From music to fashion: how Stockholm’s creative talent will bounce back post-Covid

If you live in or have spent time in Stockholm, you’ll be familiar with its creative energy and cutting-edge innovations within music, gaming, film and fashion.

From music to fashion: how Stockholm's creative talent will bounce back post-Covid
Photo: Getty Images

Creative industries that depend on connecting with an audience have faced obvious challenges arising from Covid-19. But with the rollout of vaccinations progressing, there’s renewed optimism in Stockholm among both creative people and politicians about the city’s cultural future.

The creative and cultural industries are already a hugely important part of the city’s economy – and exciting new developments are just around the corner. The Local, in partnership with Invest Stockholm, takes the pulse of Sweden’s capital – and finds plenty of signs of creative resilience. 

Interested in culture? Find out about the most exciting exhibitions and events in Stockholm right now

Brain businesses: a true knowledge hub

The beating heart of Stockholm is undeniably creative. But how can you hope to quantify such a quality? 

Well, one way is to look closer at the knowledge economy – consisting of jobs that are more intellectually-driven than physical in nature. So-called ‘brain businesses’ are on the rise in many European cities.

Nonetheless, Stockholm ranks third in Europe in this regard, behind only Bratislava and Oxford, according to the European Centre for Entrepreneurship and Policy Reform think-tank. This is sure proof of a thriving “creative class”, to use the term popularised by the author and expert in urban studies, Richard Florida. 

As stated in Creative & Cultural Industries in Stockholm, a 2020 report published by Invest Stockholm, this means both supply and demand for creative talent are high. With around one in 20 employees in Stockholm involved in the creative and cultural industries (almost 64,000 people), the report makes the case that these people are “not only passionate souls, but also professionals” who are vital to the city’s economy.

And since talent attracts talent, plenty of bright minds from around the world are choosing to make Stockholm their home.

Music: why Stockholm can still hit the high notes  

Stockholm’s global reputation as a heavyweight player in the music industry goes back decades. Whether your taste is more ABBA or Avicii, you’re sure to know something about the talent – and perhaps you stream it via Stockholm-based Spotify? Stars of today like Seinabo Sey and Tove Lo continue to burnish the Stockholm name internationally.

What about the hard figures? The average annual value added per music industry job in the city is around 1.6 million Swedish kronor, according to last year’s Invest Stockholm report. That’s more than 40 percent above Stockholm’s overall average figure per job.

Few industries face more direct challenges as a result of Covid-19. But once enough people have been vaccinated and gigs return, Stockholm’s live music scene is sure to bounce back strongly, further cementing the city’s status as a leading musical talent base.

The city’s proven track record in music is underpinned by factors that remain as relevant as ever, including reliable policies and high freedom of expression. Don’t be surprised when the next Stockholm superstar bursts to prominence – nor if it happens via social media first, and on stage second.

Find out about Stockholm’s key cultural attractions – and visiting opportunities in person or online

Photo: Tove Freij/

Gaming: booming industry seeks Space to grow

Every eighth person in the world has played a game made by Swedes. So even if gaming isn’t your thing, you’ve probably at least glimpsed one of the famed Swedish creations on somebody else’s phone at some point.

Autumn 2021 will see the doors of Space, a new digital cultural centre, open in central Stockholm. It will also be Europe’s largest permanent esport and gaming venue, with more than 500 ‘fully equipped stations’ in its gaming centre.

Space will also feature a multi-purpose arena, content creation and music studios, restaurants and cafes. It will allow creative types to thrive and to “have a stronger sense of belonging”, says Gustav Käll, CEO and co-founder.

A true Stockholm success story, gaming is also big business. Some 13 of Sweden’s biggest 16 gaming firms are in Stockholm. The value generated per employee is 2.2 million Swedish kronor – almost twice that of the average Stockholm job. 

Space will also eventually offer co-working space. The idea is to encourage Stockholm startups to develop business models in the midst of their potential audience – the digital natives shaping tomorrow’s world.

