It seems odd to call a region known for innovation and beyond-modern design“legendary”, but that’s the word for Scandinavian design. Shopping in Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Denmark will probably have you veering happily between traditional knitwear and holiday decorations to space-age glass, furniture, textiles, art, and maybe even a very cool dishpan, you never know.
Denmark is dangerously fun when it comes to retail therapy. If you’re looking for an authentic experience of craft art in Copenhagen, head down the little side streets – or, perhaps better still, for design-savvy Vesterbro. Here, the combined workshops, outlets and galleries will tempt you with the avant-garde side of tailor-made clothing, jewelry, art and ceramics. For Danish glassware, the 700-year-old market town of Ebeltoft leads the field. At the museum in the former customhouse you can watch the glassblowers transform the molten, syrupy mass into drinking glasses, votives and bowls, which are on sale in the shop.
Finland is indeed Marimekko and so much more. You can find Finnish glassware, porcelain and textiles in fashionable boutiques around the world, but other Finnish creativity hasn’t yet reached a global audience. You might find a homegrown potter or textile artist in a small towns or villages, selling her wares at local shops or at the Saturday morning market. There might be a bronze statue by a local artist in front of the town hall, or a large ryiyi hanging on the wall in the lobby. Finnish design is a bit like Finns themselves, practical and functional. It has its roots in a rural lifestyle, when someone in most farmhouses knew how to make a rocking chair, a willow flute or Christmas decorations out of straw. Modern Finnish designers create simple yet practical forms that serve everyday functions, and is that ever appealing.
Visiting Sweden, you’ll find great Swedish design all around you. On buildings at Stadshuset, the Stockholm Library on Odengatan, the Turning Torso building in Malmö, in shops, on street signs, on road signs (the strolling elk set against a yellow background, within a red triangle) in hotels, on buses and trains and the clothes that people wear. A visit to Sweden will inspire new ideas and you might just find yourself redecorating your home on your return. Stockholm, also known as “shopholm”, is a leading design centre, and design in the broadest sense – both contemporary and traditional – is an important part of the city’s exciting shopping scene. For cool designer clothes look out for Swedish brands Odd Molly, Filippa K, WE and Björn Borg and if you want to buy jeans with a conscience check out Cheap Monday.
The shopping capital of Norway offers a wide selection from the latest international trends to modern Norwegian designs and local handicrafts. Frogner and Bygdøy Allé are home to a number of interior design and antique shops. The area also has lots of small, independent and exclusive stores offering everything from underwear to kitchen utensils. Just down the road at Skøyen, you will find many good furniture and interior design stores. In Drammen observe local artists at work and buy art and handicrafts directly from them. Nøstetangen Glassworks produce both engraved glasses after the eighteenth century models as well as colorful modern design.
Shopping in Iceland is Hip fashions, designer jewelry, cutting edge music and sturdy outdoor wear – even the “non-shopper” is going to be tempted! Stock up on everything from fleece to hiking socks (highly recommended!) The traditional Icelandic lopapeysa, a knitted wool sweater with special design at the top and on the sleeves, is now a must-have fashion item. Reykjavik may very well be the best-kept secret of the cosmopolitan shopping enthusiast. Prices are generally on a par with those in New York City but when it comes to high fashion or designer wear, Reykjavik prices are almost always more reasonable. Thank the the lower overhead for that. Add to this the 15% tax-free refund for tourists - off a minimum purchase of 4,000 ISK (less than US $60) - and you may wind up with some excellent buys indeed. Incidentally, price tags in Iceland always include sales tax.