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Meet The Swedish Brand That Bucks All Expectation

February 2017Words by Mr Adam Welch

When you think of Swedish design, what comes to mind? Probably some sort of tastefully empty white room, carefully populated with a few pieces of wooden mid-century furniture, with various willowy figures lounging around in slim-fitting, monochrome clothes. Got it? Forget it. Because today we are focusing our attention upon CMMN SWDN, a Swedish brand that flies in the face of convention with its colourful, stylish and boundary pushing menswear collections. The name itself – vowel-less, but still pronounced “Common Sweden”, we assure you – is something of a wry bluff, says its founders, the engaged duo Mr Saif Bakir and Ms Emma Hedlund. “It started off as an idea that it was common, but in an uncommon way,” says Ms Hedlund. “You see this name and you think, ‘oh, it’s going to be white T-shirts’. And then you get shocked.”

Mr Bakir and Ms Hedlund launched CMMN in 2012, after working with Mr Kanye West, first in Los Angeles, then in Paris, on the launch of his late-2000s fashion line. “After that experience, setting up the studio,” says Ms Hedlund, “we thought it was time to do it for ourselves.” Moving again to the south of Sweden (“to keep costs down and go against the grain a little” says Mr Bakir), they immediately made waves with their intriguingly adventurous collections, experimental in terms of colour, fabric and texture, but eminently wearable for a certain customer looking for something youthful and out of the ordinary. “Being a Swedish brand and a Scandinavian brand, we wanted to do something that was new, and not associated with the perception of Scandinavian design,” says Ms Hedlund. “But still, we built on the essence of it, the high quality, the idea of understated, thoughtful design that’s not necessarily all about embellishment, but focuses more on textiles and texture.”

The pair’s ability to strike a fine balance between what’s innovative and what’s wearable in menswear is neatly demonstrated by CMMN SWDN’s SS17 collection, which makes its debut on MR PORTER today. Entitled “Market Rodeo”, it’s an East-meets-West extravaganza, inspired in part by a recent trip to Marrakech, where, incidentally, Mr Bakir and Ms Hedlund got engaged, and where they’ll be married this spring. “We were out there for a holiday and we were so inspired,” says Mr Bakir. “It was the first time, and we were blown away by the colours.” “That mishmash of all the materials,” Ms Hedlund continues, “The check, the florals, the stripes – it was like it was allowed for everything to be mixed, and the outcome was this beautiful, crazy image. We wanted to bring that back into the collection.”