The Cult of Scandinavian Style: How’d It Get So Good?

Ganni Spring/Summer ’18
Photo by Yuliya Christensen/Getty Images

It has been six whole days since Copenhagen Fashion Week ended, and I’m still mad I wasn’t there. Frankly, I might never not be mad. It was that cool.

However, though the industry has been lusting over Scandinavian style for a while, it took a while to get people to pay attention to Copenhagen’s dedicated week of fashion.

“Two seasons ago, people didn’t take Copenhagen Fashion Week seriously,” Barbara Potts, the 23-year-old co-designer of Saks Potts, told Business of Fashion.

“You would get a few editors, but now it really feels like everyone is here, and there’s a lot coming out of here in terms of fashion and food,” added her partner Cathrine Saks.

Business of Fashion reported on a number of reasons why the Danish fashion industry is thriving more than ever, including the cultural phenomenon of hygge, Ganni’s reinvention of Scandinavian style at a “surprisingly cool” price point, a rise in international press and buyers, and the country’s consortium of recognizable street style personalities.

There’s no doubt Scandinavia’s street style darlings have a lot going for them, but I found myself trying to unpack what made them so uniquely compelling compared to other cities’ roaming style wolf packs of late. For investigative purposes, I voluntarily entered a Scandinavian street style Instagram stalking vortex of my own design.

As I rabbit-holed, I took note of specific commonalities in how these women were outfitting themselves. There were lots of normcore gym sneakers, dresses over t-shirts, dresses over pants, motorcycle jackets, track pants and pajama-inspired daywear ensembles. As I jotted down this list, it struck me that these were all trends that peaked a few years ago in New York, Paris and London. (“Peaked” is my polite way of saying “chewed through, spat out and promptly dismissed” — an exhausting habit we’ve developed in response to items or ideas that become ubiquitous all at once, no doubt exacerbated by the internet’s powers of proliferation.)

That being said, the Scandinavian interpretation of these “passé” trends feels fresher than ever, so much so that it took me many minutes of staring to even realize I was looking at something familiar. Maybe because Scandinavia’s style cult isn’t actually “behind,” so to speak; rather, it’s comfortable staying put. It doesn’t feel the need to chew up and spit out trends at a rapid pace, which, in a funny way, almost makes it seem ahead. Because honestly, what is more cutting-edge than an innate understanding of what you really, truly want to wear, regardless of the churn of the zeitgeist?

Danish fashion influencer Pernille Teisbaek summarizes this sentiment in her new book, Dress Scandinavian: “[Scandinavian style] is not about investing in lots of expensive items; it’s about personalizing each item and reusing them over and over again, but in new ways.”

Now excuse me while I go fetch my white sneakers from the back of my closet.

Harling Ross

Harling is a writer and was most recently the Brand Director at Man Repeller.

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