Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant the accuracy of closed captions. These are derived automatically from the broadcaster's signal.
Counter Culture -

View in ParlView

(generated from captions) with its serene countryside, Sweden, and air of quiet confidence, its sense of order

most adventurous trading nations, is also one of the 21st century's

that reaches far beyond with a commercial influence its population of 9 million. Of all the nations, in all the world, shopping or retail scene I don't think any other country's political and social system. so closely mirrors both its this thing called 'jantelagen', The Swedes like to talk about is above any other, this idea that no Swede

that they're all equal. emerged out of this country - Globally, two big brands both H&M and IKEA - the way they're managed, and their design philosophy, companies are even socialised I think even the way those very much mirrors that system. all other retailers, though, If you stack them up against are anything but in the middle. both those companies a nice place to visit, Sweden is not just

on the world retail stage, it plays a unique role walk-on parts in fashion having turned small and self-assembly furniture global-starring roles. into attention-grabbing, God should really bless the Swedes, abide by the jantelagen code, because not only do they

the highest taxes in the world. but they also pay some of to wear other brands So while many would love or sit on different chairs,

they can't really afford anything it has to be said latest offers. other than IKEA's and H&M's Trend analyst Cay Bond their behaviour towards one another. believes this also affects is better than another one. We have values, that no-one That's Luther. that's our history, OK? That's... I mean, that it's laughable, really. And that is, I mean, so profound (Laughs) But it never goes away. It's... There is... considered an achievement I mean, it's not really to make money, for instance. then the envy comes, you know? Uh, because then it comes, because he has more money." "He thinks that he's better than me You know, reasons like that, correct in this country. it's not politically any one of these Stockholmers I'm quite sure we could follow back to their tidy little flats denim and shirts in the wardrobe, and we'd find H&M knickers, the wardrobe's name is Kvadrort and also find that and comes from IKEA. in our society, The Swedish consumer, we are taken care of. is quite spoiled because You have a certain salary, you have a certain standard

by the government. and you can also be helped consumer a special... And that gives the Swedish How do you say? to look upon consuming. ..a special way consumer really believes Uh, I think that the Swedish is the consuming. that what makes society go round always been driven by lifestyle. And how they consume has for living in well-kept, The Swedish desire small urban spaces functionally designed, of furniture that reflected also made them hungry consumers simple, modern architecture.

say quite so much about this country There are few neighbourhoods which modernist patch of Stockholm. than this particular Built in the 1930s, neighbourhood of funkis houses, it's not only a perfectly preserved in modern living, it was also an experiment

which cuts to the core people is all about. of what this country of 9 million of six decades Ruled for the better part by a social democratic government, for myriad socialist experiments. Sweden has been a living laboratory to education to childcare Everything from urban planning a uniquely Swedish touch. has been given And many of the country's policies by the rest of the world. have been both admired and derided What does Sweden mean to you? ALAN WHICKER: of living in the world? The highest standard Drunkenness and abortion? Free love and suicide? blonde and statuesque? The lovely clear-cut women, and especially design. For me, Sweden's all this are made by the Swedes. Few ugly things of pots and pans And not just the design or furniture and fabrics, but of homes. the city of the future. This has been called and powered by atomic energy. It'll be heated, lit its own nuclear reactor. In fact, it has really had the possibilities MAN: I don't think that we of a better life to realise that dream or a better kitchen or better housing

until the late '50s and early '60s. of housing at that time. And we had an enormous lack

the possibilities to change, So, overwhelmed by all the old centres. we started to tear down retrospective, it was stupid. Of course, now if you look with It was maybe even a catastrophe. We lost a lot. people saw possibilities But at the time, I think, of a brighter future, into the city centres more bringing light of Swedish smaller towns. that the old system of distribution, The Swedes are convinced across a residential district, with small shops scattered is out of date needs one-stop shopping. and that today's busy housewife No-one goes without central heating. and commonplace, even tedious. Good design is cheap to pay, of course. There's a small price which control life. A tightening of the strings An ordered, antiseptic atmosphere. Little common hilarity. of formal behaviour You're enveloped by a strict code

by a polite control. too rational for this tricky world. The Swedes may be a shade can be met by sensible organisation. They believe that every human need # If you change your mind (Abba sings) # I'm the first in line # Honey, I'm still free # Take a chance on me... # is built on its home-grown brands, Nowadays, Sweden's reputation abroad from Saab to Ericsson, from Electrolux to Abba, from Volvo to Roxette... not ALL that likable. OK, well, perhaps they're well above its weight But Sweden punches and regularly tops polls of most-admired countries.

And if you had to jot down a top-five list of brand values that best represent Sweden, you'd probably come up with traits like pure, clean, peaceful, outdoorsy and generous.

