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Style, innovation & equality

”If we can make even a small impact in this mighty monster city of 22-23 million or so, that would be something…”

This week creatives Claes and Christina Britton brings the best of Swedish art, fashion, and design to India for the special event Swedish Style in Mumbai.


— These days there’s a lot of focus on China and the Far East. In India, there is a real opportunity and the time to take it is now, says Claes Britton.

Claes Britton started his career as a journalist and investigative reporter in the mid-80s before he moved to fashion magazines and met his wife Christina at Café Magazine, where she was the founding editor in chief.

— Together, we founded our branding agency BrittonBritton and Stockholm New magazine in 1992 and have worked together ever since, with a very wide range of projects and commissions in fashion, design, art, hospitality, lifestyle, and nation branding, he says.

Around the Millenium, the couple arranged several huge lifestyle events around the world together with Stockholm New. Milan (1998), Tokyo (98 and 01), and New York (00), and on a smaller scale also in Paris and London.

— It was a format that we actually invented more or less by chance, quite organically — a kind of three-dimensional version of our magazine where we crossed various creative expressions, such as fashion, design, music, and gastronomy. In our ”live-in exhibitions” guests were invited to experience, enjoy, mingle and network in a sort of total experience of Sweden and Swedish creativity, says Britton.

The events were all great successes but the Tokyo events especially, Britton describes, have been enormously important for the creative and commercial exchange between Stockholm and Tokyo, Sweden and Japan.

— At the second event, Swedish Crown Princess Victoria was our guest of honor and it was a great spectacle, with also probably 250 Swedes at least there for the occasion.

However, the couple had never dreamed that they’d ever do anything like that again.

— In the first place, we don’t have our magazine anymore, as the last issue of Stockholm New was published way back in 2002, though we made a comeback with a coffee table book and museum exhibition in 2013. Second, these kinds of events are enormously stressful, with tremendous pressure, but also the most fun and inspirational you can engage in. Third, we thought we had left all that behind us a long time ago, as we’re approaching respectable age…

But the couple has gone to Goa every winter for the past ten years. And being the main getaway for the Mumbai jetset and party crowd, only an hour’s flight away, they’ve met a lot of people from there through the years.

— Mumbai is a city that has long fascinated me. Some five years ago or so, I started thinking that Mumbai could be a city where it could be interesting to bring the concept back to life — in a whole new age. India is still much of an untold story in Sweden. Many are a bit afraid of it, even if they don’t want to admit it, and not that many are fully aware of the mindblowing potential of this vast market of 1,2 billion. As Mumbai is the financial, media and fashion capital of India, home of the peerless Bollywood dream factory and the most modern city in India, very cosmopolitan, the thought was very intriguing. If we could break through here with Swedish creativity, it could be extremely exciting. To be honest, the thought of doing this in any of the more ”traditional” fashion metropolises all over again in a new time wouldn’t have appeared that appealing to us. But Mumbai, that was another story… a much more thrilling challenge.

The couple knew from the outset that doing this in India would be extremely difficult — an extreme challenge, something completely different than in these other cities.

— India is different, which is one of the things I love about it, for good and ill, says Claes Britton. And we were indeed right, to say the least. The project has been riddled with all kinds of problems and challenges from beginning to end. But we went ahead and took on the challenge, a bit of daredevils as we’ve always been…

What could you tell us about the event?

— It will hopefully be a very pleasant, attractive, inspiring and thought-provoking experience for our guests. A local PR agency is helping us design the guest lists. The program is very dense. A lot of things will happen over these days, a lot of impressions, exchanges and personal meetings. Hopefully, a lot of new interesting and fruitful contacts will be formed. Much is packed into two days. The event could easily have been expanded in time, but it’s not possible, says Britton, continuing,

— We’re very proud of all artists and creatives we’re exhibiting. For me personally, Mikael Jansson and Jonas Åkerlund are near to my heart as I’ve known and worked with them for decades — almost like brothers. The same with Frederik Lieberath whose landscapes in the show have special emotional value for us. We haven’t known Julia Hetta for as long but we’re extremely proud of her recent success — so well deserved! She’s a real visual poet. Of the artists, we’re proud to show three young talents — Anna Camner, Hannes Michanek, and Danilo Stankovic, along with the two older established stars Carsten Höller and Karin Mamma Andersson. We have a subtle theme for the art selection in nature and Nordic soul. Also, we selected the art for an audience that isn’t necessarily primarily an art audience.

— On the design side, we’re excited to show Front — the truly genius design duo of Anna Lindgren and Sofia Lagerkvist. Their design is so sharp and so conceptual, really bordering on art. Their objects are humoristic and surrealistic without ever losing elegance.

— We’re also most proud of the three young tech brands we’re showing. First Teenage Engineering’s music production equipment and home electronics, with Ann-Sofie Back, who is coming to Mumbai, as their new accessories designer. Then Ride Cake, the sensational new electric off-road motorcycle, and Airinum, fashionable air filter masks and health accessories. A fourth in is re:newcell, developers of recycled textiles for the fashion industry.

— One of the highlights of the event is of course also the fashion show styled by Robert Rydberg, which we’ve had to fight very hard to realize as it is costly and complicated to do in Mumbai. We’re showing Our Legacy, Hope, Totème, Eytys, and Selam Fessahaye on Indian models, slimmed down in format, with a soundtrack designed and collaboration with Jonas Kleerup and a film by Jonas Åkerlund.

What’s the ambition?

— It’s very clear: to raise the profile and awareness of Sweden and Swedish creativity in India and to stimulate long term creative, commercial and cultural exchange between Sweden and India.

And will this become a recurrent annual event?

— There are no such plans at present — we have no capacity to look further than two days this week. However, this is absolutely our ambition. To achieve real impact and clear positive results — which we know we can — it has to be long term and re-occuring, like in Tokyo. Annually sounds a bit exhausting but we definitely want to come back to Mumbai. New Dehli is also interesting. The second time we will have made all the mistakes and learned from them. Hopefully, no surely, it will be a lot smoother — and also bigger!

Another exciting thing with this event, Britton explains, apart from the venue, is the communication dimension.

— In the old days, when we did these events, we didn’t have access to all these fantastic digital media. When the event was over, it was over. Now the event will live on in a number of media — website, social media, live broadcasting and more. It will be very interesting to see how far this can take us. Hopefully, these channels will help in forming a real bridge of creativity between Sweden and India in the long term. These days there’s a lot of focus on China and the Far East. In India, there is a real opportunity and the time to take it is now.

After the event, he will go back to finish his book, a biography on Pontus Hultén (1924-2006), the founder of Moderna Museet, Centre Pompidou and four other museums in four other countries.

— I had to pause this work for six months for the work with Swedish Style Mumbai, he says. We’ve had to pay a high price for this — we tend to always play with high odds — but if all goes well it will be so much worth it and something to think about in front of the fireplace in our old age. Now, however, the perspective of taking this further in India and perhaps other parts of Asia is indeed enticing…