From music to fashion: how Stockholm’s creative talent will bounce back post-Covid

If you live in or have spent time in Stockholm, you’ll be familiar with its creative energy and cutting-edge innovations within music, gaming, film and fashion.

From music to fashion: how Stockholm's creative talent will bounce back post-Covid
Photo: Getty Images

Creative industries that depend on connecting with an audience have faced obvious challenges arising from Covid-19. But with the rollout of vaccinations progressing, there’s renewed optimism in Stockholm among both creative people and politicians about the city’s cultural future.

The creative and cultural industries are already a hugely important part of the city’s economy – and exciting new developments are just around the corner. The Local, in partnership with Invest Stockholm, takes the pulse of Sweden’s capital – and finds plenty of signs of creative resilience. 

Interested in culture? Find out about the most exciting exhibitions and events in Stockholm right now

Brain businesses: a true knowledge hub

The beating heart of Stockholm is undeniably creative. But how can you hope to quantify such a quality? 

Well, one way is to look closer at the knowledge economy – consisting of jobs that are more intellectually-driven than physical in nature. So-called ‘brain businesses’ are on the rise in many European cities.

Nonetheless, Stockholm ranks third in Europe in this regard, behind only Bratislava and Oxford, according to the European Centre for Entrepreneurship and Policy Reform think-tank. This is sure proof of a thriving “creative class”, to use the term popularised by the author and expert in urban studies, Richard Florida. 

As stated in Creative & Cultural Industries in Stockholm, a 2020 report published by Invest Stockholm, this means both supply and demand for creative talent are high. With around one in 20 employees in Stockholm involved in the creative and cultural industries (almost 64,000 people), the report makes the case that these people are “not only passionate souls, but also professionals” who are vital to the city’s economy.

And since talent attracts talent, plenty of bright minds from around the world are choosing to make Stockholm their home.

Music: why Stockholm can still hit the high notes  

Stockholm’s global reputation as a heavyweight player in the music industry goes back decades. Whether your taste is more ABBA or Avicii, you’re sure to know something about the talent – and perhaps you stream it via Stockholm-based Spotify? Stars of today like Seinabo Sey and Tove Lo continue to burnish the Stockholm name internationally.

What about the hard figures? The average annual value added per music industry job in the city is around 1.6 million Swedish kronor, according to last year’s Invest Stockholm report. That’s more than 40 percent above Stockholm’s overall average figure per job.

Few industries face more direct challenges as a result of Covid-19. But once enough people have been vaccinated and gigs return, Stockholm’s live music scene is sure to bounce back strongly, further cementing the city’s status as a leading musical talent base.

The city’s proven track record in music is underpinned by factors that remain as relevant as ever, including reliable policies and high freedom of expression. Don’t be surprised when the next Stockholm superstar bursts to prominence – nor if it happens via social media first, and on stage second.

Find out about Stockholm’s key cultural attractions – and visiting opportunities in person or online

Photo: Tove Freij/

Gaming: booming industry seeks Space to grow

Every eighth person in the world has played a game made by Swedes. So even if gaming isn’t your thing, you’ve probably at least glimpsed one of the famed Swedish creations on somebody else’s phone at some point.

Autumn 2021 will see the doors of Space, a new digital cultural centre, open in central Stockholm. It will also be Europe’s largest permanent esport and gaming venue, with more than 500 ‘fully equipped stations’ in its gaming centre.

Space will also feature a multi-purpose arena, content creation and music studios, restaurants and cafes. It will allow creative types to thrive and to “have a stronger sense of belonging”, says Gustav Käll, CEO and co-founder.

A true Stockholm success story, gaming is also big business. Some 13 of Sweden’s biggest 16 gaming firms are in Stockholm. The value generated per employee is 2.2 million Swedish kronor – almost twice that of the average Stockholm job. 

Space will also eventually offer co-working space. The idea is to encourage Stockholm startups to develop business models in the midst of their potential audience – the digital natives shaping tomorrow’s world.

Fashion: from second-hand solutions to human holograms

Fashion is the biggest of Stockholm’s creative and cultural industries, with annual revenue of more than 69 billion Swedish kronor. Stockholmers are known for being stylish and Scandinavian design continues to be a source of fascination for much of the world.

