Tuesday 22 August 2017

Have we reached peak Scandi?

The Danish concept of 'hygge' is dominating best-seller lists, and we're all binge-watching Nordic Noir. But be warned, the Scandi trend has an expiration date

A 'Hygge' styled bedroom
A 'Hygge' styled bedroom
Alicia Vikander
Alexander Skarsgard
Malmo for Topman
The Killing

Tanya Sweeney

Move over, Vikings of the Norman Invasion… today we're seeing a Scandi takeover that's smarter, sexier, and has better sweaters.

The way some tell it though, we're fast approaching Peak Scandi, from our box sets and furniture to our kitchen utensils. We've even been told that autumn is now prime 'Hygge' time: the Danes have now monopolised that feeling of being comfy, cosy, away from the cold and swaddled in cashmere with a single viral concept.

It used to be called 'slobbing about the house' or 'eating stew', or even 'lighting a scented candle', but thanks to the Danes' upcycling, 'hygge' is as aspirational to Generation Ikea as Bikram yoga or clean eating. It's absolutely everywhere too, from loungewear ads to Sunday newspaper supplements. No fewer than nine books on the subject have been published in recent weeks, 'The Book of Hygge', 'How to Hygge', 'The Little Book of Hygge' and the 'Art of Hygge' among them.

The high street has duly followed suit, with Topman launching its Malmo collection and River Island and Harvey Nichols going a similar sartorial route. In case you're wondering, the modern Nordic look - a la Sofie Grabol in 'The Killing' - is the style to aim for. Understated palettes and season-defying neutrals have never really gone out of fashion, but we have certainly reached an apex of Nordic chic this year. Sturdy simplicity, woody minimalism and clean lines in fashion, architecture and design… it's all been elevated to an art form.

Alicia Vikander
Alicia Vikander

"Denmark has an old design tradition that came in the wake of industrialism," says Kristian W Andersen of the Copenhagen International Fashion Fair. "I think it's part of the hype surrounding Scandinavia. Our way of life is on the radar internationally at the moment. Many countries look to us when it comes to our values, our systems, our successful work life."

Like Andersen points out, if you're looking for a region that encapsulates the good life, Scandinavia is it. Where once the American Dream held much allure, the prospect of a utopian life like the work-hard-play-harder Scandinavians is the middle-class dream.

Last year, for instance, for the seventh consecutive year, Norway topped the Legatum Institute's annual Prosperity Index as the most prosperous country in the world. Denmark and Sweden came third and fifth. And given that 2016 has been so unrelentingly bleak and bordering on post-apocalyptic - the death of much-loved celebrities, Syrian refugees, Brexit, the US election - the world needed 'hygge' more than it ever could have imagined. Besides, it's simply cold right now, so never underestimate the appeal of all things cosy.

Interiors-wise, our love of fuss-free Scandi design isn't going anywhere, either: whatever about Ikea's stranglehold on the flat-pack posse, Danish interiors store Sostrene Grene (which translates as The Green Sisters) have just opened outposts in Dun Laoghaire and Swords. It's been informally dubbed the 'grown-up Tiger', referring to the Danish chain of playful interiors/hobby stores that have spread like wildfire across Ireland.

They're added to a growing pile of Scandi brands, stars and cultural moments that have wielded serious influence on aspirational lifestyle chasers of late: Acne jeans. Little Dragon. Robyn. The Skarsgaard family. Alicia Vikander. 'The Killing'. 'The Bridge'. 'Borden'. And the latest drama full of bloodshed, bridges and blondes, 'The Vore'.

'Marcella', 'The Fall', 'Black Mirror': some of the best TV shows of the year doff a cap to the Scandi Noir genre. No one can say that our Northern brethren don't do suspense and visually stunning TV with real flair. Even ABBA are poised to make a comeback soon, albeit in reconstituted, hologram form. Still, that's the Scandi way: remastering a classic and repackaging it for the delectation of the dinner party classes.

Alexander Skarsgard
Alexander Skarsgard

Except… well, what goes up must come down, right? If you've risen at a rate of knots out of nowhere to infiltrate every pocket of culture, it's not likely to end well.

'Vogue' magazine have been the first harbingers of doom, noting that all things Scandi are now out. In its stead, they say, is 'taking layering to interiors - a mood of maximalism and opulence is returning to the home'.

Certainly, maximalism is poised to usurp Scandi's clean orderliness: Donnybook native Freida Gormley has founded the House Of Hackney interiors brand with her husband Javvy M Royle. The store has reported a turnover raise of 60-70pc year on year, a clear indication that, from a mainstream perspective at least, they're best placed to predict the shape of things to come.

Other bloggers have also predicted that in terms of interiors, Nordic Elk - the more earthy and rugged sibling of Scandi - could well be the interiors phenomenon of 2017. Think more charcoal and tan; creams and rich browns contrasting with deep blues on natural wooden furniture and fabrics.

It's a basic tenet of fashion that trends are a reaction or rebellion to those that precede it, so perhaps the natural successor to the orderly, gentle Scandi trend will be something wild, unpredictable and eye-popping. Aztec and tropical tropes have been in fashion for some time now, and perhaps that's exactly what we need instead of hygge: A comforting reminder that the hazy days of summer are right around the corner.

Irish Independent

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