Inside Tiger of Sweden with designer Christoffer Lundman
New creative boss Christoffer Lundman on why Tiger of Sweden is a label of a different stripe.
‘The idea was to create a wardrobe that felt very natural and at ease’
In Esquire, we talk of the glittering heritage of British and Italian tailoring. About US collegiate prep and French insouciance, Teutonic engineering and Swiss precision.
But we rarely speak of Swedish style, or even the wider élan of Scandinavia. Perhaps because it has been unfairly distilled to a minimalist, monochromatic aesthetic.
“‘Ease’ is a very important word for us, and in Sweden,” explains Christoffer Lundman, the new head of creative and design at Tiger of Sweden. “We’re not so tied with convention, there’s no proper way to do a tie or a pocket square. No one will judge you if you have brown shoes. In England there are rules, and in Italy it appears there are no rules while there’s plenty, but Sweden is kind of a new society. It’s a country that hasn’t been prosperous for very long. We don’t have aristocracy in the same way, so there are no rules as to how you should look.’
Lundman has spent the past year reintroducing himself to Swedish culture and style. He lived in London for 20 years, studying at Central St Martins, working at Tom Ford and most recently as Burberry’s design director. Clearly an anglophile, he was so loathe to leave he commuted back to Sweden for his first big job, at Acne Studios in Stockholm. But reacquaintance with his country, and getting to work, has been smooth.
“In Sweden you can just call people, and if you have a good, passionate idea and you explain where it comes from, people tend to embrace you,” says Lundman. “It’s quite a flat hierarchy, which means you don’t have to prove yourself to be able to do something.”
First, he redesigned the logotype, bringing back the motif of the tiger left behind decades ago. “It took a long time but it should,” he explains. “I felt if that wasn’t in place then there would be no place for the clothes.”
Then, delving into Tiger’s extensive archive, he set out the references that would inform the collection. “It’s been amazing going through the archives and seeing images of people [in Tiger suits] from 100 years ago, 80, 50 years ago. You feel a strong sense of pride.”
Most men in Sweden have owned a Tiger suit — “it’s the suit you graduate in, and wear to your first interview” — so his task was to give sexy, modern impetus to a tailoring brand known as reliable, a go-to, but which has perhaps become a little rudderless, dabbling with progressive “high-fashion”. Fresh inspiration came from the 20th century’s golden decades for fashion.
“There was an amazing period in the Sixties and Seventies when culture really mattered,” Lundman says. “As a way to talk to each other, to communicate what Sweden was abroad. It was an integral part of the society. [The collection] is very tailored but there’s an ease to it. An idea of an intermingling of people. I pictured our guy in that world and what it would look like today. It was an inspiring journey, discovering Sweden again and reflecting on things I found positive.”
The clothes reflect the style of certain local iconoclasts of that era. Harry Schein, for example. A chemical engineer, millionaire, media magnate and cultural leader, he founded the Swedish Film Institute and championed progressive cinema, encouraging such auteurs as Ingmar Bergman, and modernist architect Peter Celsing. “[Schein] was super elegant,” Lundman says, “always in big black-rim glasses and with a cigarette. He even smoked in the shower.”
Schein’s elegant dandiness is seen in Lundman’s silk scarves, rakish shirts and sharply cut double-breasted tailoring. But overall, aside from occasional pops of patriotic yellow and blue, it’s a muted offering. Lundman and his team have taken special care over fabric, using venerable suppliers including Italy’s Vitale Barberis Canonico, and construction, as pieces such as the “double splittable” overcoat — made by splitting the fabric and reassembling it by hand so it’s seamless — demonstrate. “Like wearing a blanket,” asserts Lundman.
Naturally, the designer wears his own designs: “I guess I always start with myself. Sometimes it’s a version of what I’d like to be (not that I walk around thinking I’m someone else), but it’s important to try the clothes and see if they work. The idea was to create a wardrobe that felt very natural and at ease.”
There’s that word again: “ease”. And despite jamming the collection — and the wider brand — with rich, historical touch points, people of interest and contextual depth, Lundman has made the collection easy. Comprising loads of understated stuff that will make you look good, and that’s all we can ask for.
Twist in the tale: Christoffer Lundman, head of creative and design, is driving the next chapter at Tiger of Sweden