Fashion: from second-hand solutions to human holograms

Fashion is the biggest of Stockholm’s creative and cultural industries, with annual revenue of more than 69 billion Swedish kronor. Stockholmers are known for being stylish and Scandinavian design continues to be a source of fascination for much of the world.

Sustainability, a topic that permeates all areas of life in Stockholm, is also central to the city’s contemporary fashion industry. Stockholmers love to shop second-hand and companies like Sellpy, Arkivet and ReRobe have tapped into this interest to make it easier than ever to buy and sell used clothing and other items. 

Looking ahead, could the fashion and tech worlds come together in Stockholm to provide inventive new customer experiences and offerings? 

Monki, which is part of H&M group, focuses on supporting change towards more sustainable, “circular production”. The Monki brand has also investigated the potential for customers to use “high definition human holograms in Augmented Reality” to view outfits before buying online. 

Architecture: designing a better future 

Of all the sub-industries in the creative and cultural sector, the biggest growth since 2010 has come in architecture. That’s true in terms of both turnover and employees.

Major ongoing projects in Stockholm include a strong focus on sustainability but also on creating ‘urban villages’ that restore a positive sense of community. Indeed, the concept of community is central to so much of what can keep the creative industries strong in challenging times. 

And no matter what your cultural interests, or whether you get involved in person or online, you can always play a role in supporting what you love in a city as full of creative activity as Stockholm.

Looking for cultural things to see and do in Stockholm this summer? Check out the city’s latest choice of exhibitions, activities and more

Member comments

  1. Indicates how far Sweden has come and how much it has benefitted from globalization, the EU and yes, its self-propelled Americanization… When I came to Sweden 20 years ago– “creativity” was considered a bad thing. To call someone “creative” was a veiled insult, which implied they were violating the Jante codes of doing and thinking everything the same as everyone else. And this was in academia– at the universities (where one would have assumed creative thinking was the aim)! The Jante logic still thrives today in smaller towns and industries– and in the government bureaucracy– just scratch the surface.

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IndiskFika: The Indian dance group taking Sweden by storm

IndiskFika are a group of Indians in Sweden with a shared passion: dance. Two of the group's leaders tell The Local how they came to be finalists in Talang, one of Sweden's top TV talent shows.

IndiskFika: The Indian dance group taking Sweden by storm

“We’ve been very passionate about dance from childhood,” says co-founder Ranjithkumar Govindan, who shortens his name to Ranjith. “I’ve been dancing from childhood, like first grade. So once we got into our professional lives and career, I wanted to continue my passion.”

“Like Ranjith, I have been dancing since the age of three, ” adds Aradhana Varma, who joined the group in 2020. She’s been competing in and winning dance competitions back in her hometown of Mumbai ever since. 

With just a handful of members back in 2019, the group now numbers over 50, including dancers, videographers, choreographers, editors, and production crew, and they are still growing.

Listen to Aradhana Varna from IndiskFika on Sweden in Focus, The Local’s podcast. 

Click HERE to listen to Sweden in Focus on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts.

Govindan says started by dancing at various events in Stockholm alongside fellow Indian dance enthusiasts before the idea came to form the troupe. “Then, one fine day, me and one of my friends, Vijay [Veeramanivanna], said ‘why don’t we do a cover song?'” he remembers. 

“He’s very passionate about camera work, cinematography. I’m very passionate about dance,” Govindan says of the collaboration. 

Their initial idea was to take advantage of their location in to shoot dance routines out in Swedish nature, in the same way that Bollywood movies sometimes shoot routines against European scenes such as Swiss mountainsides or Italian plazas. 

“Indians are very famous for movies, like Bollywood, so we wanted to do a cover video of a particular song from a movie which was going to be released. Since we are living in Sweden, we have plenty of opportunities to cover good locations and nature, so that was an idea,” he explains.

The name ‘IndiskFika’, (“Indian fika”, a fika being a Swedish term for a coffee break in the middle of the day) came from Govindan and Veeramanivanna’s wish to combine Swedish and Indian cultures. 

