Sweden might be alone in its approach to the coronavirus pandemic—there has been no national lockdown—but the Swedish Fashion Association is following the herd in going virtual as it reinvents itself. Stockholm sat out the spring and fall 2020 seasons, citing sustainability as the reason, though finances were a large part of the equation too. Now the governing body has been reorganized under SFA secretary general Catarina Midby, and will launch a digital platform debuting for spring 2021, from August 26–28.
Unlike the media- and buyer-centric show system, this platform is designed to be actively consumer-facing. While many presentations will be prerecorded, there will be live events staged from a central studio, including interviews with designers, plus commentary from Simon Collins of Fashion Culture Design and Clare Press, the Wardrobe Crisis podcast presenter and Vogue Australia’s sustainability editor at large. While designers like House of Dagmar and Rave Review present their spring collections via virtual showrooms, they will also be putting a spotlight on shopping in-season merchandise. In addition, there will be talks on conscious fashion and other related activities—all in English as fashion is a global industry.
An ambitious plan? Yes. But as Sweden is a European leader in technology and innovation, and fashion is one of the country’s largest exports, perhaps it’s inevitable the two would come together. “Now it’s time to look forward. Now it’s time to promote Swedish fashion again, and I think we have a unique position,” Midby tells Vogue. “With a clean-cut, contemporary design, longevity, and added sustainable value, Swedish fashion indeed has what it takes in the post-pandemic world, brought to market in a democratic, diverse, and innovative manner.”
While Midby doesn’t rule out the possibility of physical shows in the future, she predicts they will become secondary to digital presentations—accessories that bring interest to a head-to-toe look, as it were. In the long run, that will be good for the environment. Conscious fashion is nothing new in the Swedish fashion scene, but it hasn’t been presented as an organizing principle for Fashion Week. Why now? “I think Sweden is the country of equality [and] of allemansratten (freedom to roam),” Midby said. “We learn from early years that we have to take care of nature because it belongs to everyone, so this [sustainable] mindset for Swedes comes very naturally.”