The Style of Stockholm 

Duane Wells 
8/17/2011 

I’ve got a little issue. It seems that I have contracted a fashionable new strain of Stockholm Syndrome. I use the term ‘fashionable’ to describe my particular version of the psychological affliction, because rather than a group of sympathetic bank robbers, I am instead being held captive by the style of Stockholm. I fully admit that I not only identify with my chic captor but I fully bow down to it and embrace it. If loving the style of Stockholm is wrong, then sign me up for a bad romance.

Like many people, when I think of stylish cities my mind generally tends to wander in the direction of traditional stalwarts like Paris, Milan and London for obvious reasons. After all, every season streams of images from Fashion Week runways in the aforementioned iconic fashion capitals add new pages to the fashion bible that dictates what those of us who give a damn about style should and shouldn’t wear and how we should wear it. But after my recent return visit to Sweden, I will without question be adding Stockholm to my short list of stylish epicenters.

It’s funny, I had previously visited Stockholm during the winter when temperatures were below freezing and the city was blanketed with snow. My eagerness to stay warm and avoid wiping out on the city’s icy sidewalks probably explains in part why Stockholm’s style quotient didn’t quite jump out at me upon first introduction. I mean, you don’t see much when you’re constantly looking down to watch where you’re stepping and praying to Judy mother of Liza for a slip-and-fall-free day. So, no, I didn’t connect the style dots in Stockholm sooner, but I really should have because Sweden is actually a case study in style and Stockholm is its undeniable star. Let’s not forget that even though Sweden has a population smaller than Los Angeles County, it is a global force to be reckoned with when it comes to style.

Don’t believe me? Just think for a second.

Ever shopped at H&M? Bought furniture from Ikea? Or sidled up to a J. Lindeberg store in search of the perfect outfit? Have you ever ogled a Volvo with envy, bought an Electrolux appliance, read a Stieg Larsson novel or lusted after Marcus Schenkenberg, Alex Lundquist or Fredrik Ljungberg? If your answer to any of these questions is “yes” (and I know that it must be if you‘re reading this article), then you’ve been touched by the undeniable style of Stockholm and my guess is that you’re better off for it.

On the streets of Stockholm, the urbane sophistication that is the hallmark of Swedish style is in evidence at every turn. Just as in France and Italy, style is clearly not simply an option for the Swedes, it is part and parcel of who they are. With that in mind, I set out to capture some of that uniquely Stockholm style on my recent visit, and after painstakingly trudging from boutique to antique store and bar to restaurant and back again, I came up with the following insights on some of the very best the city has to offer.

Design

Sleek, modern and contemporary are just a few of the buzzwords that best characterize Stockholm’s design aesthetic, and the city’s hipster Södermalm neighborhood is one of its best showcases. At stores likeDesignTorget you’ll find quirky, innovative products that are long on both style and function.

With imaginative new products arriving on DesignTorget’s shelves every week, you’re guaranteed to find some ‘I’ll just die if I don’t have it’ items on every visit. Then, after shopping DesignTorget and some of its equally cool neighbors, do yourself a favor and pop into Urban Deli at nearby Nytorget and have an authentically Swedish lunch in a space where rugged Lower East Side Manhattan edginess meets cool, sophisticated Stockholm minimalism.

If you’re in the mood for heavy duty shopping—as in the kind that requires shipping—head a little north to Östermalm and stop in at Svenskt Tenn, a legendary design institution in Stockholm for over eight decades. It is here in this massive space that the latest trends in Scandinavian interior design are hatched. From beautifully crafted furniture to everyday housewares, Svenskt Tenn speaks Swedish style like no other.

A personal favorite I discovered was a family-owned silversmith called Rey Urban on Silbyllegatan in Östermalm. It’s a little pricey, but when you consider the quality of the items and the fact that every glorious silver item is made by hand (and that you can custom order anything you want from candleholders to card cases), well, let’s just say that if you or someone you love is due a treat, this would be an excellent place to find it.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t give a nod to the H&M Home Store. And yes, in case you didn’t know, there is such a thing and, no, they have not opened one in the United States yet, which makes a visit to the Stockholm flagship store all that much more fun. Part store and part gallery, discovering the H&M Home store for the first time is just as jaw-dropping an experience as the first time you took a gander at a price tag at an H&M retail store—and the products are just as fun.

Fashion

When it comes to fashion, Stockholm is all about clean lines and great, almost architectural fit. As with interior design, Södermalm is home to shops with a decidedly more urban appeal like the trendy The Local Firm, some of whose wares you may have seen in stores like American Rag and Urban Outfitters in the U.S. Great jeans, sweaters, T-shirts and the like abound at this sartorial gem.

Others worthy of note include Sivletto, a converted garage space where you can do a bit of vintage shopping, get a haircut and a have a cup of coffee without ever leaving the building. Lovely and efficient. How brilliant is that?

Meanwhile uptown in Östermalm, Birger Jarlsgatan is sort of like the Fifth Avenue of Stockholm. Along this bustling thoroughfare, you’ll find swank upscale boutiques chock-full of Stockholm fashion. One notable fashionista treasure located just off Birger Jarlsgatan is Sture Gallerian, a smart collection of boutiques, many of which sell items that are singularly Scandinavian and thus not likely to be seen back at home on anyone but you.

Personally I always leave a little piece of my heart at Acne Studios, a Swedish brand based in Stockholm that in my opinion epitomizes functional sophistication and modernity. From footwear and accessories to jeans and outerwear, Acne scores big fashion points. It’s actually one of the few stores about which you might find yourself the slightest bit conflicted. On the one hand you wish they would open an Acne outpost near you, but on the other you’re grateful on behalf of your bank account that they haven’t. [Note: Here’s a little tip—if you’re looking for a bargain, try the Acne Archives in Vasastaden where they sell samples, pieces from past collections and re-designed secondhand garments at prices that won’t make you blush.]


Food, Folks & Fun

Finally a quick note about Swedish cuisine. What does Swedish cuisine have to do with style you ask? Well it’s all in the presentation and there are more than a few hotspots that celebrate Sweden’s individual and ever-evolving style. Along Grev Turegatan in Östermalm you’ll find several popular watering holes like Grodan, which is one place to see and be seen for lunch or afternoon cocktails. Meanwhile Salu Hall is the ideal place to sample local Swedish delicacies in the confines of a Neo-gothic structure that is more than a century old.

That said, several of Stockholm’s hottest, most intriguing dining spots have one thing in common—they’re all a part of the F12 Group. Spawned by the dizzyingly diverse culinary imaginations of celebrated chefs Danyel Couet and Melker Andersson, the F12 Group operates the most buzzed-about restaurants in every district of Stockholm. There’s the vibrant and whimsical bistro Rouge in Gamla Stan where the mood is young and lively and the food is decidedly French; F12, the namesake of the group, where Chef Couet does fine dining with Swedish flair; Kungsholmen, a waterfront lounge and dining room that gives new upscale meaning to the idea of ‘food courts’; and a host of others with more opening soon. Each restaurant in the F12 family has a different theme, impeccable food and a waiting list for reservations—so book early if you want to get a table. More importantly, every F12 restaurant contemporizes any preconceived notions you may have had about the style of Swedish cooking without sacrificing an iota of integrity.

Bottom line: From design to fashion to food, folks and fun, Stockholm has definitely got a style complex. And that’s not only a good thing—it’s downright addictive in every single sense of the word.

Find out more about Sweden at visitsweden.se.

 FrontiersLA | The Style of Stockholm