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Swedophiles: The foreigners who come to Sweden for fashion and design

A lot of foreigners who move to Sweden did so because they fell in love with a Swede or got a job in the country. But not everyone. In the third of our Swedophile series, we look at two people drawn by a love of fashion and design.

Swedophiles: The foreigners who come to Sweden for fashion and design
Nathan Lloyd (left)and his partner Tom Jones (right) on a visit to the Danish design museum in Copenhagen. Photo: private

Nathan Lloyd’s obsession with Scandinavian design was born in the second-hand, charity, and antique shops he use to love going to as a teenager growing up in Wales, and also by being “blown away” by his first visit to Ikea in Cardiff. 

“I’ve always been interested in loppis-ing, charity-shopping, antiquing, and then, within my lifetime, things that were on sale in charity shops became very much en vogue: post [the TV series] Mad Men, mid-century design very much became a thing, it was very cool again, and a lot of those design icons are Danish, Finnish, Swedish, and some of them Norwegian as well.” 

“I just connected the dots. ‘Oh, wait a second, a lot of these seem to be Nordic’. And then that, together with IKEA, and the minimalism, and the clean lines, is just a nice little marriage really.” 

When he met his partner Tom, their Nordic interest was one of the things that drew them together, although Tom’s Nordic nerdiness was more based around the Scandi crime literature that had filled his parents’ bookshelves. 

“He’s written a few short stories based on Nordic noir, And then he’s also read the whole pantheon, you know, Maj Sjöwall, Per Wahlöö, and all the Wallander series.” 

Nathan Lloyd (right) and his partner Tom Jones (left) at the Danish Architecture Centre in Copenhagen. Photo: private

Their first house together in Swansea became a sort of exhibition of Nordic design, and whenever they travelled together, Lloyd would seek out Nordic things to see, visiting the Scandi Kitchen restaurant and café in London, the Icelandic Café in Brighton, the Institute Suedois in Paris.

Then, when he won a scholarship to study in Berlin, he ended up writing a paper on the Nordic influences on the city. 

The couple finally ended up moving to Malmö almost by accident. They had found some cheap flights to Copenhagen, and decided on a whim to pop over to the other side of the bridge to visit a friend, who they found living in what Lloyd describes as “the perfect rental apartment”, on top of the roof of the city’s Caroli shopping centre. 

“It’s this glass box, very architecturally designed, very design forward. And he himself is head designer at a company,” Lloyd remembers. “So we looked at his life as this wild, unattainable pipe dream that we could aspire to but never get there.” 

After they got home, however, they suddenly began to consider whether something close to it might, in fact, be possible, with Tom, a teacher, starting to look for jobs at international schools in southern Sweden. 

When Britain voted to leave the European Union, they decided to make a move. “We just thought, ‘we really have to do this now or we might never be able to’,” Lloyd says.  

Rather than design, Lloyd has thrown himself into Malmö’s food scene, working as head guide for Matkaravan, a food tour company, and making artisanal ice-cream at Köld, an ice cream shop. He’s also big into Nordic music.

It’s, surprisingly, a very creative place. I think it’s the cold, dark winters,” he says. “It’s like Iceland, ridiculously creative for the size of its population. The dark winters facilitate a need for creativity.” 

Max Cunningham looking Midsummery on a beach in Sweden. Photo: private

One of fashion buyer Max Cunningham’s first ever posts on Facebook, aged 12, was, “Max wants to move Sweden”. 

“Whenever it comes up in my Facebook memories, I’m like, ‘God, that’s spooky’,” he says. 

For him, the appeal was not only design, but the way it is integrated into Swedish society. 

“I was just kind of, you know, ‘Everything’s very nice. Everything’s very clean. Everything works. Every Swede I’ve met is really friendly’. I’ve thought of it as being the good, progressive country.” 

He had also made close friends with a Swedish girl while at university, so when he split up with his boyfriend he decided to make the move to Sweden, and got a job as an assistant buyer with one of Sweden’s biggest, multinational clothes retailers. That didn’t work out, so he is now working as a product developer for a smaller Swedish brand. 

Since moving to Stockholm in 2019, however, he’s started to see the downside of Sweden’s minimalist, unfussy approach to fashion and design. 

“Everyone looks the same. That’s something you just massively notice, especially when you see younger people, especially younger Stockholm people,” he says. “There is such a uniform of how they dress, what they buy, the colours, the way they wear their hat, the shoes. It’s very same-y and that’s quite strange.”

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MAP: Swedes are one of the least angry nations in Europe

Swedes were one of the least angry countries in Europe, and indeed in the world, according to the latest Global Emotions Report from the international polling company Gallup.

MAP: Swedes are one of the least angry nations in Europe

Only nine percent of Swedes said they had experienced anger in the day on which they were surveyed, making the nation calmer than every other nation in Europe apart from the imperturbable Finns (5 percent), the chilled Estonians (6 percent), and the easy-going Dutch and Portuguese (both 8 percent). 

You can find a set of interactive maps produced by Gallup here, or compare Sweden on our own interactive map made with Gallup’s data below.    

The Nordic nations as a whole were far more relaxed than more hot-headed and dyspeptic nations, with no fewer than 48 percent of Turks saying they had felt angry the preceding day, 24 percent of Poles and 22 percent of Spaniards.

It wasn't only anger levels where Swedes seemed to have their emotions under control compared to many other European nations. 

Only 18 percent of Swedes said they had experienced sadness the preceding day. 

This was slightly more than their Nordic peers, with 17 percent of Norwegians and Danes, and only 13 percent of Finns owning up to having had a melancholy spell, but less than most other European countries, with 23 percent of Germans, 24 percent of French, and 25 percent of Brits, and 29 percent of Italians feeling upset or low.