Last year I traveled to Japan and a SF thread was the most helpful piece of information. This year I went to Scandinavia and was bummed when I couldn´t find much here. After reading Put this On´s series of posts about Sweden and Denmark I decided to share a couple of my own experiences too! Pardon my english, as it´s not my first language.
Malmö, Sweden, is half an hour train ride from Copenhagen. I was surprised when I learned that it is the third most populous city in Sweden, with less than 300 thousand inhabitants. I don´t think it would crack the top 100 over here. It surely has the feeling of a small countryside... downtown is somewhat busy during daytime, everything closes early, and the nightlife ends when it should be begining.
If you are on a budget it might be a good idea to stay in Malmö when visiting Copenhagen. The train crosses the Oresund bridge every twenty minutes and the regular ticket was about 15 dollars. Just go to the main station in Copenhagen/Malmö, buy the ticket in the machine or on the balcony, and enjoy the quick trip with a very nice view.
I spent a night in Malmo before going to Stockholm and a single room at the hostel Bosses Gastaninga was a good option for someone like me, who just needs ground to walk on, food to eat, beer to drink, and bed to sleep in.
I had one day to spend so I made my way through Stortorget (main square with the city hall on one side) and Gusav Adolfs Torg, waiting for the city to wake up (businesses in Malmo open around 11 am and close at 6 pm). This is an historical area with lots of cafés and small shops. One thing that surprised me was how many flowers and plants there were around! Maybe it´s to make the most out of the colors before the harsh winter comes.
My first stop was for a quick breakfast. There are so many cafes and coffebars around that I could tell that the swedes, like the brazilians, take their coffee very seriously. I guess it´s something we share, besides a history of crushing them whenever we meet in the World Cup.
Solde Kaffebar is a great stop. It´s right next do the Sofra Forstadskanalen and near the Davidshalls, a bridge with fun sculptures of shoes. Solde has high ounters and stools, creating an open and shared social space. It´s definetly not Starbucks where you sit for hours to use the internet. It reminded me of the oldest coffee shops, where bump into each other and make small talk about the news, oblivious to things like interior design, bosa nova, or font types on chalkboards. It´s just people colliding, enjoying the scents, and living the company.
From there I walked down Sodertull to Triangeln. Lots of clothing (only a few worthy places) and interior design shops. More coffe options along the way for a nice break, and more beautiful women everywhere you look. Asking for directions is almost like asking to fall in love. The Davidshallstorg area felt very hip, with some vintage shops and more fashionable stores like Trés Bien, Meadows of Malmo. A lof of nice restaurants too, but all very pricy. Actually, food was the most expensive thing when traveling around Scandinavia. I´d never seen anything like it. It felt like I was a viking, savouring every bit of scarce food, conquered from the elements.
The first discovery was a shoe shop with English and Australian shoes. Rolf Hansson & Sonner Skomakeri belongs to a father and his two sons, the three of them cobblers. In addition to selling shoes from Crockett & Jones and R.M. Williams they also do repairs in the back.
I expected cold people but the reception was warm everywhere. We talked a little about boots, shoes, parents, small businesses, blogs, and then they let me to take a look at the workshop. This might not be special for most of you, but here in Brazil good shoe making is truly dead. This was the first time I wasn´t received by a grumpy spiteful cobbler. For the first time I was someone hand welting and also a working goodyear welting machine.
Sweden is modern but it retains some old-fashioned business that are dead over here, kind of like Austria. It occured to me that while we in Brazil strive for lifestyle shops, mixing shoes, with barbershops, with beer, with coffee, custom garages, and whatever fits the "persona", some places still work in the old fashioned way. Each master with their trade, doing what they are good at, thoroughly dedicated to a craft. I enjoy the mixing and creative service, but more often than not all the complements feel like they are filling a gap, instead of complementing good product and extraodinary service..
It´s always cool to enter a concept "lifestyle" space, but I think it´s more rewarding when innovation comes not from serving beer while you get a hair cut, or from creative social media, but from seing diligence in the work of people doing something that no one else wants to do anymore. It was a very different experience for me!
The store I wanted to visit the most was Très Bien Shop. I was really eager to see the physical space behind one of men's fashion strongest e-commerce, but before getting there I need to share another very peculiar store. It is a western store with cowboy boots, hats country, raccoon hats, and other things that recall the old American West, or what we call "sertanejo".
So I got to Très Bien and had the same problem Jesse from Put This On had, but a different solution. I couldn´t believe the place was closed on a friday afteroon! I went around the corner, thinking my phone was mistaken, and found the door to their warehouse and e-commerce operation.
A friendly employee (Felicia) explained that since it´s a small town with few customers they opt to only open on saturdays and sundays. I explained my situation, and she asked for a minute. She went back inside and then finaly let me in. Maybe it was the accent... After intruding on their time I was too embarrassed to take pictures so do not have much to show.
The space is divided in three. The first room is dedicated to inventory, customer service, and logistics. Two or three people working non stop. This was in May, and they were unpacking the new Undercover collection and shipping some packages. Another large hall houses a small photography studio and the creative team. I got a quick "Hi" from each of the six desks as I walked. Overall it´s a amall structure, lean team, focused people, and no chit chat. The third and smallest room is the physical store. It´s nothing just a big mirrored dressing room, a rack on each side with brands like Rick Owens, APC, Très Bien, Palace, and Our Legacy, and a central table with some accessories. There´s very few products out so you do most of the browing using an Ipad, and then they bring what you pick.
I work with e-commerce here in Brazil and it´s such a different beast. While we creatively struggle with an over 9.000 difficulty of doing business, shops like Très bien work wonderfuly on a global scale without a complex platform, large automated logistics operations, or overly complicated shipping. Shops that sell products from all over the world to all over the world with a simple structure, while we struggle to service our own country. I guess the secret is simple: have some really good to sell, be nice, and vote well.
I showed Felicia what I wanted after browsing for a bit and while she was picking some Sun Buddies, an Overcoat, and trousers from their in house collection I talked to Bjorn. I might´ve misunderstood but I think he´s also a partner, maybe responsible for the operational side. I left happy with the new gifts and glad that I saw the backstage of one of the coolest independent shops in the world.
My next stop would be Meadows of Malmo, a store specialized in denim and workwear, with a motorcycling approach, but day passed very fast and I opted to use what little time I had left to see more of what the city had to offer.
I ate and made a quick stop at the Moderna Museet (very cool building). By the way, to eat I recommend any outdoor restaurant at Lilla Torg other than TGIF. Lila Torg is very cute little square that feels like the sixteenth century. There´s a deli on the secondary streets called the NjutBar and later on for dinner on another area there´s a rustic restaurant called Bastard.
If you keep walking down you´ll reach Triangeln and then there´s Mollen, which is a very ethnically diverse area... not as nice, but with interesting foods from around the world. Not really worth it, in my opinion, but the crew at Très Bien reccomended it at night, so maybe there´s something going on. My last move was renting a bike around Triangeln station and going all the way up to the Ribersborgs beach, passing through an industrial area on the way. It´s a nice walk on the boardwalk, or a nude swim if it´s your thing, with a cozy coffee shop at the end of the pier, right under the Twisted Torso building. And and then off to dinner.