When someone says ‘Scandinavian design’, it doesn’t take much more than a millisecond to bring up the concept in your mind: neutral tones, clean lines, minimal detailing and zero embellishments or superfluous elements. It is streamlined and functional to the core, and those concepts have come to define many of the region’s greatest menswear exports too.
From underwear to outerwear, Denmark to Norway via Sweden, the following brands are some of the best examples of Scandinavian minimalist menswear operating right now.
The Swedish brand founded by Christian Larson and Andreas Palm completely changed the game when it slid into the men’s underwear sector in 2016. In an industry dominated for years by the likes of Calvin Klein et al., CDLP rug-pulled the status quo by focusing on future-oriented materials and sustainable manufacturing in Europe.
Much of its collection is constructed from lyocell, a fibre derived from certified renewable wood sources which offers silk-like softness, superior breathability and natural moisture-wicking and anti-bacterial properties – a far cry from the cheaply made cotton-blend styles of its competitors.
‘Asket’ is the Swedish term for ‘ascetic‘ – someone who lives without material excess or indulgence, and focuses on the inner values. Therein lies the brand’s core ethos: sustainable minimalist menswear essentials that can be easily styled in myriad ways.
August Bard Bringéus and Jakob Dworsky founded the brand in 2015 and have since been on a mission to set the bar for sustainable practices in the fashion industry. The aesthetic is timeless, with clean, classic silhouettes all playing out in a muted colour palette.
A Day’s March
Yet another Swedish brand on the minimalist roster, A Day’s March focuses on the more utilitarian aspects of modern menswear, with shirts, overshirts and lightweight chore jackets all displaying the clean lines and relaxed drape the brand has become synonymous with.
Working for the most part with a neutral palette, its collections are a total breeze to style.
There’s a timeless romanticism in everything that Danish brand forèt does, so it’s no surprise to discover that its ethos is built around the two founders’ upbringing around the forests of rural Denmark, hence the name.
Inspired by nature and a slower way of living, forèt’s collections blur the line between outdoor clothing and casual staples, leaning on a neutral palette and focusing on simple silhouettes with minimal detailing.
Danish bag maker Mismo launched its first collection in 2006, and founders Adam Alexander Bach and Rikke Overgaard have not looked back, building a fine brand committed to high levels of craftsmanship.
With its svelte silhouettes and futuristic aesthetic, the neo-Scandinavian rainwear specialist – appropriately called Rains – has singlehandedly made an unloved genre of menswear sexy again.
It used to be hard to get excited about a waterproof mac but Rains has succeeded in making functional outerwear look like high fashion thanks to its minimalist styling and innovative unisex designs.
It’s a tough task for a brand to break into the sneaker market and actually leave a footprint but Swedish label Axel Arigato has succeeded where many others have failed. Thanks to the success of its Genesis and Clean 90 pumps, the brand has expanded rapidly since its launch in 2014.
With sneaker designs inspired by Scandinavian and Japanese minimalism principles, Axel Arigato has definitely earned its reputation. Don’t sleep on its clothing collection either, which takes its cues from relaxed preppy streetwear.
Not to be confused with ASKET, Arket is owned by Swedish giant H&M and was founded on the principles of the Nordic modernist movement of the mid-20th century. Sustainability is at the core of Arket’s minimalist collections, with the brand committing to 100% transparency in its suppliers, processes and methods.
Beautifully pared-back silhouettes throughout loungewear, shirts, tailoring and outerwear made Arket collections a shoo-in for modern wardrobes.
Another brand in the H&M group, COS is largely responsible for bringing pared-back modernity to the high street, ever since it launched in 2007. Its seasonal collections are notable for their clean boxy silhouettes and minimalist takes on classic menswear shapes, all of which adhere to a restricted colour palette, and won’t bite you in the wallet.
Acnes Studios is more than a menswear brand, it’s a Scandi institution that has successfully managed to export the playful side of Swedish design principles all over the world.
Combining elements of minimalism with grunge-tinged casualwear and a liberal sprinkling of avant-gardism, Acne’s creativity has remained undimmed ever since it made its first splash in 1996 and continues to push the envelope for eclectic menswear.
Founded by Jockum Hallin, Cristopher Nying and Richardos Klarén in 2005, Stockholm-based brand Our Legacy has garnered genuine cult-brand status thanks to its innovative fabrications cut in unique contemporary streetwear shapes. The seasonal collections are always full of nice surprises and quirky details, from oversized tailoring to unique fabric detailing, all expressed in a bold and eclectic colour palette.
Danish label Norse Projects began life as a multi-brand boutique in Copenhagen, but released its own label in 2004 which leaned on a skateboarding aesthetic featuring plenty of boxy shapes such as blousons and overshirts, in an eclectic colour palette.
Easy-to-wear sweats, tees and jersey combined with classic shirt shapes and timeless outerwear make it a great brand for a modern everyday wardrobe.
Perhaps the OG of Swedish menswear brands, J. Lindeberg paved the way for the plethora of Scandi brands you see on this page today. Founded in Stockholm in 1996, J. Lindeberg was one of the pioneers of the fashion/sports crossover, creating clothing influenced by sports such as tennis and golf, and incorporating performance fabrics into its contemporary lifestyle collections.
Swedish luxury sneaker maker C.QP is renowned for its lo-fi suede models. Founded in 2013, every C.QP product is created entirely in-house from the ground up in the brand’s Stockholm studio.
The kicks have a vintage aesthetic to them, from the tennis pumps that they made its name on, to its more recent retro running styles.
Tiger of Sweden
Outside of Sweden, many think of Tiger of Sweden as a relatively contemporary brand but it was actually founded in 1903 back when it was a suit maker. Fast forward a century and the brand still does a great line in slick, sleek, modern tailoring, as well as reinventing classic outerwear silhouettes in luxurious fabrications.
It’s grown-up fashion – sophisticated and chic while modern and innovative at the same time.
Founded by friends in 2007, although NN.07 is based in Copenhagen, it doesn’t associate itself with any place (NN stands for ‘No Nationality’). Instead, it loosely subscribes to a Japanese ethos of design principles, creating made-to-last clothing using an array of beautiful natural fabrics.
With a distinct lack of detailing or embellishments, NN.07’s collections are all about the timelessness of a great silhouette.
Launched in 2002, Wood Wood started out with the goal of coming together with likeminded brands to influence streetwear culture – and it did just that. Part multi-brand retailer and part its own unique label, Wood Wood blends an urban skater-influenced aesthetic with classic workwear shapes and outdoorsy performance fabrics.
Childhood buddies Anton, Daniel and Sebastian founded bag maker Sandqvist in 2004 in what was initially an experiment that quickly grew into a genuine global label. Sustainability, high-quality designs and uncompromising functionality are the three principles behind every bag they craft, from its iconic roll-top utilitarian rucksacks to its sleek leather briefcases.
The boho outlier of the bunch, CMMN SWDN is designed by husband and wife duo Saif Bakir and Emma Bakir Hedlund, who take inspiration from their diverse backgrounds to create seasonal collections that are notably textured, deconstructed, and fluid.
Based in Mälmo, Sweden, the pair have created a uniquely modern bohemianism in beautiful natural fabrics, replete with quirky details.