‘Malmö is a paradise for creative people’

Designer Susana Nakatani's career has taken her on a trek from Spain to France, Switzerland, Morocco, and Germany – to name just a few places.

But then she discovered Malmö – and she's here to stay. Susana tells The Local about her favourite places – and what makes the city perfect for a designer.

'Malmö is a paradise for creative people'
Photo: Werner Nystrand

When Susana Nakatani was a child growing up in Salamanca, Spain, she spent every spare moment crafting outfits for her dolls out of leftover fabrics and buttons.

“I grew up in a very humble family, and my mom would make all our clothes,” she explains. “My love for design started then.”

But there weren't many opportunities in design in such a small city – so Susana became a French teacher despite her passions elsewhere.

“Thanks to that job I had the possibility to work and live in several countries – and then, in 2009, I landed in Sweden.”


For Susana, Malmö is the city of dreams. Despite having lived in design capitals like Paris and London, Malmö is where she finally got her design education and where she now has her own fashion label.

Susana doesn't follow the trends – but she says that in Malmö, it's easy to be open-minded and go your own way.

“Paris is more oriented to glamour, it's classic. London is creative and exciting. But I personally believe that making fashion in Malmö brings something more to the table, a complete sense of freedom, that you don’t have in other places where the pressure of being within the trends and the standards is higher,” she muses.


“The fashion industry is very competitive. For me, being in the 'Malmö bubble' protects my idea of creating my own destiny and helps me stay faithful to my principles.”

Shop Susana Nakatani design

So what makes Malmö such a haven for open-minded creativity? We asked Susana to give us a tour of Sweden's third-largest city – through the eyes of a designer.

Getting lost

Susana says it's easy to be creative in Malmö – and that often means you've just got to go with the flow.

“In Malmö, I love going around with my bike and getting lost,” she exclaims. ”Every street has something different. I like the Nordic architecture and the mix Malmö has between old and grand, industrial and new.”

One of her favourite areas is Västra Hamnen, the old shipyard.

Västra Hamnen. Photo: Maria Eklind/Flickr

“It's been converted into new buildings, but with a touch of their old industrial heritage. I love wandering around trying to imagine how everything was before, when Malmö was just an industrial town,” she confesses.

And whenever she needs a little fresh air and inspiration, Susana heads to Ribersborg, a popular coastal walk with a bathhouse, a beach, and plenty of green open space.

Ribersborg. Photo: Werner Nystrand

“The views are amazing,” she says. “The nature in Malmö is stunning.”


Time for a coffee break?

“I normally start the day with a coffee at Kaffebaren in Möllan,” Susana says. “I love taking my bike around town and sitting and observing the square with that vibrant and multicultural vibe.”

Möllevångstorget. Photo: Werner Nystrand

Malmö is one of the best cities in Europe for biking, and much of the city is designed around bike paths. It's not an after-thought – it's a conscious part of Malmö’s design.

Photo: Werner Nystrand

“Another one of my favourite spots is Pâtisserie David around Caroli,” Susana says. ”They have amazing pastries and it has a charming mix between Scandinavia and Latin-Europe. I feel at home!”

Finally, she adds, if you go to Malmö you've got to know where to get your scones:

Café Feed on Köpenhamnsvägen have the best scones in Malmö! I love scones!”


Malmö is somewhat famous for its diverse food scene. The city is brimming with cuisine from all across the globe, and it's hard to pick favourites.

“For drinks or dinner, I have to mention Bastard,” Susana says.

The hip, rustic Michelin Guide restaurant is usually packed – so make sure to book a table in advance. This is where all the cool kids hang out.

Can't get in? There are plenty of other incredible options, Susana says.

“Try any of the amazing Asian fusion restaurants in town such as Lemongrass or Namu.”

Lilla Torg, where many restaurants are located. Photo: Henrik Rosenqvist

Read more about food in Malmö

Shopping and design

Finally, what's the design scene like in Malmö? Where does Susana shop?

“Sweden in general is a paradise for creative people. I don’t know exactly what it is but it is easy to focus on your creative side in this latitude and I love it,” she exclaims.

There are dozens of designers in Malmö who inspire Susana, for different reasons, she says.

“I love Altewai Saome, those girls are extremely talented!”

Fashion by Altewai Saome.

Altewai Saome is an edgy young brand that plays with a monochrome palate, unusual details, and international flair. The up-and-coming label quickly become a favourite at fashion week events and has won multiple awards.

“I am also a big fan of Robert&Blad,” Susana says.

“Designer Helle Robertson is like a volcano of creativity; I had the chance to work as an intern for her, and not only I admire her for her classic tailoring skills but also for how she gives a new meaning to recycling.”

