Scandinavian Fashion, Function & Compassion

Scandinavian Fashion, Function & Compassion

Amidst the glamour, bliss and cold hard business of Copenhagen Fashion Week, the Swedish brand Resteröds made an unconventional and powerful set of statements. First, its runway presentation opened with a spoken poem about life on the street. Then, a collection of well-designed, everyday apparel with a sharp focus on usable quality was presented on the catwalk, worn by the very same people that the opening poem referenced: the homeless.

The brand, which is not a regular on the catwalk, was presenting a fully new collection for AW12 – a collection that otherwise has remained more or less untouched over the past 70 years. And raising eyebrows with its unconventional show has turned out to be a rather smart PR move, and it has raised money for a cause that often gets relegated to the gutter, so to speak. It also gave the brand a chance to show off a new edge in its designs, made all the more powerful in combination with an issue that left a mark in the minds of the audience.

We could continue by discussing Corporate Social Responsibility and the imperative for companies to take actions. We could reflect over whether the show was born of genuine concern for ethics or whether it was a publicity stunt. But it might be more important just to highlight the fact that the fashion industry holds a tremendous amount of power. And unconventional initiatives like this are a way to leverage that power to call attention to just causes.

Maybe it was the presentation or maybe it was the hefty knits, but the Resteröds AW12 catwalk show made the otherwise cold Scandinavian winter feel just a few degrees warmer.

The Resteröds AW12 charity show was organized in co-operation with Hus Forbi, a Danish newspaper for the homeless.

Lisa Olsson Hjerpe – Images Copenhagen Fashion Week®

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Guest Interview n° 34: Jimmy Wahlsteen

Guest Interview n° 34: Jimmy Wahlsteen

Despite the raw winter weather in Scandinavia, the soulful compositions by Stockholm based guitar player Jimmy Wahlsteen make you feel anything but cold. With his sights zeroed in on acoustic, he delivers evocative and innovative tracks that make us – normally lovers of lyrics – forget that there aren’t any, and soaks us up in the sound!

We caught up with Jimmy at the beginning of the new year to talk about his second album All Time High, the recording process, his relationship to fashion and also found out he has his sights set on a Grammy…

First of all; Happy New Year! Any New Year resolutions?
Happy New Year to you too! My only new year resolution is to get back in shape. I haven’t had any time to go to the gym continuously for a while now and I really miss the old me when I see myself in the mirror.

You recently released your second album. Have you done anything differently this time around?
This time I had every song finished before I started recording. I wanted to try everything live before I went into the recording process so I could choose the songs that got the best response from my listeners.
I also moved my studio to my country house where I did most of the acoustic guitar recordings. I then finalized the songs with some new co-producers back in Stockholm. I used the same mixing and mastering people as I did on 181st songs (Jimmy’s first album, editors note) though. It sounds just like I wanted it.

You’re using a playing style called hybrid picking, which means you’re using both a plectrum and fingers in the same time. What does it do for your sound?
The hybrid picking technique enables a very fluid way of playing. It effects my sound in terms of song writing and allows me to bring in some of the rock elements that influenced me a lot when I started playing guitar. It’s not really a deliberate choice to play the way I do. It’s just how I always did it and what brings out the best of my abilities.

Do you ever find it challenging to create music that captures the listener without any lyrics?
Song writing is always challenging and I take it extremely seriously. I wouldn’t say it’s more difficult because it’s instrumental, though. It’s always the matter of catching the listeners ear and do what you do best. If I would have been a lyricist I probably wouldn’t have bothered writing instrumental music. I just focus on what I do best.

You’re one of Sweden’s most booked guitarists and been appearing both on television and on tour with international artists. What’s the biggest difference in touring as an instrumental artist as opposed to with a band?
The differences are quite huge I would say. Being alone on stage is much more demanding and I find it very inspiring. I got to a point in my career where I stopped practicing and played it safe when I toured with artists. Now I practice for hours before every solo show and it has had a very positive effect on the work I do as a session player as well. To communicate directly with the audience is a wonderful experience but it’s also challenging and I realize the enormous press the artists I used to tour with have been under. I’m enjoying music and performing more than ever.

