Clean lines drive the trend for Swedish design

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 December, 2014, 4:25pm
UPDATED : Friday, 05 December, 2014, 4:25pm

This year's Business of Design Week (BoDW) featured Sweden as a partner country and Margareta van den Bosch from H&M and Lars Falk of Volvo flew in to speak.

On a local level, a month-long Creative Swedes Pop-up Space running until December 23 at PMQ, will be the gathering point for creatives and fans alike in the run-up to Christmas.

Organised by the Creative Swedes HK group, and supported by the Swedish Chamber of Commerce, the event hopes to tap the impact and growing interest in the cool, egalitarian simplicity of the Swedish aesthetic.

"A lot of the Swedish designers have a space to exhibit as part of BoDW, but there's a fair number of us here too, so I thought, why don't we try to create an umbrella space for the Swedish designers based here," says Pontus Karlsson, a director at the Swedish Chamber of Commerce.

"I reached out to them. This is a great opportunity for us to showcase our design to customers, and also show it to buyers from around the world who are in town," Karlsson says.

"We've seen more brands from Sweden popping up from retailers like I.T in the past five years," says Hong Kong-based Swedish designer Alexis Holm, creative director Gram shoes and squarestreet labels.

"People have been interested from the get go," Holm says. "They know very little about Sweden, but what they do know is that we are about clean, healthy living, clean, minimalist design. It is a country that holds value, and is sort of like a brand in itself," Holm says.

Traditionally, Hong Kong's mainstream has admired more ostentatious looks when it comes to design - the gold, gilt, luxury and baroque of old-school Europe that have fallen out of favour there.

But the interest in this kind of conspicuous nouveau riche aesthetic has decreased, especially as it has been linked to mainland tastes.

So what has filled the void? Some local brands have their own unique styles and design-focused products are doing that. There's also a niche of Scandinavian brands, many of them Swedish, who are seen as young, cool and hip.

In terms of fashion and accessories, boutiques such as Vein, Kapok and squarestreet have been gaining traction, bringing the clean, modernist aesthetics of Swedish designers to a younger market. Both local and international customers have fallen under the spell.

But it is not just the elegant simplicity that is catching the eye, but also their business models and perceived philosophies.

"We generally have quite a non-hierarchical structure in Sweden," says Mikael Schiller, executive chairman of Acne Studios, a label which is Sweden's most famous high fashion export.

"It's not that we don't want to do this 'you scratch my back, I scratch yours' kind of business," Schiller says. "It's because we don't know how."

The first Acne standalone opened on Ice House Street earlier this year, and Schiller thinks there is growing interest in the brand in Asia.