She’s been there and back again: between London and Stockholm, Ann-Sofie Back is one of few designers who can claim to have made it ‘out there’ and back home. The early noughties saw Back cement her place as Swedish fashion’s enfant terrible, rooting herself in London via the growing popularity of her eponymous label. Having amassed a devoted following in her adopted hometown, the designer soon branched out with a second line (BACK), bringing her provocative stance on beauty and fashion to the mid-market.
The curveball came when Back returned to Stockholm in 2009, taking on her current post as Creative Director at Swedish powerhouse Cheap Monday. The abstract knack for theatrics that saw the designer inject zombies and porn into her own runways and collections came along for the ride, forging a fresh vision for Cheap Monday in the process. Here, Back reflects on the big move and the eccentricities of the Swedish workforce.
Dazed Digital: You’ve been back in Stockholm for a while now. What do you miss most about London?
Ann-Sofie Back: I was ready to leave London after my twelve years there. Strangely I don't miss a thing, just my friends of course … and possibly the weekend papers. And maybe Sunday brunch in the pub. Come to think of it I miss the English countryside, that the landscape is so varied. In Sweden you can go from north to south and it pretty much looks the same.
DD: How did the move and Cheap Monday come about?
Ann-Sofie Back: During all my years in London I always felt that it was a temporary set-up. I wanted a change. I also got married to a Swedish guy the year before I moved and he has a child in Sweden so he couldn't come to London. Funnily, two weeks after I had set a date for my move to Stockholm I got an email from Örjan Andersson asking if I wanted to work with him at Cheap Monday.
DD: What do you find as the main differences between the London and Stockholm fashion scenes?
Ann-Sofie Back: Here it's very small still. It can be frustrating. In London there are different groupings and you have everything from high street, streetwear and denim brands to high end and almost couture. In Sweden we all get bunched together and compared, BACK to Cheap Monday to H&M. It's not fair to brand or company.
DD: How do you find it running your own labels and Cheap Monday?
Ann-Sofie Back: Why do I always get this question?! All other designers have multiple jobs, right? I am super organised, I have the best people in both companies that work with me. I'm really good at making decisions, I don't faff about.
DD: Did you find you needed to adjust to how labels are run in Sweden in comparison to London?
Ann-Sofie Back: Haha, yeah! Most of all it was about getting used to the flat organisations in Sweden. And that everyone has a bloody say here. Lets ask the fucking receptionist what he thinks about this colour! Jesus, it drove me nuts. And I think I drove everybody else nuts as well. Basically people here do not want to make decisions because they don't want to be blamed afterwards for making the wrong one. Crazy.
DD: What is your vision for Cheap Monday?
Ann-Sofie Back: At the moment it's not so much about the actual clothes, it's more about working on our brand identity and getting all the markets on board, opening new stores and getting the right menswear designer in.
DD: Cheap Monday’s runway shows keep getting more entertaining with every season. Why are runways important for the brand?
Ann-Sofie Back: Stockholm Fashion Week has everything from Sandra Backlund (intricate, hand-knitted, couture like fashion) to Hunky Dory (I can't even begin to describe the awfulness) to BACK and Cheap Monday. High, low, expensive, cheap. The runway show is our only chance to present the vision for the season especially when we are so many different things in different markets.
DD: And there have been so many levels in your work, from your labels to designing for H&M and working on projects for Topshop. Now, Cheap Monday. How blurred would you say the lines are today between low, mid and high end fashion?
Ann-Sofie Back: It's very blurred and I'm curious of what will happen. It is also about the slow death of multi brand stores and e-shops taking all the business. And in the long run will people have their own 3D printers and print their own Cheap Monday jeans?
Cheap Monday held their 2013 Backyard sessions at the London Fields Brewery on Friday night, with live music from Is Tropical, Kirk Spencer & Pandr Eyez.
Follow Tempe Nakiska on Twitter here @tempenakiska