPULAR & HOW DOES IT FIT INTO TODAY’S CULTURE?
GWEN HARRIS N0642953 BA (HONS) FASHION DESIGN (YEAR 1) DCCT10001 DESIGN, CULTURE & CONTEXT 1 201516 ANNA PIPER 2185 WORDS
SCANDINAVIAN INVASION: WHY HAS THIS DESIGN MOVEMENT BECOME SO POPULAR & HOW DOES IT FIT INTO TODAY’S CULTURE?
MODERN NORDIC IDEALS
THE APPEAL OF SCANDINAVIA
SCANDINAVIA IN OUR SOCIETY
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
LIST OF CITATIONS
Fig. 1 Example of Scandinavian fashion aesthetic (2015) by Lucy Williams in Williams 2015: online
INTRO DUCTION Scandinavian culture has interested me ever since I first visited Iceland around eight years ago. There’s something refreshing about the stripped back, simple and functional way that Nordic people live, alongside their elegant and modern design aesthetic. Although it is not ‘new’ in fashion, the Scandinavian aesthetic of warm grey wools and crisp white basics has recently become hugely popular in the UK (see fig. 1). Swedish fashion houses COS, Acne Studios and Monki have become go-to brands for many of us, and wrapping up warm has never been more on trend. As well as affecting how we dress, Scandinavian design is present in many other aspects of our lives. We are hooked on the artful cinematography of the eerie ‘Nordic noir’ television thrillers ever since The Killing was released in 2011, and now seem to own more IKEA furniture than ever before. I’d like to explore why Scandinavian design has become so popular, and how the modern ideals of Nordic culture might fit into our postmodern society.
MODERN NORDIC IDEALS Modern design is said to have an “emphasis on materials, techniques and processes” (TATE 2016: online) and is “associated with a belief in progress” (TATE 2016: online). With this in mind, one of the key characteristics of Scandinavian design is that, generally speaking, innovation and function take priority over form. Fig. 2 & 3 are images from a recent 66 North advertising campaign; a well established Icelandic brand that provide everyday outdoor clothing designed to deal with harsh weather conditions.
Fig. 2 A 66 North advert featuring woman in yellow coat (2016) by 66 North 2016: online
Fig. 3 A 66 North advert featuring woman in dark coat (2016) by 66 North 2016: online
The woman in these images is not
a young, attractive model such
clothes being advertised are most
as those we see in conventional
likely purpose built to deal with this
environment. Both coats are made
is older and looks more natural,
from innovative, insulative fabrics
suggesting that 66 North are not
with quilted details to keep the
targeting a â€˜glamorousâ€™ audience
body warm. The fabrics are water
and instead design their clothes
and weather-proof so they do not
with an eye towards enhancing the
ruin in the rain or snow. The hood
function of the garments.
in fig. 3 is fur lined to stop snow
In support of this idea, the images are set in a snowy and wet outdoor
falling in the wearers face, and the fluorescent strips in fig. 2 are
Fig. 4 A woman wearing modern Scandinavian street style (2016) by SĂ¸ren Jepsen in Vogue 2016: online
a safety feature, allowing the wearer to be seen in dark and dangerous conditions. 66 North’s innovative use of materials and processes, along with their strapline of “Keeping Iceland warm since 1926” (66 NORTH 2016: online) reinforces the fact that Scandinavian clothes are designed to keep people comfortable more than they are to look fashionable; a classic example of ‘function over form’ and a key principle of modernism. It would be narrow minded to assume the ideals of one brand are shared with the whole of Scandinavia, however Nordic street style only reinforces the suggestion that modernism exists in Scandinavian culture. The block colours and geometric patterns in fig. 4 along with the mechanical, chain inspired jewellery all hint towards a machine oriented, futuristic and modern culture. It seems ironic then that, in our postmodern society, Scandinavian fashion is becoming so popular when surely its ideals are the complete opposite of ours.
Fig. 5 NORSBORG collection from IKEA (2016) by IKEA 2016: online
THE APPEAL OF SCANDI N AV I A So why is it that Scandinavian culture is so appealing to us? There are, I believe, a number of answers to this question. As a society, we seem to love efficient, affordable
(WILSON, J. 2011: online). For example, we love shopping at IKEA (fig. 5).
