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Exclusive interview: behind the scenes at Cos


Cos has become one of Scandinavia’s most successful international fashion brands. Stephen Doig meets the designers behind the label

Stephen Doig
Stephen Doig ,

It’s hard to imagine how the contemporary wardrobe would function if it weren’t for Scandinavian design and ingenuity. Far beyond Stockholm – from Tokyo to London – Swedish fashion has been one of the biggest sartorial stories of the past decade. Leading the way is Cos (Collection of Style); owned by the company behind H&M and launched across the world in 2007, it has become the go-to label for elegantly constructed separates.

‘The Cos aesthetic can be described as modern, as we are trying to innovate in all that we do, from new fabrications to the website design,’ explain Cos’s designers Karin Gustafsson and Martin Andersson, speaking from the company’s slate and grey, ice-cool-calm headquarters.

Covering the basics

Cos’s mission is to provide high-quality, classic and understated wardrobe staples. ‘We believe in timeless pieces such as the white shirt, chinos, the little black dress and lace-up shoes, which can be worn effortlessly season after season, and it’s important to get these right,’ say Gustafsson and Andersson. And they certainly do get it right: the brand’s clothing – from shift dresses in subtle, nuanced colours to beautiful knits – show impeccable cutting, discreet detailing and innovations in fabric technology. ‘Every garment we design should have a certain level of functionality; we add pockets and zips where you need them. Overall we try to make sure that all our garments have a tactile element to them so that they feel great when you wear them.’

Scandinavian outlook

Describing Cos as ‘international with Swedish heritage’, the designers cite architecture, art and design as their inspirations. The collections are remarkable for their fluidity and their refusal to rely on trends and, as a result, the company has helped to make the Scandinavian minimalist aesthetic a fail-safe option for informed dressers across the globe.

The company’s success comes at a time when Scandinavian fashion is attracting global attention, with other labels such as Acne, Cheap Monday and House Dagmar gaining a loyal following among style enthusiasts who want to source their wardrobe off the beaten track. ‘We think of Cos customers more as a group of friends. The Cos customer is someone who shares the same interests and opinions, someone thoroughly modern, confident and stylish,’ says Gustafsson.

Store credit

‘Our customers are style conscious, confident, have a big-city mindset and are up to date with what is happening in the world, whether it’s art, music or politics. They want value for money, a good service and an inspiring and pleasant shopping experience,’ Andersson continues. This explains why each Cos store is a welcoming oasis of calm, even those in major cities. Decorated in neutral tones, they are impeccably designed spaces with art on the walls, soothing candles, coffee-table books, in-house magazines, sofas and chairs. This would be par for the course for a luxury label, but is more unusual for a label such as Cos, which has a lower price point.

Season’s greetings

As well as highlighting the importance of the stores and the classic clothing, Cos’s designers underline the importance of adding ‘standout pieces on a seasonal level’. For autumn/winter 2013/14, the label focuses on silhouette by way of sharply belted wool tunics, and dresses with voluminous shapes. ‘Precision silhouettes and cocooning shapes are at the heart of Cos for autumn/winter, as the dramatic scale of nature inspires cut and cloth,’ say the designers. ‘The minimalist construction of tailoring is at the forefront, as are textured fabrics. We’ve looked to the mineral greys of mountains and the muted shades of the beach in winter – pale sand and sea green.’ 

A hint of Scandinavian seascape in this winter’s wardrobe – the style conscious can rest easy.

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