Your ultimate, dream gig?
I always set up new goals. It’s very important to keep developing as a musician. I think I reached my dream gig in November 2011 when I performed before a sold out La Cigale in Paris. Now I need to come up with a new goal. The Grammy Awards perhaps…

When do you feel the most inspired? Can you sit down and decide “today I’m gonna write a song” or is your creative process a bit more erratic?
I’d say it’s pretty random. In hotel rooms I usually manage to combine time and inspiration so that’s where most of my ideas pop up. Very few of the riffs I write makes it to the actual recording session but once I come up with stuff I really like I tend to sit with it for hours just to get it perfect.

You have a YouTube channel (which been awarded the “Most viewed award” by YouTube back in 2009!), a Twitter account and a Facebook page. What are your thoughts on the current social media trend?
I really appreciate that all artists today get the opportunity to be heard. Money isn’t all that counts when it comes to marketing nowadays. It’s more about being devoted to your sound and to be creative enough to attract listeners. YouTube has played a huge role in getting me where I am today.

You’re from Stockholm, the home of many prominent, contemporary designers. How is your relation to fashion?
Stockholm is a good place for shopping if you don’t look at the prices. I used to be pretty thorough about what brands I wore but at the moment I find it more fun to find stuff here and there on the few shopping rounds I do. I try to keep an eye open for cool things to wear and lately it’s been a lot of cardigans and scarfs.

Which was the first song you ever learned to play? Is there any song from your younger years that helped shape your style today?
First song I learned really well on an acoustic was the classic “Streets of London”. One song that really shaped my way of composing is “Feelin’ Groovy” by Simon & Garfunkel. Everything Paul Simon does is just great.

Thank you for your time, Jimmy!
It’s been a pleasure.

Lisa Olsson Hjerpe – Image courtesy of Jimmy Wahlsteen & Candyrat Records

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Northern Women in Chanel


Northern Women in Chanel

“From Femme Parisienne to Swedish Dalkulla”

The Swedish stylist Ingela Klementz-Farago and her husband, the Hungarian-born photographer Peter Farago is the couple behind the epic project Northern Women In Chanel.

The couple has since 2010 lead a unique collaboration with Chanel. The result is an exhibition, which was inaugurated in early July at the photographic museum Fotografiska in Stockholm, and a massive pavé coffee table book. The photo series features 45 internationally known models of Scandinavian and Baltic descent, and about 500 couture pieces from Chanel, and will during the fall and winter travel through Europe.

The project is one of a kind in more than one way. First off, the usual puppet master Uncle Karl is not in leading position. And the usual contemporary Northern beauty has been placed in a greater historical perspective, and invites the viewer for a journey through time, with many easily discernible Scandinavian cultural phenomena.

In one photo, the surrealistic innocence and beauty of Linnea Regnander and her fellow elven-like colleague is portrayed as noble women in a middle age church-environment. Whether they were in collusion with King Gustav Vasa, or simply belonged to the court, the history does not convey. In the black and white photo, featuring a giant cross, Vicky Andrén steps in to the World of Ingmar Bergman and vintage Swedish melancholia, and becomes a still frame from the director’s chef-d’oeuvre ”The 7th Seal”. An intriguing dark scenery which one rarely associates with Chanel.

That’s the true genius of this project. To bag, borrow and steal something so connected with the French national spirit and heritage, and put it into such a different context. The terms cultural exchange comes to mind. From Femme Parisienne to Swedish Dalkulla.

However, such strong historical aspects also requires a lot from the mannequins fronting the project. Except for the 42-year-old Helena Christensen, the greater lot of the models are fresh from the Runway Foetus Factory, and there is simply something about classic Chanel couture, to which a 17-year old blushing beauty cannot always do justice.

Indeed, some pieces demands the Garboesque stern superiority of Kristen McMenamy. And where is the majestic poise exuded by Ingmari Lamy when you need it the most?

Something that is easily forgotten when talking Chanel, and something that in many ways has been buried in time is that, if you are to believe Axel Madsen, author of Chanel; A Woman of her Own, the Madame herself was a lot more than cute cupcakes from Ladurée. Coco Chanel was the raging riotgrrrl of couture, decades before Kat Bjelland got her first guitar.

So, when working with this very brand, it’s crucial to always add a hint of corsage-crushing avant-garde edge, to the timeless elegance and class that is Chanel. Where many others fail (read fashion magazine’s editorials), and simply end up cooking beautiful, slightly mediocre Chanel soup, the Faragos turn out to have many bright fashion photography moments worthy of Madame Coco herself.

Petsy Von Kohler – Images courtesy Chanel

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