How many of us have not danced around our living room while vacuuming or sung loudly in our car to the addictive tune of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen”? I know I have. The song and the iconic band have connected generations around their addictive melodies and emotive lyrics. I remember clearly as a young girl in the 1990s watching hours of ABBA music videos—entranced by the two beautiful women, talented male singers and their fantastic costumes— alongside my father, one of the world’s biggest ABBA fans!
A few days ago, my childhood wonderment came to life at the grand opening of the ABBA Museum in Stockholm. Hundreds of people gathered in the outdoor courtyard of the museum which will also serve as a luxury hotel and a space to highlight rising young Swedish musicians. In this way, the concept of the museum acts as a conduit between the old and new— a way to learn and celebrate the past, while promoting a bright future.
The dynamic museum display located on the ground floor follows this theme. In one area we see the original sound-board used for the earliest ABBA songs, the original glittering gold costumes worn by the group in the 1970s as well as the newest technology showcasing holographic, life-size representations of each of the members that dance and sing, or computers that one can use to “mix” your own ABBA song with the tap of your finger.
The fantastic evening concluded with a surprise performance. As hundreds of guests gathered in the elegant, cobbled courtyard the rooms facing us began to light up and some of Swedish best young singers, rappers and dancers appeared in the large window balconies dancing hip-hop and singing songs ranging from traditional ABBA tunes to Swedish House Mafia. Every guest was swaying and bobbing their heads in amazement at that point, and the fireworks bursting at the end signaled a finale to an evening that Mark and I will always remember.
Later that week, I gravitated from Swedish icons in music to design. Svenkst Tenn is one of Sweden’s most famous design stores started in 1924 by Estrid Ericson and located prominently on one of Stockholm’s most beautiful and central streets facing the Baltic Sea—Strandvagen.
It’s rare to find a home in Stockholm without some element of Svenskt Tenn adorning it. Whether it’s an elegant, clean-lined plush couch or a traditional chair conceptualized by Joseph Frank— the famed long-time designer— in 1940s that’s manufactured in Sweden by a family that has passed on craftsmanship from generation to generation or paper napkins with the bright, often nature-inspired signature patterns. The dynamic spectrum of items in a wide price-range was formulated in the vision of Ms. Ericson who wanted every Swede to be able to afford something lovely and high-quality, according to CEO Maria Veerasamy.
I met Ms.Veerasamy for lunch in the tea room of the store (another part of Estrid Ericson’s vision) and we sat next to a glass-enclosed space which was the original office of the founder whose goal was to create a brand that would last for hundreds of years. In fact, each decision that is made focuses on the question: will this help us last 300 more years? Veerasamy explains the values of the company to me as long-term, extremely protective of the original clean design and tradition, and quality, quality, quality. The goal is for each piece to be made entirely in Sweden and of the highest quality in every point of the production chain.
Although the brand is typically very Swedish, there has also been a strong thread of multiculturalism interwoven into the design and corporate culture. Joseph Frank, the famed designer and creative partner of Estrid Ericson, was of Jewish descent and escaped to the United States when WWII broke out. He came back to Sweden afterwards and brought a little bit of America with him, creating “Jackson Pollock”-inspired patterns and one even called “Manhattan.”
Veerasamy herself comes from an immigrant background with an Indian father. She grew up in a smaller town and has no formal education, she often says. But she has a vision and a determination to protect the original inspiration behind Svenskt Tenn and make it timeless. In my opinion, she is an amazing face for this brand and it was a deep pleasure to spend the afternoon with her and learn more about Svenkst Tenn!