“I’d say Danes are cooler than Swedes”

In shock news for Swedes, Danes have been declared Scandinavia’s coolest people. Don’t believe us? Just ask veteran (Swedish) designer Johan Lindeberg

“Everything goes in cycles, but the minimal aesthetic has become an international uniform. I mean Calvin Klein did it too, but Stockholm has always done it and it has a big audience there.” 

Drawling down the phone from Paris in his distinctive Swedish-flavoured English, veteran designer Johan Lindeberg is trying to come up with an answer to why Scandinavia is so ridiculously cool right now without mentioning a certain torch-wielding Danish detective. Although Sarah Lund and her chunky Faroese knits do eventually crop up, Lindeberg is too polite to point out that a decent amount of the credit should be his. 

Nevertheless, he’s thrilled that Scandinavian fashion has gone big, although admits to being slightly baffled by all the attention. 

“I’m very proud of that. I can remember working with [ACNE supremo] Jonny Johansson in 1993, and he was already one of the most creative people in the world. Sweden has always been very conceptual in creating brands and has slowly acquired its own identity. [In Scandinavia], Norway is very classic,” he continues, warming to his theme. “While Sweden is more sophisticated and international, with lots of clean lines and minimalism, Denmark is somehow known more for fast fashion.”

With a career that spans nearly 40 years and includes stints at Diesel and William Rast to name but two, Lindeberg knows what he’s talking about. Currently holding the reins at über-cool New York denim label BLK DNM, he’s seen the minimal aesthetic, which he first championed together with ACNE’s Johansson, go global over the last couple of decades – paving the way for the likes of Peter Jensen, Dagmar and Ganni in the process.

“Before, it always took inspiration from abroad, but the last 20 years has seen [Scandinavia] create its own deep creativity,” he explains, harking back to Scandinavia’s days as a howling wilderness for the sartorially conscious. “As a designer, I feel people are much more aware of Swedish brands now. I’ll be at Stockholm Fashion Week [January 28-February 10], and it’s always interesting to come back and see what’s new.”

He won’t be alone either, with organisers of Stockholm Fashion Week expecting more than 800 brands to show up, whether on the catwalk or as part of the exhibition. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Øresund Bridge, Copenhagen’s own fashion week is starting, although Lindeberg, by then back in New York, won’t be attending. Even so, the Malmö-born Lindeberg confesses to a sneaking admiration for the Danish capital – and its less internationally known fashion scene. 

“I’d say Danes are cooler than Swedes,” he says to the sound of jaws dropping all over Scandinavia. “Maybe it’s because alcohol is freely available. In Sweden, you have to get it from the government! Danes are chilled when drunk, a bit like Italians or French, whereas Swedes get a bit uptight like the British. I also like it that Danish women smoke cigars. That’s really cool. It is hard to generalise though because most Scandinavians are pretty trendy!”

This article was included as part of our Copenhagen "Fashion" Post style section in our Feb 1, 2013 issue