Fig. 6 The plans for a Swedish flat-pack house (2016) by Scandinavian Homes in Scandinavian Homes 2016: online
The Swedish company provides us
everything into the car to take it home
with thousands of products clearly
the same day. It doesnâ€™t matter that
laid out in a single store. Model
we have to actually construct the
rooms are displayed so we do not
products ourselves, because IKEAâ€™s
even have to imagine how products
combination of quality, affordability
would look in our homes. Everything
and efficiency is unbeatable.
is sold flat-packed, allowing us to physically buy more and also fit
says “We hate waste” (OHLSSON,
size fits all’ approach to housing
M., in WILSON, J. 2011: online),
described to be the “most efficient
suggesting that the company is
constantly trying to progress and
K. in MCGOWAN, E. 2012: online)
improve. Despite the fact that we are
ever. This reinforces the theory that
living in a postmodern society, one
Nordic design is so popular so due
theory is that we find Scandinavian
culture so appealing because of its efficient nature. This concept can be supported by
Swedish ‘flat-pack’ homes in the UK (MCGOWAN, E. 2012: online). A house can be delivered in sections and then constructed as if it were flat-pack furniture (fig 6). The flat-pack home really is the ultimate modern luxury; a mass
Fig. 7 A poster for The Bridge, Swedish ‘Nordic Noir’ television series (2011) by Sveriges Television in IMDB 2011: online
Another area of Scandinavian culture
the idea of a society that does not
we seem to love in the UK is the
involve the influence of ‘low culture’
‘Nordic Noir’ thrillers, i.e. the eerie
one which focusses on “human life”
dramas such as The Bridge (fig. 7), The Killing, Trapped etc. I
(TATE 2016: online). Since the sudden popularity of Nordic Noir dramas, Scandinavia seems to
these series may stem from the
have developed a sex appeal, with
intimate look we get into the lives
numerous actors from these series
of characters who are living in a
becoming ‘sex icons’. I believe this
modern society. The UK rejected
has come from the fact that all of
modernism as it did not allow us to
these series have an underlying
have individual identities, so being
scandalous vibe. Ólafur Darri, lead
exposed to the personal scandals of
these characters is intriguing to us.
idea describing his character as a
Scandinavian languages all give a sense of quietness and seriousness. This, combined with the use of actors
“a quiet detective with an unknown past” (DARRI, Ó. In SEYMOUR, T. 2016: online). We are led to believe that Scandinavian life is mysterious and sexy, and so it appeals to us.
and actresses who are not celebrities in the UK, suggests that we like
Another aspect of Scandinavian culture
Rachel Dougan, an expert on Scandinavian
that we have adopted in the UK is their
design, supports this saying:
interior design aesthetic. I feel it is so popular due to the fact that its simple, spacious approach is a welcome change from
British design. For example, the Nordic interior shown in fig. 8 has been designed to maximise space and natural light. The large windows
be left alone so that air and light can
fill the room with daylight. The furniture is minimal and neutral in colour. The walls are white and the ceilings are high; all promoting the feeling of spaciousness within the room.
supporting the idea that we are looking for calming and simple design influences to escape our confusing and chaotic lives.
Fig. 8 An example of Scandinavian interior design (2015) by Jonas Poulsen in ELLE 2015: online
With this in mind, the UN recently published a
countries on their overall happiness. The happiest five countries were as follows: 1 Denmark 2 Norway 3 Switzerland 4 Netherlands 5 Sweden (SACHS, J. 2012: online) Interestingly, four of the five countries are Scandinavian. In a society obsessed with success and unrealistic expectations of beauty, a significant reason we might find Scandinavian culture so appealing is simply because we would like to be happier.
SCANDI N AV I A IN OUR SOCIETY In contrast to Scandinaviaâ€™s modern values, we in Britain are generally thought to be living in a postmodern society. It therefore interests me that we are adopting Nordic culture in the UK, as surely the two cultures couldnâ€™t be further apart.
Fig. 9 UK Blogger from ‘Style and Wellbeing’ wearing an example of Scandinavian Chic fashion (2016) by Brittany Bathgate in Bathgate 2016: online
An example of postmodernism at
combined with the high price point
its most extreme in British fashion
and unique nature of the shirt, she
is blurring the boundaries between
Anarchy Shirt (fig. 10).
low and high culture.
It has a rough, chaotic feel to it
Westwood once said “My clothes
due to the wonky painted lines
and the messy slogans printed
identity. They have a character
over the top. The flashes of red
and a purpose” (WESTWOOD, V.
and black angrily stick out against
in WESTWOOD, V; KELLY, I 2014:
the pastel blue, creating a sense
38). This statement further rejects
of provocativeness and rebellion.
