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The Times Shopper: Stockholm

Swedish Fashions Put Emphasis on Casual Elegance, Versatility

December 20, 1987|JENNIFER MERIN | Merin is a New York City free-lance writer .

First-time shoppers in Stockholm are delighted to discover that Swedish designers apply refined, sophisticated and contemporary ideas to fashion as well as to furnishings for home and office. Their emphasis is on simplicity of line and quality, along with convenience and versatility.

Several Swedish style-setters that are the rage in Stockholm and other European capitals are still relatively unknown in the United States.

Their clothes are expensive, and Swedish price tags seem to loom larger when viewed from the perspective of someone with shrinking American dollars. But these clothes are reasonable when you consider that Swedish fashions available in the United States (Bjorn Borg's sportswear line, for example) sell for as much as double their Swedish price.

Casual Elegance

Most Swedish designers tend to create casually elegant clothes, and their lines are remarkably individualistic.

Get a good overview of their work at Nodiska Kompaniet, better known as N.K. (Hamngatan 18-20), one of Stockholm's finest large department stores. On the frst and second floors expansive boutiques display a broad range of current Swedish fashions. Here's a sampling of what you'll find:

Under the LOB-Design label, designers Lena Berglund and Bo-Goran Guldbrand combine flair and practicality in their coordinated line of men's and women's fashion.

Theirs is a young look, with high- fashion lines applied to a lot of basic mix-and-match knitwear. For example, a women's knit ensemble (about $450) contrasts white, loosely fitted trousers and a matching ankle-length, broad-shouldered sweater coat with an off-black high-collared knit under-sweater. Each piece is accented with stud-like silver buttons.

Similar buttons are featured on another white knit ensemble (about $400), a hip-length box jacket over a pleated skirt and white under-sweater with a demure Peter Pan collar.

One knit series features bold black geometric patterns on white fields, with long and short skirts (about $150) to be worn with hip-length or short (some with bare midriffs) sweaters (about $200).

Some men's and women's styles are coordinated: a skinny, form-fitting mini-dress in olive drab--accented with black collar, black trim on sleeves and black buttons--works with a man's olive drab Cossack shirt with black trim on sleeve cuffs and neck, to be worn with loose-fitting black trousers. Very attractive.

Natural Fabrics

Marc O'Polo, actually a group of five designers, features natural fabrics, including wonderfully textured cottons and smoothly flowing cotton knits. The detailed styling is always captivating.

Women's dresses (about $280 and up) have dropped waists or unpredictable layering; some jackets (about $250 and up) have deep-pleated peplums. Skirts are long and flaring.

There are corduroy trousers with buttons up the side of the calf to be worn with big-pocketed shirts accessorized with bow ties. Men's styles are similarly chic and comfortable.

Sweaters (about $200 and up) are loose-fitting and boldly textured or patterned. Trousers (about $100) are roomy, with front pleats and wide legs. There are carrying bags of leather-trimmed canvas (about $150) or heavy, durable leather (about $400) that will help to transport purchases home. Marc O'Polo recently opened a boutique on New York's trendy Columbus Avenue (No. 214), where prices are about 20% higher.

Sizes 38 to 50

Big Is Beautiful is for the woman who doesn't want style to cease at size 42. Designer Jytte Meilvang, named Sweden's 1987 Designer of the Year, is a former model for larger sizes. She is a genius at contouring, proportioning and mixing patterns to create a fabulously elegant look that makes sizable patrons look stylish.

Flowing black-and-white-striped trousers, narrowed at the ankles, are worn with a loosely belted, broad-shouldered, white-on-black polka dot jacket over a contrasting black-on-white polka dot deep V-neck blouse.

Other similarly ingenious ensembles (priced from about $350 and up) use boldly patterned cover-ups with solid-colored basic trousers and turtlenecks. There are also magnificent suits and dresses.

Theme colors often include off-white, cognac, black and dark brown, but vibrant primary colors are also used. Styles are made in sizes 38 to 50, but the clothes are so attractive that women who wear smaller sizes often buy them and wear them big.

Scandinavian Silk Trade

Another favorite with Scandinavian women is designer Annika Warberg, whose silk fashions are often quite exotic. They frequently have animal themes and unpredictable details.

There are giraffe print skirts and shirt ensembles (about $300), tiger print dresses (about $550) and silk, sarong-like trousers (about $250) that push up the leg and button to hold the length you've selected. If you find such total fantasy too extreme, you might select one of Warberg's stunning silk scarfs (about $80 and up) with which to accessorize a simpler outfit.

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