Nakkna is a Swedish brand that exemplifies the directional approach of young Scandinavian fashion that has become increasingly visible on the international circuit in recent years. A triumvirate of three designers – Claes Berkes, Ella Soccorsi and Camilla Sundin- head up the label that they established in 2003 after meeting whilst at college. Since then, they have gone from strength to strength, winning numerous awards, accumulating eager stockists in Scandinavia and, more recently in Italy, Belgium, Japan and the USA.
Their AW10 campaign is beautifully realised by Emma Jonsson Dysell, whose crisp undecorated style is perfectly suited to the ethos of the brand. Styled by Tekla Knaust and featuring models Katja and Magnus of the Stockholmsgruppen agency, the high-contrast images are perfectly suited to the sculptural quality of the collection.
With its penchant for draping stark fabrics in simple colours and even its particular logo, there is something about the Nakkna ethos that connects with the tradition of European modernism, not a nostalgia for the shapes of the past or retro silhouettes, but rather a certain connection for the mindset of modernism. This is beautifully underscored in Emma Jonsson Dysell’s images where the clothing becomes an object, almost as resistant and solid as a piece of sculpture. One immediately thinks of Man Ray’s images of Lee Miller where there is an intentional effort to harness the power of black and white photography to fuse image and object, the human being and the surrounding elements becoming one. Though we tend to equate this particular aesthetic position as being one of ‘simplicity’, there is of course the old adage that reminds us that there is nothing more complicated than achieving simplicity.
Fashion’s history of drawing on the lessons of modernism taught by the masters of photography is naturally almost as old as photography as a fashion medium. And achieving a true image of simplicity whilst retaining elegance and style has never been easy or simple. As with much else, it is staged and aspirational.
One need only think of the late great Diana Vreeland’s rare forays into the territory. There is, for example, a famous image of Vreeland photographed with her family for Life magazine during World War II. It’s a far cry from the camp blood reds and hysterical chintz of her later apartment for which she became so well known. Instead, Diana, already the Queen of American fashion, needed to ensure that her image was a positive and encouraging one for the great American public during the dark days of the war. Photographed in black and white, the family are presented in a stiffly domestic mode in the apartment that appears to be almost rustic; frugal and functional and most certainly not wasteful. But, on closer inspection, the furnishings, though simple and in homely materials such as wood, turn out to be by some of America’s leading proponents of modernism. Simple, yes. But, in their own way, already luxury items and most certainly chic.
Diana, always knowing just where to pitch a gesture, clearly understood that her public were, even during wartime, creatures of contradiction. She needed to ensure that she remained an optimistic aspiration, a diversionary role model in bleak times. But, she also instinctively understood how she needed to convey that she understood the reality of ordinary life, the realities of utility and sacrifices made. The fact that this staged and measured image of family life – he husband actually spent most of the war in Canada working for the British while she forged ahead in New York- was based on something less than truthful does nothing to deny the honesty of its gesture.
In much the same way, the AW10 Nakkna campaign posits what appears to be a simple reality and yet, as all too many of us know, in the hustle and bustle of contemporary life, such simplicity and stillness remain almost impossible. As with Ms Vreeland’s constructed image, however, that does nothing to diminish its gesture as an aspiration and inspiration.