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Hygge-lovers might be put off by Sweden’s less cosy, minimalist aesthetic – one that shuns knitted slippers in favour of ‘just enough’ chic, while also ensuring that women can live versatile, empowered lives. And in terms of the general ‘what’s cool in Scandinavia right now’ query, new Swedish brand Arethé Stockholm, who have created a wardrobe laden with staples for everyday life are one of the latest additions to the radar. Prepare to strip off the crocheted onesie, turn down the brightness on your fake fireplace motif and get ready to embrace a sleeker look for 2017. We caught up with founder of Arethé Stockholm, Alina Bendikova, to talk diverse design influences, dynamic staples and the most fashionable places to hang out in Stockholm.
How did the idea for the brand come about?
I was an intern at Swedish Fashion Council and at that time I couldn’t find clothes that could suit all occasions, I was longing for clothes that I could wear for a whole day; garments that are edgy, cool and elegant, but still comfortable. Since I couldn’t find it I eventually decided it was time to create my dream wardrobe, that’s how Arethé Stockholm started.
What are your designs inspired by in general, and what were you looking at for this collection specifically?
Our style is a mash up of different influences coming from two cultures, music, street arts and men’s wear. I was born and raised in Russia, but at age of 11 we moved to Sweden and the Swedish culture has formed the rest of me. I think I got the best of both worlds during my upbringing. A huge influence is the music I grew up with. The 90s was really the hip hop era, and has stuck with me since then. I have always been a tomboy and dressed a lot in boys clothes. It wasn’t really a choice, but more about what was available in the Soviet Union during that time. My grandmother who I grew up with never dressed me in girly clothes, which I think has not only defined my taste but also my view on femininity and identity, through clothes.
Inspiration for our AW17 collection came from Indonesian women and men. We were participating in a fashion trade show in Jakarta during fashion week, and I ended up sketching most of our AW17 collection there. All these women and men were just so fabulous and I loved the way they dressed up for the occasion, so I got very inspired by their elegant style.
What have been the challenges of launching your own label?
The biggest challenge for new designers is always the financial part, fashion has always been a rich man’s game and if you don’t have an investor or come from a wealthy background it will be very difficult to last. In order to have a successful launch and get attention immediately you need to either have great connections or a very big marketing budget, because these days there a lot of great new talents out there, and pushing though that noise is extremely hard.
You also need to have very thick skin. We have faced crazy problems every season, from super late deliveries, to fabrics disappearing to having factories destroying our garments and sample collections stolen. You need to be prepared for the worst each season, so the biggest challenge of them all, I would say, is not giving up and not letting it defeat you.
People are obsessed with ‘Scandi style’ – what is it that you think has people so enthralled?
I think it’s because it is so effortless and chic; it’s all about black, white and grey colours coming together in oversized silhouettes. It is very easy, comfortable and cool and you don’t need to have great styling skills in order to dress fashionably.
Your designs focus on creating pieces that are both functional and beautiful – do you think that fashion as art is an obsolete idea?
I definitely think fashion is an art. Couture is, of course, pure art but even commercial brands create a type of art, because we create emotions and not just clothes. My goal is always to create garments that make women feel confident, powerful and cool. Our whole design process is about the experience and creating positive emotions. And that’s what art does, it makes us feel something.
Do you think gender has a role to play in design aesthetic for the future or will it become irrelevant?
It is quite hard to design genderless pieces and we are not really there yet, even though we take great inspiration from men’s wear, but I think it has to do with stereotypes about how men should dress. From what I see on the runways, I think we are going towards genderless clothing. Fashion challenges stereotypes more and more for each season, both when it comes to women’s and men’s fashion, and I think we are slowly moving towards just being seen as individuals instead of being seen as a female or a male.
Culture Trip readers are always on the lookout for local recommendations – where do you like to hang out in the city, and where else in Sweden should we visit?
I love spending time at Fotografiska, it is museum of photography located in Slussen that is worth a visit. It is very inspiring and calm in there. They have great exhibitions, and from time to time they show great fashion photography. Fotografiska have the best view in town so don’t miss out stepping by their café and enjoy amazing views, on your way out, check out their shop.
To eat I really enjoy visiting Tures, which is located in Sturegallerian, in Östermalm; the bistro has a very international vibe to it and the food is great. If you visit, you need to try Toast Skagen, it is a very typical Swedish dish.
If you want enjoy a coffee, art and Swedish design step by this great store called Snickarbacken 7. It is a shop, coffee place and kind of a small art gallery in one, located in Östermalm as well.