Sustainability, a topic that permeates all areas of life in Stockholm, is also central to the city’s contemporary fashion industry. Stockholmers love to shop second-hand and companies like Sellpy, Arkivet and ReRobe have tapped into this interest to make it easier than ever to buy and sell used clothing and other items. 

Looking ahead, could the fashion and tech worlds come together in Stockholm to provide inventive new customer experiences and offerings? 

Monki, which is part of H&M group, focuses on supporting change towards more sustainable, “circular production”. The Monki brand has also investigated the potential for customers to use “high definition human holograms in Augmented Reality” to view outfits before buying online. 

Architecture: designing a better future 

Of all the sub-industries in the creative and cultural sector, the biggest growth since 2010 has come in architecture. That’s true in terms of both turnover and employees.

Major ongoing projects in Stockholm include a strong focus on sustainability but also on creating ‘urban villages’ that restore a positive sense of community. Indeed, the concept of community is central to so much of what can keep the creative industries strong in challenging times. 

And no matter what your cultural interests, or whether you get involved in person or online, you can always play a role in supporting what you love in a city as full of creative activity as Stockholm.

Looking for cultural things to see and do in Stockholm this summer? Check out the city’s latest choice of exhibitions, activities and more

Member comments

  1. Indicates how far Sweden has come and how much it has benefitted from globalization, the EU and yes, its self-propelled Americanization… When I came to Sweden 20 years ago– “creativity” was considered a bad thing. To call someone “creative” was a veiled insult, which implied they were violating the Jante codes of doing and thinking everything the same as everyone else. And this was in academia– at the universities (where one would have assumed creative thinking was the aim)! The Jante logic still thrives today in smaller towns and industries– and in the government bureaucracy– just scratch the surface.

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‘Don’t wear bright colours’: Eight tips on how to dress like a Swede

Swedes have an international reputation for dressing well, with Scandi style a popular trend outside Sweden. The Local asked Swedes and foreigners living in Sweden to try and figure out the best tips and tricks for how to dress like a Swede.

'Don't wear bright colours': Eight tips on how to dress like a Swede

Black is best

When asking several Swedes their top-tips on how to dress like a Swede, many agreed – wear black.

Young professional Tove advises to keep it “all black, minimalist”. Uppsala newspaper columnist Moa agrees: “Wear a lot of black clothes and DON’T wear sneakers or ‘comfortable’ shoes, like running shoes, with dresses.”

Black is a neutral colour and, in general, if you get the neutral colours right you have got a long way in following the Swedish style. 

Neutral colours and a lot of knitwear is a good starting point. Photo: FilippaK/

Stay neutral 

Sweden might be saying goodbye to hundreds of years of neutrality by joining Nato, but Swedish fashion maintains its strong neutral stance when it comes to colour combinations.

Generally speaking, in autumn and winter Swedes tend to wear darker colours, as Sharon put it: “lots of beige, grey, black and ivory knits or wool. Jeans black or any shade of blue. Black tights with white sneakers for skirts and dresses”.

“Swedes in general will wear black and navy together which I’ve not seen before,” she added.

However, as the weather gets warmer, things change, as half-British half-Swedish Erik explained: “in summer/late spring Swedes change shape and personality,” adding a bit more colour to their wardrobe.

“Lots of colours yet still somewhat monochrome,” he said.

Most Swedes don’t wear a tie at work. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Follow the news trend, drop the tie

Nils, a reporter and presenter for public broadcaster SVT in western Sweden, does not always wear a tie in front of the camera – and he said his colleagues on national news don’t wear ties either.

“It’s not a must,” he said.

A blue shirt, no tie, top button open, beige chinos and a grey dinner jacket is the look he chose when presenting the evening news a few weeks ago.

Nils Arnell presenting the news on SVT Nyheter Väst. Photo: Nils Arnell/SVT

On a day to day basis Nils, who stressed that he’s “not a fashion expert”, gave the following advice: “As long as you manage to dress in a neat style, you can get away with quite a lot.”