But what about words like aggressive, efficient, innovative and revolutionary? MAN: You'd be surprised if you look at how many of the major industrial innovations in the 20th century originate from Sweden. Everything from dynamite to ball bearings. Everything like this - really fundamental stuff in industry. But the Sweden that has created monster global brands has peddled away hard against its history

as a heavy industrial nation. You must remember that a big difference between Sweden and England and major continental European nations is that Sweden is not an old civilisation. I mean, just 100 years ago it was still a purely agrarian country, very poor and everything. And then came an industrial revolution in this country, where it turned from being a very backwards country

into being one of the most modern and sophisticated nations in the world, over a period of just 50 years.

We have, in a way, a much simpler society than the old civilisations on the continent. The Swedish experiment in retail has also been helped by the country's remote geography. When you're not at the centre of it all, like a London, New York or Paris, you have to work that little bit harder to make an impact. I also think all those long winter nights forced people to read more, analyse existing business models and come up with more creative ideas than people who live in more agreeable climates. Take, for instance, IKEA, founded in a very small town in the south of Sweden. It takes a good five hours to get from Stockholm to IKEA's headquarters here in Almhult. In fact, I should probably call it its birthplace, because it's rather tricky to pinpoint where the company's headquartered. It's got divisions in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Denmark, and according to a friend of mine who once worked at the company, it's perhaps one of the least transparent companies of scale. Then again, it can be, because it's private. (Speaks foreign language) On global rich-lists, IKEA founder, Invar Kamprad, frequently ranks top-five as one of the world's richest men. The reclusive Swede, now living in Switzerland, started IKEA at the age of 17 in a small garden shed, selling ballpoint pens.

Driven by profit but guided by principle, Kamprad championed his motto, "A better life for many people," with evangelical fervour. Now, 60 years on, his flat-pack concept stores are found in 33 countries around the world. If you ever wondered what would happen if IKEA actually took over the world, well, this is what it would look like, because Almhult is IKEA-town, with IKEA Street, even its own IKEA museum. Almhult is not only the spiritual home of IKEA, it's also the hub of its product development and of a massive studio and production space where those familiar room sets are created. It's probably the biggest photo studio in Europe, perhaps even the world. We produce around 2,000 room sets per year in this studio. How much is core? I mean, how much would I see replicated in the Kuwait, American, Singapore edition, and then how much is done completely fresh for each catalogue? Every picture that is used in the catalogue for the next year is...is sort of fresh. Then you can say that there is, um, a number of exchange pages

for each country that has a different range or, um... North America has a different kitchen range, for instance. But, basically, you can say that 80%-90% goes all over the world. We have a quite restrictive way of knowing about certain cultures, especially when we come to countries in the Far East. In the Middle East, where religion plays an important role, we have some absolutelys that are no-no's, things that we just absolutely can't do. So we have a very clear production plan. When we're shooting this picture, this bed, it's probably three or four versions of that bed. Does there always have to be a component of Swedishness in everything you do,

whether it's 1% or 50% of it? Absolutely. I think the roots are playing an important role in what we do. We have a point of view, and that very much reflects a Swedish or a Scandinavian way of living. I think the focus on the family, the focus on the kids, the way we treat, sort of, the kids, the way that we let the kids be a part of the everyday,

um, the way we look upon the home as not, sort of, an exhibition home. It's somewhere where you live. It's somewhere where you bring friends in. It should be a place for everyone. I think that that is very, very Swedish. Very Swedish. That same philosophy of providing affordable, accessible merchandise has also propelled H&M from the Swedish high street into the global marketplace, with over 1,000 stores in 21 countries. Their strategy of taking elitism out of fashion, by hiring star designers like Karl Lagerfeld and Stella McCartney to design for the masses, has further fuelled their cult status and caused headline-grabbing mini retail riots when the clothes hit the stores.

Last year, their pre-tax profits rose to ?260 million - a vast 34% up on the previous year. The business idea is fashion and quality at the best price. We like to think that design and good fashion should be available for everybody, regardless of how much money you have or where you live. H&M's legendary White Room - a restricted access area at their Stockholm headquarters -

is at the heart of their attitude to design. It's a vast resource of material and inspiration available to their 100-strong design team, which is lead by Margareta van den Bosch. In spite of the complexity of the operation, she puts the company's global success down to a very simple, underlying philosophy. I think that clothes should be practical, that you must be able to wash them and they're kind of, um, easy to wear and easy to handle. I think these kind of practical things can be quite Swedish. We look at our... what we are selling, and we think why and we think about the customer and we create different concepts for them. And then we also have to offer them new things all the time. And we want things to happen in the stores all the time, so people come in and see new things. BRITTON: IKEA's and also H&M's philosophy is very much like the Swedish national soul.

