Swedish class resumes tomorrow night and I’ve been wondering all night about what I should “write” in preparation for class.
I’ve been thinking I could write a piece about the comparisons about the Australian and Swedish political systems. Interestingly, the Government in Sweden is currently a Centre-Right coalition, while the Opposition is a Centre-Right (Red-Green) coalition, which, perhaps, might be what happens in Australia also? Centre-Left and Centre-Right, of course, are relative terms, since pretty much all of the political parties in Sweden would be to the left of most of the political parties in Australia.
I’ve also been thinking I might write about an aspect of Swedish corporate culture which might be about to launch in Australia, following in the foot-steps of IKEA. I’ve been reading tonight about speculation Swedish clothing company, Hennes och Mauritz (H&M), may be about to announce their first shop in Australia, possibly in the new Pitt Street Mall complex. I wish!
As well as adding a bit of “Swedishness” to Sydney, I’m also excited because they have clothes which, generally speaking, actually fit me.
As a average/shortish man with a roundish tummy, I generally find clothes shopping quite difficult. Generally speaking, when I buy a pair of jeans, I need to get the legs tailored, removing four or five inches from the legs. I find it remarkable why this is necessary, since I see an awful lot of Australians of similar proportions, especially in Central Sydney with a large Asian and Middle-Eastern populations. Often I find myself, oddly enough, as one of the taller people in a room or bus, even though I’m only 174cm tall. Yes, there are lots of tall, thin people around, but there are also lots of short people in Sydney too. And I wonder how many of us are going to the tailor to have our jeans modified?
As a result, over the last few years I’ve tended to favour the second hand clothing store. First, it’s part of my general philosophy the world is full of crap and that we should recycle as much as possible. Second, it’s a cost factor, as you can usually pick up some very nice clothing for next to nothing. And third, most of the clothing adjustments have already been done. Rather than go to a tailor and have several inches removed from the legs, I can actually go in and find clothing where those necessary adjustments have already occurred.
A few years ago I picked up a pair of second hand jeans while visiting the town of Coonamble in Western NSW. Although I was impressed with the price – just two dollars at the local op-shop – I was more impressed with the fact they fitted, instantly, off the shelf. Whoever had them before me was obviously the same weight and height, and for that I was truly grateful. No stuffing around in the changing room, no going to tailors, they just fitted!
The only other “jeans breakthrough” I’ve had occured in March this year when I went to H&M in Copenhagen. The jeans I purchased for about $50 fitted right off the shelf, both in terms of waist and height measurements. I’ve been wearing them ever since. I love them.
A couple of years ago in Sweden, I also bought a great black polo shirt from H&M which also just “fitted”, and looked good.
Although I appreciate there are some “issues” associated with the manufacture of clothing through these international chains, I’m a bit of a fan of Hennes och Mauritz, both for their Swedish-ness and for their manufacture of clothing which just “fits”.
There’s also an interesting broader issue about H&M, which reminds me of a program which I saw on SBS a couple of years ago about Swedish corporate culture.
The central thesis for the program was that years of extreme poverty, followed by years of high affluence have influenced the nature of Swedish business. “We think that everyone should be able to afford good fashion”, said someone from H&M. Later, another commented, “That’s why in Sweden all the young people dress the same, and it doesn’t worry them. In some countries, everyone wants to look different, but that’s not the case in Sweden”.
An interesting philosophy. I wonder if it will have much traction in Australia, or have we all become such individualists that we would all want to dress differently or maybe we won’t notice so much? I suspect, at heart, we remain a largely conformist culture (“we’re all individuals”) and they’ll do reasonably well.