Designer Helle Robertson was educated in men's fashion, giving her women's wear a unique structure and ease while maintaining an elegant feminine touch.

Dress by Robert&Blad. Photo: Jesper Lindgren.

The brand Robert&Blad is also sustainable, comfortable fashion made from ecological, locally-produced fabric. Very Swedish!

'Make your dreams come true'

Finally, the most important thing to do in Malmö is just – do it. Whatever it is.

“If you visit Malmö and you have a dream, go for it!” Susana exclaims.

“You will always have someone to support you, to guide you and to help you making your dreams come true. That is the beauty of Malmö.”

Photo: Apelöga

Read also: The Stockholm design hot-spots you have to see

This article was produced by The Local Client Studio and sponsored by Visit Sweden.


US criminologist lauds Malmö for anti-gang success

The US criminologist behind the anti-gang strategy designed to reduce the number of shootings and explosions in Malmö has credited the city and its police for the "utterly pragmatic, very professional, very focused" way they have put his ideas into practice.

US criminologist lauds Malmö for anti-gang success
Johan Nilsson/TT

In an online seminar with Malmö mayor Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh, David Kennedy, a professor at New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said implementing his Group Violence Intervention (GVI) strategy had gone extremely smoothly in the city.

“What really stands out about the Malmö experience is contrary to most of the places we work,” he said. “They made their own assessment of their situation on the ground, they looked at the intervention logic, they decided it made sense, and then, in a very rapid, focused and business-like fashion, they figured out how to do the work.”

He said that this contrasted with police and other authorities in most cities who attempt to implement the strategy, who tend to end up “dragging their feet”, “having huge amounts of political infighting”, and coming up with reasons why their city is too different from other cities where the strategy has been a success.

Malmö’s Sluta Skjut (Stop Shooting) pilot scheme was extended to a three-year programme this January, after its launch in 2018 coincided with a reduction in the number of shootings and explosions in the city.

“We think it’s a good medicine for Malmö for breaking the negative trend that we had,” Malmö police chief Stefan Sintéus said, pointing to the fall from 65 shootings in 2017 to 20 in 2020, and in explosions from 62 in 2017 to 17 in 2020.

A graph from Malmö police showing the reduction in the number of shootings from 2017 to 2020. Graph: Malmö Police
A graph from Malmö police showing the reduction in the number of explosions in the city between 2017 and 2020. Graph: Malmö Police


In their second evaluation of the programme, published last month, Anna-Karin Ivert, Caroline Mellgren, and Karin Svanberg, three criminologists from Malmö University, reported that violent crime had declined significantly since the program came into force, and said that it was possible that the Sluta Skjut program was partly responsible, although it was difficult to judge exactly to what extent. 

The number of shootings had already started to decline before the scheme was launched, and in November 2019, Sweden’s national police launched Operation Rimfrost, a six-month crackdown on gang crime, which saw Malmö police reinforced by officers from across Sweden.

But Kennedy said he had “very little sympathy” for criminologists critical of the police’s decision to launch such a massive operation at the same time as Sluta Skjut, making it near impossible to evaluate the programme.

“Evaluation is there to improve public policy, public policy is not there to provide the basis for for sophisticated evaluation methodology,” he argued.

“When people with jobs to do, feel that they need to do things in the name of public safety, they should follow their professional, legal and moral judgement. Not doing something to save lives, because it’s going to create evaluation issues, I think, is simply privileging social science in a way that it doesn’t deserve.”

US criminologist David Kennedy partaking in the meeting. Photo: Richard Orange

Sluta Skjut has been based around so-called ‘call-ins’, in which known gang members on probation are asked to attend meetings, where law enforcement officials warn them that if shootings and explosions continue, they and the groups around them will be subject to intense focus from police.

At the same time, social workers and other actors in civil society offer help in leaving gang life.

Of the 250-300 young men who have been involved in the project, about 40 have been sent to prison, while 49 have joined Malmö’s ‘defector’ programme, which helps individuals leave gangs.

Kennedy warned not to focus too much on the number of those involved in the scheme who start to work with social services on leaving gang life.

“What we find in in practice is that most of the impact of this approach doesn’t come either because people go to prison or because they take services and leave gang life,” he said.

“Most of the impact comes from people simply putting their guns down and no longer being violent.”

“We think of the options as continuing to be extremely dangerous, or completely turning one’s life around. That’s not realistic in practice. Most of us don’t change that dramatically ever in our lives.”

He stressed the importance of informal social control in his method, reaching those who gang members love and respect, and encouraging them to put pressure on gang members to abstain from gun violence.

“We all care more about our mothers than we care about the police, and it turns out that if you can find the guy that this very high risk, very dangerous person respects – literally, you know, little old ladies will go up to him and get his attention and tell him to behave himself. And he will.”