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The ultimate guide to Scandinavian fashion

Scandinavian Fashion

If you’re feeling inspired and, let’s be honest, a little envious of that unique Scandinavian dress sense, you’re not alone. Scandinavian fashion trends have been all the rage for years, and if you’ve been scrolling through Instagram, you’ll see everybody is doing their best to replicate them. 

But if you want to look authentically Scandi, you’ll need the lowdown on all the best Scandinavian fashion brands, trends and designers. 

Lucky you, because we’ve put together the ultimate guide! 

Whether you’re getting ready for a trip to the north and are keen to blend in, or just want to add a little more Scandi to your wardrobe, here you’ll find everything you need to know about those unique looks coming fresh out of this stunning and diverse region.

The Scandinavian fashion philosophy: What’s it all about?

First up, it’s important to point out that when it comes to Scandinavian fashion, we’re talking about a broad range of cultures. You’ve got styles, trends and influences coming from all over Scandinavia and the Nordic region, including Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland.

Sure, they’ve each got their own unique flavours, but this guide is more about exploring the Scandinavian fashion identity as a whole. Because there’s definitely a distinct energy and look about the combined Scandi style.

As Christina Exsteen, the creative director at Denmark’s By Malene Birger told Vogue, the Scandinavian look could be defined as laid-back, sophisticated, uncomplicated and easy to wear. 

But when you think about it, the Scandi style is full of contradictions because there’s an obvious pairing of function and aesthetic, luxury and simplicity, subtlety and statement, as well as elegance and edginess. 

Despite the polar opposites at play, there’s no confusion in their style. It’s a delicate balance, and they’ve mastered it. 

Let’s take a look at how you can give it a go yourself!

Scandinavian Fashion

The hottest Scandinavian fashion trends you need to know

If you’ve visited Scandinavia, you’ll know that it’s a melting pot of diverse fashion cultures, with a huge mix of clothing styles — from the minimalist, chic looks that originally caught the eyes of the world to the edgy eclectic streetwear that’s been wowing crowds at more recent fashion shows.

But there are a few particular fashion trends that Scandinavians do so well, which have become synonymous with the region:

Less is more

Nobody does this better than Scandinavia. Very much a part of their cultural roots, the Scandinavians know you don’t need to shout to be heard. They’re the masters of achieving a strong and obvious fashion identity using minimalist pieces

Whether it’s a simple coat, paired with some black tights and a blouse, or a casual dress with a small statement accessory — this chic and modern fashion trend usually results in an effortlessly cool look.

When it comes to colour, this trend favours monochromatic outfits. Black is obviously popular, but so are white, beige and pastels. The use of layers can also add a subtle depth and complexity to the outfit, which is great in cold weather.

The ‘less is more’ approach to style is definitely the trend that made Scandinavian designers famous on the world fashion stage, but don’t be fooled into thinking that this downplayed look is all they have to offer…

Outfits that are quirky, playful and bold

This might seem in complete contradiction to the last fashion tip, but that’s the wonderful thing about Scandinavia — they don’t force themselves into a box when it comes to fashion. They celebrate their diverse tastes and styles, and are happy to try new things.

Some of the hottest Scandinavian fashion brands of 2019, like Stine Goya and Ganni, have shown the world that Scandi style can be bold, colourful and gutsy too.

In warmer months you could see some bright colours, eccentric patterns and quirky combinations, but obviously the colder weather makes it harder to let your playful side show. Especially when you’re huddled up in a coat most of the time. 

But this doesn’t stop the Scandinavians who’ve learned that it’s not diamonds, but accessories, that are a girl’s best friend. High-energy scarves, earrings, bags, or shoes can brighten up the coldest weather and change the season to suit your mood.

Scandinavian Fashion

Sustainable and ethical fashion choices

The countries in this region pride themselves on a sustainable approach to living and this is reflected in many of the Scandinavian clothing brands.

You’ll find that a lot of the up-and-coming labels in Scandinavia are committed to eco-friendly manufacturing practices, responsible use of resources and ethical treatment of workers.  

But for the most part, they’re not just talk; they take proper action. Some of the different ways that brands are achieving this is by using second-hand and recycled fabrics, using organic materials, opting for plastic-free packaging where possible, and avoiding things like real fur.  

On a grander scale, Stockholm Fashion Week went so far as to cancel their events this year, with the desire to find a more sustainable alternative to their usual fashion showcase. 

While Copenhagen Fashion Week has gone ahead, they too push strong environmental goals and standards — and even have a sustainability advisory board.

Layers are your friend

Because of the weather, Scandinavians have mastered the use of layering for both practicality and style. You can switch it up depending on your taste, but common combinations might be — a blouse under a cardigan, a t-shirt under a dress, or a sweater under a trench coat.

As a trend, the rules are pretty flexible, because it’s more dependant on weather than a style statement. But on that note, it’s important to consider comfort and warmth, especially in winter. And to consider how each layer of the outfit will look if the layer above is removed (as it gets warmer).

Scandinavian clothing and footwear that is made for moving

If you’ve visited this stunning part of the world, you’ll know how important the outdoors is to their culture and everyday living. For many cities and towns, bikes are one of their favourite ways to get around. 

