Melancholia, Snow and Socialism – Reflections on Swedish Designby Anna Kopito | 22.09.14
Walking through the streets of Tel Aviv, it isn’t hard to spot items rich in Swedish design – it is now virtually impossible to go one day in this city without seeing a someone sporting a Fjällräven Kanken backpack.
Swedish design is unique. Contemporary Swedish design has made a place for itself and is easily identifiable – with its sober shapes, discreet patterns and natural materials. It has been growing in popularity outside of Scandinavia since the 1960s and this popularity continues to grow. Be it in architecture, furniture, fashion or industrial design – no matter what product; a Stutterheim raincoat, a Filippa K dress, a Volvo XC90 or the Nobis hotel – there is a common thread, a unique Swedishness.
Even though I grew up in Sweden, spending the last two years in Tel Aviv has helped me to gain a better understanding and perspective of Swedish minimalism and design and to get the opportunity to take a step back and to analyze how this particular strand of aesthetic developed.
At the end of August I visited my hometown, Stockholm, to attend its seasonal fashion week. Swedes say that there are different roots to Swedish design, different reasons why it developed and became so defined, concrete and recognizable.
There is a certain Scandinavian melancholy, which comes from such a wintery and vast country. Some people think that there is a connection between melancholy and creativity. ”Feeling blue inspires creativity. What if August Strindberg, Ingmar Bergman, Karin Boye and hundreds of other famous Swedish artist had felt happy all the time? Would they have produced their fantastic work? No. ” says Alexander Stutterheim, founder of Stutterheim Raincoats. When we feel melancholy, and uneasy with the way things are, we yearn for a deeper, richer relationship with the world and are forced to explore our own potential and creativity to add a vibrancy or energy to our environment.
Or could it be the social democratic values that have always been encouraged in Sweden? Where accessibility and purpose has been the motto, where wealth, extravagance, precious metals and priceless jewels haven’t been desirable. People have found beauty in simplicity and have found simplicity itself to be a focus for design.
Other Swedes turn their focus to the nation’s immediate surroundings. The colors and textures found in the nature, in the woods, the sea and the weather, there is nothing quite so spectacular as a crisp and stark day in the Swedish forests or along the coastlines. Not to mention the weather and its impact on clothing.
The autonomy in Sweden plays its part too – the uniformity of the music and literature plays its part in the individuality of a country which has such a cohesive and particular take on design.
Upon my return to Tel Aviv, I asked myself ‘how would I define Israeli design?’. As a young country, there doesn’t necessarily need to be an answer to this question yet – it has taken centuries of Swedish isolation to develop what we have in the North.
But as the country develops and fills with creative people, we will begin to recognise a thread of common style that will become unmistakably Israeli. As Israeli design schools [Bezalel, Shenkar, HIT!] grow in knowledge and produce more fantastic designers, architects, writers, and fashionistas, the potential will grow and Israeli style will mark out its own unique place in global design.
With Telavivian, we will continue to uncover and expose as many talents as possible – to unearth the defining tastes and styles that exist here and to answer the question – what is Israeli design, how does it define itself and what makes it what it is?
Written by Anna Kopito. Edited by Francesca Kletz.
The photos were taken during my last visit to Stockholm by Pablo Frisk.