“A white t-shirt and an overshirt work well in most situations and look stylish.”

Stay classy, even in class

Engineering student Erik (not the same Erik quoted previously) recently returned to Sweden from a one-year exchange at Birmingham University, where he noticed a big difference in student style between the two countries.

“The first thing that comes to mind is that on university campus there are so many people wearing work-out clothes, at least where I was”, he said.

“In Sweden, it’s more common to wear jeans than tracksuit bottoms, compared to the UK”. 

It’s also common to see a difference in styles even between departments at Swedish universities. The law and economics departments, for example, tend to wear more formal attire with a higher number of students wearing shirts and polos than, say, social sciences or engineering students.

Many students seem to wear a toned-down version of what they might be expected to wear in their future workplace.

When in doubt, think Jantelagen!

Equality and conformity are important concepts when it comes to many aspects of day-to-day life in Sweden, including the clothes you wear.

This doesn’t mean you have to do exactly the same as everyone else, but more that being too flashy or over-the-top can be frowned upon.

This can be traced back to Jantelagen, “the law of Jante”, a set of 10 rules taken from a satirical novel written by Danish author Aksel Sandemose in the 1930s, which spells out the unwritten cultural codes that have long defined Scandinavia.

Jantelagen discourages individual success and sets average as the goal. It manifests itself in Swedish culture not only with a ‘we are all equal’ ethos but even more so a ‘don’t think you are better than anyone, ever’ mindset.

And this is seen in Swedes’ attitude to clothing, too. Flashy, expensive clothing with obvious logos or brands designed to show off your wealth breaks the first rule of Jantelagen: “You’re not to think you are anything special”.

‘Stealth wealth’

This doesn’t mean that Swedes don’t wear expensive clothes, though. They’re just not in-your-face expensive.

Felix, a podcaster from Stockholm describes it as “stealth wealth”, saying that Swedes would have no problem buying and wearing “a black jacket without any tags for 10,000kr”. 

Despite living in Sweden his whole life, he said that it’s not always easy to get the style right.

“I’m struggling myself,” he admitted.

He suggested taking a look at fashion blogger and journalist Martin Hansson for inspiration on how to dress. 

“Do NOT use bright colours,” Felix added.

Birkenstocks with socks. Photo: Carl-Olof Zimmerman/TT


Most of those we asked said that Swedes are a fan of white trainers, most commonly Stan Smiths or Vagabonds.

With the shoes being popular all year round for men and women, this can cause issues at house parties – as Swedes take off their shoes when they come inside.

This inevitably results in confused guests at the end of the night trying to figure out just which pair of white trainers belongs to them – and trying to find one missing shoe the next day because someone accidentally walked away with one of yours is more common than you might think. 

Vans trainers are also popular amongst more alternative crowds (black of course). At work, dress shoes are popular in the winter and loafers or ballerinas in the summer.

In the summer months, you’re likely to see Birkenstock sandals on men and women. Most Swedes wear Birkenstocks without socks – unless they’re off to do their laundry in their building’s tvättstuga.

Birkenstocks are also popular as indoor shoes all-year-round, both at home and at work. It is common to have a “no outdoor shoes” policy in gyms, schools and some offices. This is to avoid bringing a lot of dirt indoors, especially in the winter months when there is snow, rain, grit and salt on the streets.

H&M’s then-CEO Rolf Eriksen wears colourful socks at a press conference in 2006. Photo: Björn Larsson Ask/SvD/SCANPIX/TT

Don’t forget the socks!

As you often take your shoes off indoors in Sweden, your socks are visible.

This has led to an unexpected trend for colourful socks with interesting patterns, which are a great way to break the monotone of neutral colours and conformity by expressing your personality – in a lagom way, of course.

A pair of colourful socks or a playful pattern will get you noticed and likely be a conversation starter at a dinner party.

What’s your best advice for dressing like a Swede? Let us know!

This article is based on the responses we received from Swedes and foreigners in Sweden on what they think you should wear if you want to follow Swedish fashion trends.

If you have any tips of your own which you think we’ve left out, let us know! You can comment on this article, send us an email at [email protected], or get in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram: @thelocalsweden