IndiskFika performing in the Talang talent show. Photo: TV4

“We started with five to seven people in 2019, that was the first thing we did, and we did a shoot and edited everything, then we realised that if we wanted to release it, we should have a name,” Govindan says.

“So we started thinking ‘what name should we pick for this team?’. We came up with the idea IndiskFika. Everyone knows about fika in Swedish, right?” 

Their videos, some of which have over a million views, became popular both among Indians at home and among members of the Indian community in Sweden, whose interest helped the group grow further.

More and more Indians living in Stockholm started asking to join, and soon they were doing live performances:  one at the Chalmers University in Gothenburg, and another at the Diwali celebrations held by the Västerås Indian Association. 

When the pandemic hit, IndiskFika didn’t let it stop them. They started planning a digital one-year anniversary for the group, and began looking for other groups to collaborate with. 

That was how Govindan began collaborating with Varma, who had been performing with a different dance team. “I had been performing at various events like Namaste Stockholm with a different dance team based in Stockholm since 2017, but during pandemic, everything had come to a halt since it was a tough time for all of us,” she explains.

When new people joined IndiskFika, it gave the group a new impetus. “That’s when the boost started,” Govindan remembers. “We became stronger and stronger. So, so many things happened.”

IndiskFika first came to the attention of ordinary Swedes with an article in Ingenjörenthe members’ magazine for engineering union Sveriges Ingenjörer. Many of the group’s members are IT engineers or students at KTH, the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. “They did an article about us, about the engineers continuing their passion for dance, so that reached a more Swedish audience,” Govindan says. 

This led to more in-person performances, which in turn caught the eye of the producers responsible for Talang at Sweden’s broadcaster TV4.

“The Talang people said ‘we read about you and we’ve gone through all your YouTube videos, why don’t you come and participate in Talang 2022?’. The rest of the story you know. We participated in Talang, and we got a golden buzzer from David Batra in the prelims, so we went direct to the finals.”

David Batra, a Swedish comedian with an Indian father, is known for comedy series such as Kvarteret Skatan and Räkfrossa, as well as Världens sämsta indier (“World’s Worst Indian”), a series where he visits India, alongside public broadcaster SVT’s India correspondent Malin Mendel, and tries his hand at living and working in the country.

Batra is also one of four judges on Talang, whose golden buzzer meant that the dance team were awarded one of eight places in the final – four are chosen by votes and four are chosen by the Talang judges.

The group were among the top eight teams in the finals on March 18th, but for Indians in Sweden, reaching the final was a win in itself. They were invited for a fika with India’s ambassador to Sweden, where they were treated to both traditional Indian and Swedish treats.

The IndiskFika troupe on stage at TV4’s studios. Photo: TV4

Many of the group’s members work full-time alongside dancing, which can be difficult at times.

“It’s not easy to be so dedicated by spending extra effort after office hours, with hectic weekend schedules for rehearsals especially when everyone in the team has a full-time job,” Varma says. “There’s a lot of things that take place in the background from logistics to costumes, hall bookings, co-ordinating everyone’s availability, social media activities and so on.”

Like many foreigners, though, Govindan and Varma have taken their time adapting to life in Sweden. 

“All I knew about Sweden was that it was one of the cold and dark countries,” Varma says. “Eventually you start liking it, and you know, everything is worth it for the summers that you get here. The fika tradition, the amazing work/life balance, the nature, that’s the best part that we have here.”

“I didn’t have much of an idea about Sweden,” Govindan agrees. “The temperature, where I come from, throughout the year is between 25 to 40 degrees. In terms of temperature, nature, the people, everything is different.”

“India is very rich in culture, right?” Varma says when asked about the differences between Swedish and Indian culture. “We have a lot of colours and a lot of different flavours and you know, that’s the kind of performance we gave. That was the plan: to give a very energetic, powerful, and colourful performance.”