Their fashion choices reflect this need for practicality, which is why you’ll often see chic outfits paired with sneakers or casual boots, as Scandinavians suit up and cycle to work or out to brunch. They like to look good, but they want to feel comfortable at the same time. 

The result is often an effortless mix, incorporating sportswear or sensible shoe choices into whatever outfit they’re wearing. (This doesn’t mean they don’t rock a killer pair of high-heels — which is why you’ll often see them hanging out of a tote bag or basket on the front of the bike!).

Scandinavian Fashion

Scandinavian clothing and accessories that can be mixed and matched

They sure know how to mix and match their wardrobe. Every piece is part of a larger ever-changing puzzle that can fall into a different place depending on the season, outing or mood. 

The basic staples can be used again and again, with different outfits, as well as dressed up or down. For example, a formal blazer could go with its corresponding pants, or be paired with a summer’s morning skirt. Likewise, a simple white tee might look great with five different combinations of clothing, depending on how it’s layered and what it’s combined with.

There seems to be a real purpose and strategy when it comes to choosing the average Scandinavian wardrobe, to ensure things are multi-purpose and fill a particular style or functional need.

Scandinavian clothes are high quality and long lasting

On the whole, most popular Scandinavian fashion designers care about quality materials and designs that will last the tests of time.

This probably ties into their commitment to sustainable fashion, as well as their culture of not being wasteful, and appreciating what they have. It’s also incredibly important when they’re mixing and matching their outfits, and valuing a functional aspect, not just a designer look.

So, if you’re shopping for a Scandi outfit, it’s a good idea to balance your budget with a piece that is good quality and ages well.

The blurring of lines between masculine and feminine

The Scandinavian fashion industry challenge gender stereotypes, with many brands opting for a more fluid and unisex approach to style. 

Scandinavian fashion designers like Lazoschmidl and Barbara I Gongini have made a name for themselves doing just this, proving that the cut, colour and design of clothes can work on anyone—man or woman—and that the key to nailing this trend is just being yourself, without stereotype.

This trend bleeds authenticity and is great because anyone can try it.

Knitwear for warmth

You’ll see a lot of knitwear in Scandinavian clothes.

It’s soft, comfortable and helps to regulate temperature, making it a popular choice for sweaters, vests, dresses and skirts. The climate in the region is obviously a large driving force, but there’s also that casual but chic style that Scandinavians do so well, and which knitwear is perfect for.

It’s great for creating different shapes in outfits, whether you go for something tighter fitting or a baggy piece that softens your look.

Scandinavian Fashion

Wardrobe essentials: Iconic Scandinavian clothing, shoes and accessories

While everybody will have a different take on the style, there are a few different fashion staples of the Scandinavian look. So, here are a few things you might want to consider when putting together your Scandi wardrobe:

Coat

It’s cold in Scandinavia, so coats are a must — but boy, they know how to rock a coat. 

Whether it’s a simple and classic design or an edgy piece in a bold colour, one amazing coat that you look and feel great in is essential. The thickness and material can really depend on your own unique dress sense, because as you know, layering underneath is also key.

White t-shirt

Something simple, clean and basic. It can stand out as the main attraction on a summer outfit with jeans, or as the base for a layered winter ensemble.

A few basic sweaters, shirts and blouses that go with everything

To be mixed, matched and layered as needed. You might want to choose a couple of different materials, including knitwear and woven, for different climates and textures.

Boots

You can’t put together a Scandinavian wardrobe without this classic staple. You should be able to dress them up or down and make them work all year round. Something waterproof would be ideal.

Streetwear sneakers or flats

Something casual, practical and sporty, so you can hop on your bike and ride like the best of them. But don’t be mistaken — this part of your wardrobe can still be dressed up.

Black tights

An absolute must for skirts and dresses in the colder months. The great thing is, this simple piece can be worn with sneakers on a busy day and transitioned to night-time wear with a fancy outfit.

Statement accessory

A scarf, necklace or bag — whatever works for you. The bold and edgy trends of recent years would have you consider something that stands out and shows your playful side.

Blazer or suit ensemble

Whether you’re wearing it to work, or over a casual outfit to lunch, this formal attire can look great — especially when you mix and match it with other clothes. With their androgynous approach to fashion, you’ll find men and women alike will benefit from this wardrobe staple.

Scandinavian Fashion

Some of the best Scandinavian fashion brands to get you started

If you want to dress Scandinavian, it makes sense to go straight to the source. With homegrown brands from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland, there’s so many to choose from, but we’ve put together a list of some of the most popular labels that really nail that Scandi style. 

Check out some of the hottest Scandinavian fashion designers taking the world by storm:  

Stine GoyaWe can thankthis Danish designer for bringing the playful side of Scandinavian fashion to the mix. They’re huge on the world stage and offer some eye-catching designs. 

Perfect if: you love bold colours.

Rotate They specialise in dresses, and you’re likely to see some stunning designs with ruffles, billowing sleeves and feminine silhouettes.

Perfect if: you’re looking for a fancy dress.

