The Theory Behind Scandi Chic’s Success


Arne Jacobsen, Acne Studios, Mardou & Dean, COS, Hay…In this highly globalised day and age, any fashion lover or interior design aficionado worth their credentials know too well that these names are all a part of the latest fashion and design fad coming in from the cold countries of Scandinavia.

Known for their strict minimalism, monochromatic colour schemes, and all too present functionality, the Scandinavian apparel and interior design are starting to gain a huge global following. From hipsters drinking their artisan pour-over in their Arne Jacobsen Typography cups to bloggers photographed in Acne’s enviable knitwear; Scandinavian design has somehow managed to wiggle its way into the modern wardrobe and home. Join Stylight as their resident Norwegian investigates the theories and appeal behind what we can only describe as Scandi Chic!


Acne Bag . scandi chic style

Ayu Ananto poses wearing a Max Mara coat, COS pants and Acne bag on January 2015 in Milan – Photo: Vanni Bassetti/Getty Images

Effortlessness and practicality

But first, what does the quintessential Scandinavian style really look like? Norwegian blogger Maja Huse perfectly encapsulates the vision, describing itUnlike the Parisienne, the Scandinavian doesn’t give two shits about sexy. At least she doesn’t want to give the impression that she does – if she wears heels they will be chunky (but not chunky enough to be consciously man-repelling), and she wouldn’t be caught dead carrying a wicker basket. She wears neutral colors in natural materials, her clothes are simple and un-fussy (they could be from H&M or Bruuns Bazaar and Acne, she doesn’t really care either way), and she lives in a completely white home decorated with green plants, sheepskin, and candleholders made from birch trees (bark still intact).”

Norwegian blogger Eirin Kristiansen

Norwegian blogger Eirin Kristiansen – Photo:

In other words, there is an effortlessness and practicality surrounding the fashion that gives off the sense of ‘not giving a damn’ (even though one’s plain white tee might have been carefully selected amongst a rack full of other pretty identical cream organic cotton tops.) This back-to-basics capsule wardrobe might be a glorified illusion for some, but the fact remains that the Scandinavians are deemed above-average fans of the basic, and understated with concerns to colour, style and materials. The relatively high socioeconomic background of the majority of the people, combined with an ingrained penchant for practicality allows Scandinavians to invest in material, quality and design – criteria that the brands and designers are highly aware of.

Scandi Chic Interior Design

Scandi Chic Interior Design – Photo:

From an agricultural wasteland to a designer’s paradise

Perhaps part of the explanation of their success lies in aforementioned high economic background of not only consumers, but also the countries themselves.  With the risk of sounding perhaps too ostentatious; the Scandinavian countries (three in total) have a history of being the world’s best places to live. These thinly populated countries have somehow gone through an evolution of sorts and transformed from an agricultural wasteland into a designer’s paradise. Some give credit to the social-democratic governments and ‘cradle-to-grave’ welfare services – others to pure pragmatism and tough-mindedness. What we can all agree on is that the recipe of Scandi success can be contributed to a mix of design taste, government strategies and catering to the zeitgeist.

Journalists as well as fashion critics however, prefer to credit the surge in Scandinavian popularity to the bundle of Scandi-noir crime shows (Broen, Forbrydelsen, Borgen) that have kept us glued to the small screen over the last couple of years. Maybe it’s the vast landscapes, no-nonsense dialogue or even the iconic knitwear that makes the show so endlessly appealing to an international audience. And although it might seem a little farfetched that T.V. shows can be credited for starting a world-wide design interest; the logic behind it is a simple as suggesting that exposure and word of mouth introduced the world to an aesthetic few people had given a second thought to. It’s not as if Norway, Sweden or Denmark are some undiscovered arctic Atlantis – there just wasn’t any reason for the notoriously modest people to shamelessly promote their vision.

Fashion to the people

For people existing outside the circle of fashion and/or popular culture, Scandinavian style might seem like a relatively small niche. Fortunately, the history and numbers speak for themselves and prove that even the smallest concepts can spawn a fashion empire. High-street giant H&M started with a single shop in Västerås, Sweden, but is today found on as good as every high street from Paris to Hong Kong. The current H&M group includes six independent brands –  H&M, COS, Monki, Weekday, Cheap Monday and & Other Stories, all with their own unique take on Scandi Chic.

H&M Runway

H&M show as part of the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Fall/Winter 2015/2016 in Paris. Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Image

Scandinavians have also ventured into the vast world of e-commerce, and native online stores align themselves with international giants. Boozt, Bubbleroom, Nelly and Ellos (not to mention Stylight) are just a few names on the list of online stores and fashion aggregators that offer not only international fashion but also find their niche in offering homegrown brands to the Scandinavian people. Norway, Sweden and Denmark are generally considered to have a tech savvy population, with around 95% of the population certified internet users. The Scandinavian e-commerce market is the eighth largest in the world with internet retail sales exceeding 20 billion euros – with 10 percent of Norwegians and 6 percent of Danes shopping online from Sweden alone each quarter! The numbers speak for themselves, especially if you keep in mind that the combined population of the three countries is just a little over 20 million – further proving that the Scandinavian countries pack quite the punch as consumers.

Stylight’s Swedish Business Development Manager endorses the recent success of scandi chic, commenting: “I’ve come across a lot of people (both inside and outside of the fashion industry) and they’re all pointing out that Swedes, Danes and Norwegians are known for their sense of style. I believe that early on Nordic people were quick to establish a great amount of fashionable inspiration online which boomed along with the whole ‘Scandi Chic’ scene. Therefore, one can now see a clear growth in interest in the Scandinavian market – everyone just wants a piece of the amazing Scandi brands and styles out there!“

Only the complex question remains – what makes Scandi Chic so attractive to the the rest of the world? Is it the streamlined design and aesthetically appealing minimalism or is it just another fad adding to the pile of hipster trends fuelled by phrases such as ‘artisan’ and ‘sourced material’. Is the Pinterest illusion of white interiors, blonde Acne-clad people and wooden furniture false advertising for an illeligible lifestyle? From my perspective as born-and-raised Scandinavian, I can for the most part verify that the majority of what is portrayed online, in pictures and glossy magazine pages is in fact as close to our inherent vision as you can get. What seems like conformity and uniformity for us, comes across as a monochromatic paradise of quality, muted colours and natural materials. From an impartial perspective, it seems only natural that a trinity of countries whose design traditions have been consistent for more than half a century should be picked up across the globe. And according to COS’s chief designers, the recipe is appropriately minimalist:“Scandinavian fashion tends to be more timeless and maybe people are now thinking long term. People appreciate design that has a longer lifespan.”


|By Ellen Egeland|



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