I started the New Year reading lots of articles on the obvious topics; how to shift excess weight, fitness, the rise of Athleticism and how it seems to be dominating everyone’s mind. Interestingly amongst all this were articles on the art of folding, de-cluttering and how we're all trying to manage our ‘stuff’ to simplify our lives.
It's probably because technology holds lots of stuff but it's all packaged in a compact box like phones and iPads, that somehow our lives don’t seem quite as neat and tidy by comparison. Which made me think of the Nordics and how their moderate and balanced influence and culture is beginning to impact on everything we do and see, from the furniture that surrounds us to the clothes we wear, to the food we eat.
Nordic values are beginning to connect with consumer’s minds and lifestyles. The Swedes have a word Lagom which is said to go back to the Viking times when excess prevailed. There isn't a direct english translation but here are a few which sum it up: "enough", "sufficient", " adequate", "in moderation", “suitable" and "in balance". With so much excess, so much choice and so much on offer at our fingertips, you can see why achieving Lagom is so seductive. It represents the Swedish cultural ideals of equality and fairness and achieving the 'perfect balance'.
This can probably explain the resurgence of gender neutrality; Nordics are at the forefront of gender equality. All 5 countries feature in the top 25 of the economic participation and opportunity pillar of the Gender Gap Index. Brands are beginning to follow suit. & Other Stories campaign last summer not only cast transgender models like Hari Nef and Valentijn De Hingh to star in its latest ad campaign, but the creative team behind the shoot was also made up entirely of trans people, including stylist Love Bailey, makeup artist Nina Poon, and photographer Amos Mac.
Selfridges launched its pop up shop concept Agender last year and Gucci's creative director Alessandro Michele has cast the first transgender model Hari Nef, who was one of the handful of women to walk the runway at the Gucci menswear show in Milan this year. Genderless retail innovation rejects common masculine and feminine stereotypes and connects consumers through common interest rather than through elements that are gender specific.
Although the concept we created for Blow Ltd wasn't aimed to tackle gender issues, we were briefed to look at creating a concept that was 'Scandinavian' inspired for style, ease and clarity. An experience that doesn't adhere to obvious feminine stereotypes but connects with consumers needs for simplification.
This need for simplicity explains why green issues are really important to the Nordic consumer as they are at the heart of global environmentalism. Scandinavian brands like Ikea and H&M are tackling these issues head on. Set up by H&M's Conscious Foundation the Global Change Award is looking for ideas that can shape the future of how fashion is designed produced, shipped, bought, used and recycled aiming to close the loop on fashion to protect the planet.
Ikea's head of sustainability, Steve Howard said “If we look on a global basis, in the West we have probably hit peak stuff. We talk about peak oil. I’d say we’ve hit peak red meat, peak sugar, peak stuff … peak home furnishings.” He said it could be called “peak curtains.” Ikea has always been good at promoting re-use of its product with a specific marketing campaign to encourage the re-sale of used and unwanted furniture.
Nordic cuisine is also on the rise thanks to the likes of Noma. It taps into the mindset that consumers are looking for healthy, tasty, pure and simple food without the fuss. Purity, freshness, ethics, seasonality, raw ingredients, climate, landscape, waters and eating less meat and a devolution to age old techniques such as drying, smoking, pickling and curing are all things associated with Nordic cuisine.
Such is Nordics influence around the world Noma's Danish chef Rene' Redzepi has relocated his restaurant and chefs to Sydney for 10 weeks from January this year. This pop up concept will introduce the Australians to Nordic cuisine and for Redzepi "finally getting a summer that lasts longer than five days".
To summarise, Lagom is the Swedes idea of achieving a balance between what we want and what we want in life but in a more moderate way. Looking for a simpler way of life with just enough. Consumers are becoming more demanding of brands, just selling a product isn't enough. The Nordic philosophy is providing consumers with an alternative, which is why their influence is becoming more and more evident.