Scandinavians’ proclivity for responsible design extends into everything: fashion, food, hotels and meetings. However, today’s breed of Nordic European designers, chefs and hoteliers are propelling sustainability into a more mainstream and upmarket popular consciousness. Due to countries like Denmark and Sweden, saving the planet has officially gone from granola to glam, providing all kind of takeaways for visiting groups.
“We want to be the first brand in the world to turn corporate social responsibility sexy,” says Peter Ingwersen, founder of Noir Fashion in Copenhagen. A signatory of the UN Global Compact, the company creates high-end evening wear for the “modern, conscious woman,” using sustainably-produced, sub-Saharan cotton while maintaining transparent fair trade practices throughout the region.
In Sweden, designer Camilla Norrback is considered the future of ecofashion, lauded at runway shows from Stockholm to Vancouver. She trademarked the term “Ecoluxury,” and you can bring your groups to her shop in central Stockholm. Also consider creating your own private fashion show.
Why is this important? Cotton production accounts for 2.4% of total arable land, but 25% of global insecticide use.
This issue is not news. But using mass consumer appeal to shed light on the issue is a hot trend, and big name designers are fueling the fire. Armani created its first “ecocouture” dress for this year’s Golden Globes and Manolo Blahnik last year unveiled stilettos lined with discarded tilapia skins and raffia.
“Modern luxury is as much about the inside as it is about the outside,” says Norrback. “The chemical-focused textile industry of today does not only hurt the environment, it also creates garments that are harmful for the wearer’s health and contributes to an outdated and unsustainable society.”
“Sustainability has moved from being a treehugger thing to green luxury,” says Christina Andersen, sales/marketing manager, meetings industry for VisitDenmark. “People realize you don’t have to give up one to get the other, and everybody is thinking about what the future will be like.”
In Copenhagen, NOMA has won San Pellegrino’s “World’s Best Restaurant” award two years running. There’s a 6-month waiting list for dinner, and suddenly Nordic European fine dining has exploded on the global stage.
For example, Saveur in January wrote that Stockholm is “one of Europe’s most intriguing food cities,” following visits to restaurants like F12. Years ago, Scandinavian cuisine didn’t register in people’s minds past Swedish meatballs at IKEA.
“Farm-to-table food, that is really something that’s getting a lot of exposure,” says Magnus Lindbergh, marketing/sales manager, meetings/incentives at VisitSweden. “On the west coast, we do things like Lobster Safaris which are very popular…. Sustainability is just something that’s integrated into our culture.”
In terms of responsible and elegant hotel design for groups, the drastically modern, 812-room Bella Sky Comwell in Copenhagen is winning raves since it opened last summer. The thriving “living wall” in the lobby signals the militant dedication to earth-friendly design. The dramatic V-shape allows for two towers but only one environmental footprint. It’s great for planners since there’s only one lobby and it’s just steps to Bella Centre, Scandinavia’s largest convention center.
For incentives, Lindbergh says the unnervingly beautiful Hotel Skeppsholmen in Stockholm is popular for high-end U.S. groups. The 81-room hotel lives inside ex-military barracks built in 1702 on an island next to the Museum of Modern Art. The design incorporates the “natural and eternal phenomenon of enchanting beauty inspiring contemplation.”
Nearby at Nordiska (Nordic) Museum, the “Power of Fashion” exhibition discusses 300 years of interplay between clothing and society. Right now, a new chapter is being written.