Happy Midsommar! Let's Celebrate with Special Guest, Katie Lowson of Acne.

To finish up Swedish Week and celebrate the official day of Midsommar, I have a spectacular guest who's answering a few of my burning questions. Katie Lowson and I met years ago in London while I was working with her fiancé Sam and she was working as a buyer at Topshop. The hubs, Katie, Sam and I became fast friends and had an alarmingly good time together whether paddling a river in Oxford, eating giant plates of seafood, camping in Devon or simply grabbing pints near home. Sam and Katie now live in Stockholm (Sam's Swedish) and Katie is a buyer in the fashion group of the incredible company Acne (who have recently launched a line of kids' toys called Acne Jr., woohoo!) She's also keeping track of her Swedish adventures on this beautiful blog, which you should most definitely check out. She's here sharing insights into Swedish design culture, tips for traveling to Stockholm and even a little fashion advice (thank goodness, I need it!).

As a buyer at Acne in Stockholm, what is a typical day like for you?

It varies depending on what part of the season we are working on. I work very closely with my design team to create and develop a collection so at the beginning of a season we will spend time passing over sketches to a pattern team, creating toiles that we fit on models and pin and cut into a design and selecting fabrics and trims.

We travel to Milan and Paris where there are fabric fairs once a season. A wonderful place to get excited as there are just hundreds upon hundreds of mills showing their new designs for the season. I spend much of my time coordinating between design, pattern, suppliers and factories to ensure the cogs keep moving and we are keeping to our schedule. And it must be a balanced collection that has something for every price point and customer type. It is up to me to steer my designer in this direction. We only have 4 months to design, source and develop a collection of over 250 garments!

I work in a beautiful building in Gamla Stan (the Old Town). It was formerly a bank and as you enter the building you are greeted by this dramatic staircase. It is such a beautiful and inspiring building.

Where do you look for inspiration, as an individual and as a buyer for one of the most fashion-forward companies in the world?

As a buyer we start the season  (Spring/Summer or Autumn/Winter) with design research finding our inspiration for the season.  This can be visiting new interesting cities, looking through archives of magazines or archives in libraries, but inspiration can also come from  just a single painting or a picture that the design team see.

For AW11 we used the colours from Matisse paintings but we were also interested in North African desert nomads and the blankets they wear to keep warm at night. This was the main influence for the  navy and desert melange, silk and wool stripe fabric you see in the collection:

Acne is a really interesting company. What is it about Swedish culture do you think led to building a company like Acne? Could have happened anywhere else?

I don’t think so.  Sweden really values creative industry not only monetarily but also for the international recognition it gives the country.  Swedish design is celebrated across the globe and that is incredible for a country with a population of just 9 million.  I also believe the working attitude here is much more conducive to creative industry.   There is less hierarchy, much much less inequality between men and women and generally a more team focused approached.  We are the Acne Family and together we all create these amazing collections of clothes.  Everyone is made to feel important.

If I only had 48 hours in Stockholm, what should I be sure to do?

48 hours is perfect to see a lot in Stockholm because everything is so accessible by ferries, bikes and just walking.  But I’ll list some of my favourite places:

Breakfast at Mellqvist Kaffe Bar.  The best coffee and cinnamon buns in town!

The best playground for kids (and I have trialed them all with my best friend and her 5-year-old!) is in Humlegården’s Lekpark. They have the  best wooden pedal trucks with plenty of trailer attachments!

Shopping I would head to PUB (a Stockholm department store) for the interiors floor R.O.O.M.  It is a whole floor dedicated to design but it has a good mix of affordable and less affordable pieces!  It’s a great place to get inspiration for your home.

Roslagsgatan (our street!) and Uplandsgatan in Vasastan are two streets full of antique and vintage shops.  My favourite shop is Old Touch.  Full of clothes from the early 19th century forward and they have the cutest vintage/antique kids clothes.

And if you have a day you must check out Yasuragi Spa - a Japanese spa set in the woods just 20 minutes south of Stockholm (you can take a boat from central Stockholm to get there).

Oh, there is so much to choose from in this wonderful city...check out my blog for more tips...Stockholm Syndrome Diaries.

You lived in London prior to moving to Stockholm, and I imagine these cities are quite different from one another. What about living in Stockholm has surprised you the most?

How close you feel to nature even though you are in the middle of the city.  Stockholm is built on an array of different islands so you are constantly crossing water when you move around the city.  It is surrounded by water and sits on the edge of the archipelago which means you can jump on a boat in the centre of town and you have 10,000 islands within ferry reach.  We also live by a beautiful royal park (and hope to get married there too!) - Haga Parken.  It’s 12 km of park surrounding a huge lake which in summer you can swim in and in winter you can walk across the frozen water and buy a hot dog from a hot dog stand!

Sam and I spend many summer evenings there eating a picnic and fishing.   Just having that on your doorstep is a reason to live in Stockholm!

In your own words, what is Midsommar all about? How will you be celebrating it this year?

Midsommar is not a religious holiday nor about giving presents, it is simply a time to celebrate summer and it is by far my favourite time of year.  Remember we have 6 months of winter and darkness here so when the sun is out we Swedes need a big dose of Vitamin D and will use any excuse to be outside.  Last year was one of my favourite Midsummers.  We sailed in a friend's boat to a beautiful island and celebrated in a traditional Swedish way.  Hung out with friends and ate and drank untill the early hours - it was just wonderful.

This year we will have a picnic in Haga Parken with friends - hopefully if the rain stays away!  Our picnic will consist of sill (pickled raw herring), dill potatoes, eggs with caviar, Västerbotten cheese and hard bread and plenty of Schnapps!

Can you share your home’s style in one photo?

This is my bedside table (Sam built it!).  It has all my favourite trinkets on it.  Antique silver trinket boxes that my Mum has given me over the years, pictures from an old biological book that I have framed and where I always put my cut flowers.

What should a stay-at-home mom like myself wear every day to look pulled together and chic, yet be comfortable chasing a toddler on a playground?

Swedish style is relaxed, casual and comfortable.  I love that and the Swedish Mums always look stylish but in a effortless way.  Converse high-tops, cute tailored shorts and a classic breton striped top is perfect I think for any Mum.  Top it with a scarf to tie your hair back and you have encapsulated the classic Swedish style.

WOW. Thanks, Katie!! All this beauty is almost more than I can handle. I am two clicks away from booking a trip to Stockholm tonight. (Can we stay with you?)

If you like this post or just want to say "hi," don't be shy, leave a comment below.

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