A version of this story originally appeared on the Strategist US.
Being a Strategist staffer abroad carries a certain level of responsibility. While we may be ostensibly relaxing, we still have to keep our eyes peeled for any exciting products worth bringing home and spreading the word about. So when I went to Scandinavia, the birthplace of all things design, I was ready to sniff out some serious finds. And find I did. My wares include a status-y Swedish raincoat, a genuinely adorable brand of Danish ceramics, and a new notebook that might take the place of my reigning favourite. Here are all the things I schlepped back across the sea, which you can conveniently buy from the comfort of your couch.
My travelling companions quickly brought it to my attention that my plan to run around Northern Europe without a raincoat was remarkably shortsighted. I countered that I had lived in rainy Providence for four years without one and got along just fine. Then we passed the Stutterheim store. Stutterheim is a status-y Swedish brand that nabbed the top spot in our best raincoats for women roundup during Rain Week. I had long admired its minimal silhouettes and muted palette but couldn’t justify the price tag. But then I learned two important things: Stutterheim is much cheaper in Sweden, and the store we found was having a sale. A friend of mine went for its classic Stockholm jacket in blush, but I gravitated toward the Mosebacke. The sweetest store attendant I have ever met (who was obviously not communicating in his native language) said he found it better for ‘woman with shape,’ and I agree. The slight A-line flare leaves some much-appreciated wiggle room around my hips and lets me comfortably button the coat all the way down. I bought it in a classic camel colour, but I also love the idea of wearing sky blue on grey days. I wore mine for the rest of the trip, received many compliments, and, almost as important, stayed dry.
If you ever find yourself in Stockholm, stop by the Acne Archive, Acne’s fancy name for its outlet store. After playing dress up for over an hour, I walked away with a striped sweater that truly stands out from the dozens of other striped sweaters hanging in my closet, owing to its asymmetrical stripes and mishmash of colours. The one pictured above, while not exactly the same, has a similar spirit.
Letting a Strategist writer loose in the Hay flagship is like letting a child loose at Disney World. If you’re unfamiliar, Hay is a Danish brand that is widely beloved for its well-designed yet lighthearted homewares. While I couldn’t fit a wonky vase or marbled jug in my suitcase, I did pick up this fun toothbrush — mostly because my Radius Tour travel toothbrush had snapped in half but also because I wanted a souvenir to remember my pilgrimage.
Yes, the drag of stores in Stockholm’s Old Town are positively dripping with gnomes. And while I usually try to avoid buying tourist-y junk, I felt like I needed one of these little cuties hanging from my tree come Christmastime. So I bought one. My travelling buddy bought two, believing the shopkeeper when she said, “It’s better for them to have a friend.”
Salmiakki is black licorice with ammonium chloride that gives it a salty twist. It’s Scandinavia’s Vegemite. The flavour is almost medicinal — salty and sour and not very sweet. Most people find it hard to stomach if they didn’t grow up eating it, but I like it a lot. Among my friends who tried it, I was decidedly alone in this sentiment, but I bought some of it to bring home anyway. I plan to put it out during the holidays without warning my unsuspecting relatives. Surprise!
I first discovered these delightful little ceramic ghosts at a boutique in Reykjavik four years ago — and immediately bought three — but their maker, Studio Arhoj, is actually based in Copenhagen. The company makes figurines in a variety of funky shapes. The studio even has a collab with British streetwear brand Lazy Oaf. I was crashing with an old friend at her new flat in London, so I bought her one of the ghost figurines at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk as a combination hostess-housewarming gift. She loved it, and he now watches over the living room from his post on a bookshelf.
Copenhagen is arguably the epicenter of the hair-clip frenzy. After seeing many, many chic Danish women biking along with their hair pinned up with a variety of jeweled claw clips and acrylic hairpins, I had to buy some for myself. I like these because they feel a little more sophisticated than some of the kindergartner-adjacent baubles I’ve seen.
As one of the point people for our megalist of the 100 best notebooks, I consider myself to be a bit of a stationery expert, which is why I was so thrilled to discover Notem. The brand was founded in 2017, and according to its website, it is “inspired by human nature, by the way we keep track of things, by our sense of time and our memory.” This is admittedly a lofty sentiment for stationery, but the notebooks are very, very good. They check a lot of boxes for me: They’re pocket-size with a soft yet durable cover and smooth paper. This one reminds me of my Hobonichi Techo but packaged in a decidedly more cheerful cover.
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