Stand Leather is their ‘thing’ but they also do some luxurious-looking faux fur pieces too. They focus on classic Scandinavian simplicity and elegance. 

Perfect if: you love to wear leather.

Cecilie Bahnsen In their own words, this brand offers a “contemporary take on femininity” with some beautifully delicate pieces with some fabulous silhouettes.  

Perfect if: you like to look feminine and girly.

Gestuz The designs from this brand are empowering, feminine and depending on the piece, can look a little bit retro. Great for all seasons and can be dressed up or down. 

Perfect if: you’re looking for a blend of sophistication and edgy.

Cecilie Copenhagen They’re dainty, earthy and whimsical, but in a strong and powerful way. A great middle ground between ‘less is more’ and ‘hear me roar’.

Perfect if: you enjoy effortlessly cool and chic, with a bit of extra statement.

Designers Remix Their priority seems to be the use of sustainable resources in their clothing production, like the use of recycled material. The style is full of clean lines and chic designs.  

Perfect if: you’re passionate about sustainable fashion.

House of Dagmar — They’re famous for their amazing knitwear collection. They also show a passion for sustainability, using things like animal-friendly fur and recycled wool.

Perfect if: you’re looking for great knitwear.

Filippa K This Swedish brand have been around for over 25 years and they’ve made comfortable, stylish clothes an artform. 

Perfect if: you’re looking for simple but stylish everyday wear.

Ganni Think colourful designs, printed dresses, graphic t-shirts and laid-back combinations that make a fashion statement without too much effort.   

Perfect if: you’re looking for something bold and gutsy. 

Saks Potts This Copenhagen brand has nailed the vintage-inspired look and shows just how eccentric Scandi can be. Worn by celebrities, including the Kardashians, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. 

Perfect if: you like to look a bit retro and funky. 

HolzweilerIt started off designing just scarves but it’snow one of Norway’scoolest luxury fashion labels. You might have even seen it on the likes of celebrities like Gigi Hadid. 

Perfect if: you’re looking for iconic Scandi accessories, scarves and footwear. 

Malene BirgerSelf-described as ‘intelligent but joyful chic’, this Danish brand encapsulates the empowered, feminine woman. 

Perfect if: you’re seeking a smart, chic look that is timeless. 

Sophie Bille Brahe She makes her jewellery by hand in her Copenhagen-based workshop, with a focus on elegant pearl and diamond pieces. 

Perfect if: you’re wanting jewellery. 

Baum Und Pferdgarten This brand is great if you want to look a little more dressed up — whether you’re going to work, out for drinks, or out for coffee.   

Perfect if: your style is quirky, playful and effortlessly cool.

Samsøe & SamsøeAimed at both men and women, the clothing and accessories here are sophisticated, with a nod back to the chic style that Scandinavia is so famous for. 

Perfect if: you like modern but minimalist. 

Phi This label is all about environmentally-responsible fashion, promising long-lasting clothes that are gentle on the earth. 

Perfect if: you’re into sustainability and looking for great sweaters.

Edda Gimnes One of Norway’s up-and-coming fashion designers who has won an array of awards for her “fashion meets art” style of clothing.

Perfect if: you’re into eclectic, quirky, visually striking, arty designs.

Scandinavian Fashion

Get inspired by the Scandinavian fashion designers at Copenhagen Fashion Week

One of the biggest fashion events of the Scandinavian calendar is Copenhagen Fashion Week — actually it’s this event that has really driven so much of the global interest in Scandinavian style.

Held in Denmark twice a year, this iconic fashion event showcases all the newest and best Scandinavian fashion brands. It’s a playground for fashion-enthusiasts, with exhibitions, street parties, concerts, competitions, and obviously, fashion shows. 

The latest initiative being pushed by the fashion industry in Copenhagen is an even more sustainable approach to fashion — in how it’s designed, made and showcased. They’re hoping to influence designers and consumers, gently nudging them in a more eco-friendly direction. 

With the fashion events in Stockholm taking a rain-check this year (also for admirable environmental concerns), Copenhagen Fashion Week has even more weight on its shoulders as it shows the world what the Scandinavian style is all about.

The secret to looking authentically Scandi

With a quick shuffle through your wardrobe, you might find you already have a few pieces that’ll help you bring out your inner Scandi style. And if you’re in need of some additions, there’s a huge range of Scandinavian fashion designers you can check out. But one last tip: don’t try too hard. 

Because that’s the beauty of Scandinavian fashion style — whether it’s a simple chic dress or a more eccentric ensemble, at its core, Scandinavian clothing is always about style that looks effortless

We watch them walk the runway, or strut along the sidewalk, and they look so comfortable and secure in their skin, like the outfit is just a second thought. And maybe it is. 

Perhaps the reason we all want to replicate Scandinavian fashion trends is because they’re so confident in being true to themselves, whoever that is. That, my friends, could be the real secret to authentic Scandinavian style. 

Scandification. Discovering Scandinavia.

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Scandification explores and celebrates the magic of Scandinavia. Stay tuned and we’ll bring the essence of Scandinavia to you.

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