f you thought the Nordic invasion of Ireland ended centuries ago, think again; we’re under siege once more. This time it’s a Scandinavian- style invasion, and if the eagerness with which we’re anticipating the arrival to these shores of & Other Stories is anything to go by, it seems we’re welcoming it with open arms.
When the latest brand from the Swedish H&M group opens its doors soon on Grafton Street, style-setters will be clamouring to snap up & Other Stories’ winter must-haves, from achingly cool party wear with a retro-futuristic lean, to smart, practical wardrobe builders with a distinctly Scandinavian vibe.
From H&M, to their sister brand COS, & Other Stories joins a host of Scandinavian brands that Irish fashion fans just can’t get enough of.
After all, how better to fill our rigorously organised Ikea Pax wardrobes than with the most covetable clothes and the coolest accessories from Nordic nations who have put themselves firmly on the international fashion map?
Though we have a tendency to dismiss the pared-back aesthetic of Scandinavian design as just ‘minimalism’, the current crop of Scandi brands taking our closets by storm shows that true Scandinavian style runs deeper than that.
While adopting Scandi style in the home means learning to appreciate simplicity, utility, and the understated elegance of clean lines, it’s also about a considered approach to design and functionality, a juxtaposition of textures, and quality materials that gain character with time — allowing for and encouraging longevity.
The same is true of Scandinavian fashion, as Karin Gustafsson, creative director of COS, explained to me.
“For me Scandinavian design is inherently timeless in its aesthetic, which is something I admire,” she says.
“At COS we always strive to create collections that are understated rather than showy; functional instead of overly styled; and timeless as opposed to seasonal.”
It’s an approach that goes someway to explaining the global appeal of the Scandinavian sensibility; for the full picture, you need look no further than the new wave of Nordic street-style stars.
While insouciant Parisians had their moment, and English eclecticism once held sway, lately it’s Scandi bloggers like Pernille Teisbaek and Marie Hindkær Wolthers who have deftly shown that when it comes to effortless style, Scandinavians do it better.
Perfect ambassadors for their nations’ fashion brands, these women have made Stockholm and Copenhagen the street-style capitals of the world, putting Copenhagen Fashion Week on the roster of international buyers, and cult Danish brand Ganni on the lips (and backs) of every fashion insider.
Lisa Aiken, fashion director at Net-A- Porter, admits she discovered Ganni on Instagram, where devoted #gannigirls showcase their wares.
She joined Selfridges and Browns in snapping up their autumn/ winter collection of easy silks and cool stripes, and at Arnotts this season, Ganni joins their stable of Scandi brands, including J Lindeberg, Selected Femme, and Rodebjer.
So what is it about Scandinavian style that’s making it an unstoppable fashion force?
Well, it’s easy — as in, easy to wear and easy to style.
In Copenhagen, Ganni designer Ditte Reffstrup cycles everywhere. Ganni, she says, “needs to work with that”.
Scandi style is about uncomplicated palettes, strong, simple separates and smart tailoring; elegant basics in beautiful fabrics, mixed with clever, hard-working pieces for effortless, edgy style. It’s timeless; it’s ageless; what’s not to love?
At Samui, Clodagh Shorten stocks Swedish label Acne Studios, and their blend of high-concept design and classic investment pieces keeps her customers coming back for more.
“Acne’s seasonal collections are always fresh and exciting, with a strong fashion edge,” she says, “However, it’s their classics that customers return for time and time again. Acne’s success, I think, is down to the quality and reliability of these wardrobe staples.
“Even though they’re classic shapes and styles, they exude an edge and a coolness that is hard to match,” she adds, effectively summing up the appeal of Scandi style in general.
Paper Dolls’ Aisling Kirwan, agrees. Her customers love the strong silhouettes and playful prints of Denmark’s Baum und Pferdgarten.
“It’s about looking good but in an effortless way,” is how she explains Scandi style.
“It’s not about flashing labels or the latest trend. You create your own look, one that represents your lifestyle.”
It’s an ethos reflected in the raison d’être of & Other Stories, conceived to help women create their own personal style.
With design ateliers in Stockholm and Paris (and one coming soon in LA), & Other Stories is about more than just Scandi style, but as creative director Sara Hildén tells me, “it’s one element that runs through our designs. In the Stockholm collection, the Scandinavian approach is very important.”
Though both teams start the design process together, she says, “the outcome is always very, very different.
“This season it was more space-aged in Paris, whereas Stockholm did something much more tailored and Japanese- inspired.
“It’s for an independent, strong and sometimes minimalistic woman who likes tailoring,” she says of the collection, but the beauty of the & Other Stories approach is:
“She can have a suit on with really flamboyant shoes she picked up from the Paris collection.”
“We’re creating a modern brand that we think is about personal style and the reason for the different ateliers is that you should mix and match them.
“Diversity is a key word for us,” says Hildén.
“We’re really happy when people come in and pick something from Stockholm and something from Paris and mix them up,” adds Philomène Tellaroli, head of accessory design in the Paris Atelier.
“The & Other Stories woman is creative with fashion,” she tells me.
“She picks what she loves. She creates her own style.”
Infusing their instinctive Scandinavian cool with a little Parisian chic has been & Other Stories’ recipe for success in 22 cities around the world.
Given our Scandi obsession in Ireland, there’s little reason to think the story might have a different ending here.
& Other Stories opens its first Irish store at the end of the year