When Bryan Conway took the job as design director of Tiger of Sweden last year, he assumed the role would include lots of travel. There would be frequent trips back and forth to London as well as visits to Europe’s fashion capitals, but since he arrived in Stockholm in early 2020, he’s barely left the city. His first role at the creative helm of a brand has been overshadowed and curtailed by the pandemic, but his newly cossetted, Nordic lifestyle has proven fruitful.
“I hadn’t intended to move from London to Stockholm and then just stay there,” he said via video call earlier this week, “but being in Stockholm, I very much found that I’ve slipped into a small bubble, which is a good thing. I definitely find myself drawn to more functional, simple, less elaborate things.”
That simplicity, functionality and stoicism is the thread that runs through the new A/W’21 collection, which the brand unveiled this afternoon. There are vast, cocooning coats with collars big enough to stop an Arctic gale, proper, waterproof boots that can withstand the slush of a city in winter and tough fabrics designed to form to the wearer’s shape and last a lifetime. “Being a Swedish brand, we should always start from a place of thinking about the wearer and the function,” says Conway, “and that’s what we did – it wasn’t just design for design’s sake.”
When he first got to Stockholm, Conway spent time on the commuter boats riding entire routes so that he could better understand the energy of the city. (He learned that Swedes don’t say hello to each other, apparently; London is positively conversational in comparison.) “This is Northern Europe, you have to have a coat and a hat and scarf… How can you have garments that have a function and serve a purpose but can also say something?” It’s a great question – minimalism is all well and good, but by stripping all the surplus details, you can very easily strip out the soul, too.
Tiger’s soul is firmly rooted in a cigarette-sleek, indie aesthetic, and though Conway’s predecessor Christoffer Lundman pointed the brand in a more avant-garde direction, it’s still known best for its sharp tailoring and slim denim. “I for sure feel the weight of the history of Tiger,” admits Conway, “especially when you have a brand so synonymous with one silhouette, which I think is quite unusual.” He points to one look in particular which demonstrates how has tried to marry Tiger’s rock ‘n’ roll past with both the ‘now’ and his own idea of the future. The leather jacket and boots are traditionally Tiger, while the Cuban heels and voluminous trousers are more forward facing. “It’s about making constant references of how it used to be and then finding new ways of expressing it.”
Further local character comes in the fabrication of certain pieces, such as the pea coat, which is made of wool from sheep that live on Gotland, an island just east of Stockholm. Up to now, the wool had just been going to waste, but Tiger bought up as much as it could, sent it to Italy to be processed and used it to make 500 coats. It’s the first time a Swedish brand has made clothes out of Swedish wool, says Conway, and the plan is to develop it into a tailoring-weight fabric, if the mill can work it out.
Conway is keen to stress that though this collection is right for the world we live in now (or the world we’ll be living in come the Autumn, at least), it shouldn’t be used to define his plans for the future. During our conversation, he speaks about how brands need to push collections forward by a few percentage points every season, and the S/S’22 collection he’s currently working in will do just that. “An explosion of energy,” he says. Let’s just hope he has the chance to travel before it hits stores.
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