The text reads “anarchy is pretty”
was a movement that suppressed
towards the British government. Westwood’s use of celebrity to model
an element of low culture, but
Fig. 10 Johnny Rotten wearing Anarchy Shirt (1976) by Vivienne Westwood in Guarnaccia 2015: 29
Fig. 11 A blue Scandi chic outfit sold by ASOS White (2016) by ASOS White in ASOS 2016: online
Fig. 12 A Scandi chic white shirt (2016) by ASOS White in ASOS 2016: online
However, it is not as simple as saying that
clear elements of Scandinavian modern
Scandinavia is a modern society, and that
design. However, the jogger-style trouser
Britain is a postmodern society. As the
made from a bright blue, synthetic organza
Scandinavian aesthetic has become more
definitely possesses a sporty, British street
commercial in the UK, it has adapted.
wear feel. The idea of separates is practical,
We don’t need clothing that can cope with
therefore our clothing does not have the same
however the whole outfit is sheer; on a cold day in Norway, these clothes would barely keep the wearer warm. In Britain, however, wearing this outfit would be appropriate.
Scandinavian clothing. Instead, we have
Similarly, the shirt-dress in fig. 12 looks
merged the Nordic aesthetic with London’s
clean and modern due to the geometric lines,
classic street style, creating a style that’s
pure white colour and the smooth curves of
often referred to as ‘Scandinavian chic’ or
its silhouette. However, it has definitely not
‘Scandi chic’; a pastiche of Nordic design
been designed with Copenhagen in mind, as
trying to cycle in this long, tailed shirt would
In support of this, fig. 11 & 12 show clothing currently being sold by ASOS White; a UK based brand providing “Scandi chic” (ASOS 2016: online) clothing with “premium vibes” (ASOS 2016: online). Both outfits show clear elements of both British and Scandinavian design. The boxy, oversized silhouette of the top in fig. 11 and the geometric, blocky print show
be impossible, supporting the idea that Scandi chic clothing is a pastiche of actual Scandinavian clothing.
Fig. 13 A Scandinavia inspired coat that I designed and made (2015) by Gwen Harris, my own work.
Fig. 14 My ‘White Project’ garments that have a Scandinavian influence (2016) by
Gwen Harris, my own work.
I would say my own work embodies Scandi chic values in that it is often inspired by Scandinavian aesthetic, but is more suited for casual wear in the UK. I used a grey wool felt for the coat in fig. 13. It has a simple, geometric silhouette and I have styled it with neutral complimenting tones, giving a Scandinavian feel. However, I set the photos in an urban environment, and styled the outfit with trainers to give a sense of British street culture. Similarly, in fig. 14, the boxy separates and the use of pure white give a minimal Scandinavian vibe; however I did not design these clothes to be particularly practical.
During postmodernism’s most prominent
abundance of accessories; and also the use
era, it has been said that “everything was a
of an 11 year old male model to represent a
style statement” (V&A 2016: online). With this
in mind, it is possible that we might just be wearing modern Scandinavian clothing as a fashion statement. This would be terribly ironic considering modernity was shunned for suppressing individual identity.
CEO of Acne says the model ”encompasses the no-fear, no-limits, and no-boundaries outlook on fashion” (JOHANSSON, J. in MUKHAMETZYANOVA, M. 2015: online). The idea of no boundaries or limits is a very
Personally, I like to think that our society is
beginning to balance the ideas of modernism
by definition was a reaction against the
and postmodernism, in that we enjoy the
freedom and excitement of a world that
encourages individual identity, but we also
want aspects of modernism in these chaotic
sell comes packaged in the same plain,
pink box; suggesting as a brand they
A brand that embodies this idea perfectly is Acne Studios. Fig. 15 shows an advert from their AW15 campaign. The chunky, simple design of the coat and the block colour are ‘modern’ features. The model wears sunglasses, creating a lack of identity. However, there are also ‘postmodern’ design elements such as the decorative stitching detail, the use of unconventional fabric an
encompass elements of both modernity and postmodernity.
Fig. 15 Acne Studiosâ€™ AW15 advertising campaign (2015) by Viviane Sassen in Acne 2016: online
CONC LUSION Whether
design because we are seeking to simplify our postmodern culture, or whether it is just another short term trend; it is an aesthetic that I love and will continue to use in my work.
I personally believe that the most captivating aspect of Scandinavian culture is how it has escaped the need to constantly change. Nordic countries have found something that works for them and they thrive off it.
