What do you think of when you hear the word ‘luxury’? Diamonds and gold? A giant mansion? Maybe a yacht or a flashy sports car? In most parts of the world, these and other displays of wealth are commonly associated with luxury. Basically the idea that ‘if you have it, flaunt it’ shapes the styles of the more well-off segments in most countries, but when it comes to Scandinavia, the mentality is quite different. But before we get into what Scandinavian Luxury actually means, let’s take a look at the culture that birthed it.
While the countries in the region today have quite a reputation for being splendid places to live in, the conditions in Scandinavia have not always been as peachy. The rough climate and rugged farming conditions of the 19th century precipitated the largest emigration ever from the area with over a million people leaving just Sweden, the most populous country of the region, in hopes of obtaining better lives in America. Those who stayed had to work extremely hard to put food on the table and survive the long and dark winters. It was during this time that the so-called ‘Law of Jante’, a cultural framework which describes the individual’s place in society, was developed. Briefly put, this set of rules dictates that no individual is worth more than anyone else and should never show off, whether they have something to boast about or not. Basically, you should keep it to yourself if you are proud of some individual success you might have achieved, and never put yourself above the community or other individuals.
This mindset shaped many aspects of the Scandinavian societies throughout the 20th century and still does today. In politics it brought large support for a strong welfare state, in business it produced companies without the traditional hierarchical structure, and in fashion it challenged the concept of luxury, which brings us back to where we began. Being surrounded by the ‘law’-abiding citizens of Scandinavia, someone who shows up in a flashy sports car with gold chains around their neck will likely not get the reactions they were hoping for. In fact, any obvious display of wealth is generally considered over-the-top and met with aversion by the average Scandinavian. But this is not to say in any way that the citizens of the region stopped appreciating luxury, just that luxury itself needed to be redefined.
Scandinavian Luxury - less is more
With the cultural atmosphere repelling any conspicuous display of wealth, the manifestation of luxury in Scandinavian design and fashion took on a minimalistic approach. Details grew in importance, simple patterns and colors which blend in rather than stand out came to dominate the scene, and a clean approach eclipsed the opulent. All these elements embodied the Scandinavian mentality and created a fashion style which is shrouded in luxury without showing off. But the most important element of Scandinavian Luxury is one that is yet to be mentioned; quality. It doesn’t matter what you sprinkle your product with on the outside, if the quality is subpar there will be no chance of labeling it with the ‘luxurious’ tag, something that stems from those many years of rough conditions which shaped the Scandinavian mindset and rendered anything that can’t survive in the tough environment useless.