So, as I prepare to return to Iceland for a two week adventure this Summer, I am excited to see what new inspiration I can find in their incredible, ethereal country.
L I S T O F I L L U S T R AT I O N S IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE
Fig. 1 Example of Scandinavian fashion aesthetic (2015) by Lucy Williams in Williams 2015: online Fig. 2 A 66 North advert featuring woman in yellow coat (2016) by 66 North 2016: online Fig. 3 A 66 North advert featuring woman in dark coat (2016) by 66 North 2016: online Fig. 4 A woman wearing modern Scandinavian street style (2016) by Søren Jepsen in Vogue 2016: online Fig. 5 NORSBORG collection from IKEA (2016) by IKEA 2016: online Fig. 6 The plans for a Swedish flat-pack house (2016) by Scandinavian Homes in Scandinavian Homes 2016: online Fig. 7 A poster for The Bridge, Swedish ‘Nordic Noir’ television series (2011) by Sveriges Television in IMDB 2011: online Fig. 8 An example of Scandinavian interior design (2015) by Jonas Poulsen in ELLE 2015: online Fig. 9 An example of Scandinavian Chic fashion (2016) by Brittany Bathgate in Bathgate 2016: online Fig. 10 Johnny Rotten wearing Anarchy Shirt (1976) by Vivienne Westwood in Guarnaccia 2015: 29 Fig. 11 A blue Scandi chic outfit (2016) by ASOS White in ASOS 2016: online Fig. 12 A Scandi chic white shirt (2016) by ASOS White in ASOS 2016: online Fig. 13 A Scandinavia inspired coat that I designed and made (2015) by Gwen Harris, my own work. Fig. 14 My ‘White Project’ garments that have a Scandinavian influence (2016) by Gwen Harris, my own work. Fig. 15 Acne Studios’ AW15 advertising campaign (2015) by Viviane Sassen in Acne 2016: online Cover photo (2016) by Acne Studios in ACNE 2016: online
L I S T O F C I TAT I O N S IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE
TATE 2016: online 66 NORTH 2016: online OHLSSON, M., in WILSON, J. 2011: online MCCLOUD, K. in MCGOWAN, E. 2012: online TATE 2016: online DARRI, Ó. In SEYMOUR, T. 2016: online DOUGAN, R. in BUERGER, M. 2016: online WESTWOOD, V. in WESTWOOD, V; KELLY, I 2014: 38 ASOS 2016: online V&A 2016: online JOHANSSON, J. in MUKHAMETZYANOVA, M. 2015: online SACHS, J. 2012: online
BIBLIOGRAPHY IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER
BOOKS FIELL, C.; FIELL, P., 2005. Scandinavian Design. London: Taschen GUARNACCIA, M., 2015. Vivienne Westwood: Fashion Unfolds. London: Moleskine GUNDTOFT, D., 2013. Fashion Scandinavia: Contemporary Cool. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd KLEIN, Z., 2015. Cabin Porn. London: Particular Books WATSON, L., 2013. Vogue on Vivienne Westwood. London: Quadrille Publishing Ltd WESTWOOD, V.; KELLY, I., 2014. Vivienne Westwood [eBook]. London: Picador Available via https:// books.google.co.uk/books/about/Vivienne_Westwood.html?id=FV3nAwAAQBAJ&redir_esc=y [accessed 02/04/2016]
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ACADEMIC REPORTS SACHS, J., 2012. The World Happiness Report. Earth Institute. Colombia: Colombia University
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BLOGS BATHGATE, B., 2016. Spring Forward. Style and Wellbeing [online blog]. 23 February 2016. Available at: http://www.styleandwellbeing.com/blog//vbr7ooa74eqgzoy6ks4lrv79nh1mbc [accessed: 02/04/2016] WILLIAMS, L., 2015. Acne Breakout. Fashion Me Now [online blog]. 30 January 2015. Available at: http:// www.fashionmenow.co.uk/2015/01/acne-breakout/ [accessed: 02/04/2016]
FILM & TV Art of Scandinavia: Once Upon a Time in Denmark, 2016. [TV Programme] BBC iPlayer, 21 March 2016 Art of Scandinavia: Democratic by Design, 2016. [TV Programme] BBC iPlayer, 28 March 2016 The Bridge, 2012. [TV Series] Sveriges Television (SVT) [Sweden] 21 April 2012 The Killing, 2007. [TV Series] BBC, 7 January 2007 Trapped, 2016. [TV Series] Dynamic Television [Global]. 13 February 2016