It's kind of complex to describe, but it's very deep in both those cultures

that everybody deserves to have fashion, everybody deserves to have interiors and therefore it should be very cheap so everybody can afford it. And that is also why, in Sweden, you'll find every girl, every boy, looks the same because they go out and buy the latest things from the chains, and people are not bothered by that. On the contrary, in many other countries you want to be different. But the Swedes, they really like to be like their neighbour, you know? They like to... It's almost scary in Sweden sometimes, you know? It's a very collective ideal that we have here. The glue that has held together this collective ideal of 'smart and affordable' for so long may now be coming unstuck as the realities of global economics bite. They do it so well, what they do. They have the best possible fashion for the best possible low price. Then, of course, if you analyse this, you can find question marks, Because instead of giving a society good jobs or giving them jobs, we take away the jobs. And we let other producers in other countries

produce for us. So, no. I don't think that is generally very good. Uh, they are both still fairly unbureaucratic. They both allow talented people to make a career fairly fast.

They're not upheld by bureaucracy or by hierarchy that could hinder the development of personal initiatives. In a sense, they are very simple companies. I think that's extremely important. With little room for home-grown premium brands and a culture where consumers shop almost exclusively on price, where does that leave all those clever young souls who power the creative component of this country's economy? Matthew, being both a lecturer and an industrial designer yourself,

what impact do you think these megabrands like H&M and IKEA have on the future of design in this country?

Meaning, the students. I think they have a huge impact. I mean, especially in that sense

that they are sort of setting up the agenda or being the manual for the consumer for what is contemporary design somehow. Even though you, as a designer, don't think of it as being contemporary - you want to be somewhere else, you want to be many steps in front of them - then still they are, to the public, the ones that is telling you what is contemporary. So I think, in that sense, they have a huge influence on what is coming out from this school and from the students' work also. WOMAN: It's hard to compete. Like, you just have to, in that sense, maybe... If you want to do your own thing, you just have to... ..take a step away from it and try to be specific in your area. Like, you're making either maybe really high quality or whatever is your specific thing. I guess, since they're covering so much and they're also so cheap, so you have to contribute with something else. Will this country, and many other European countries, only be dominated by companies which have great design at great prices? Or do you think Sweden might shift and you might see a renaissance of small design again? Where does it go? I hope it goes in that direction, that we can see small designers more in the future. Unfortunately, it's really hard to survive as a small designer. And a lot of things have actually happened in Sweden in the last years. Great independent designers coming up, but unfortunately they go dead in a couple of years 'cause it's so hard to survive.

# And I'm not gonna get pushed this time... # But Sweden is very good at exporting stuff. And the Swedish penchant for control freakery hasn't stopped them from being exceptional at creative exports in particular. Bands like the Shout Out Louds have already made it internationally, making Sweden the third-largest music exporting nation in the world after the United States and the UK. Some young Swedes are creating successful new premium labels of their own. The Stockholm-based design group Acne made their name building brands for a clientele that spans entertainment and technology. They also make quirky ads for big global players. We are a very driven design group. And for us it's always the next step or the next thing.

I think we are a little bit uncommercial in that way. We can never really transform into a company like IKEA or H&M. But they have already moved into fashion and launched ready-to-wear and denim lines. Using their unique philosophy, they bring skills in advertising, design and brand management to their own products.

We want to be perceived as something that is a little bit more intellectual. It's, of course, functional, as we are in Sweden. I want the customer to feel, when they buy our stuff, that they can have it for a longer term. It's really a challenge to make something

for a person to have it for longer term. AUDIO SPEEDS UP We're a concept that's all about design and form and music and fashion, and it transforms the whole time. So we're not gonna make, like, one thing and then stick to that. (Shout Out Louds sing) # The comeback # Let's call this the comeback. # So what's on Sweden's retail horizon? Is there an interest amongst young creatives to create a new global contender, a new brand that becomes an adjective?

MAN: The people growing up today are used to, like, really used to a very, very high standard of living. And I'm talking about also, not only upper classes and all the middle classes, but even our lower classes are used to having a very A high material standard. A lot of things. And that makes for a... They want things to come easy now. And you can still see people working very hard in this country, but I think, the youngsters, they want things quick now. And I don't think that that, in the long run, is good for entrepreneurship.

According to what you've told us here, Goran, that H&M and IKEA have managed to succeed because they've operated in their natural groove, they've operated in a...sort of a very democratic environment and they've operated largely in the middle. Could this country give birth to...a super-premium, luxury goods company? Or does the next thing have to be, then, a democratic grocery store? What happens next? I think we would never give birth to a Gucci. It's not in our genes. We've been talking a lot about post-war, post-Second World War period, but if you want to talk about the simplicity of Scandinavian or Swedish design,

you have to go further back. You have to go back to the 18th or even the 17th century,

where the lack of resources governed everything we did. That is our sort of... That is what gave birth to the simplicity. You could never dream of Sweden inventing baroque or something like that. It's not in our genes. Is the future - and maybe Sweden is pointing in a certain direction - that everything will be vertically integrated and we're not going to have this mix, everything is going to be the mono-brand? Is that where things are going? I'm absolutely sure that is going to change. The same thing that you see in food or in hospitality. You have a trend, and then it's the trend for a while and then the trend changes. I'm sure that we're going to see in, say, 10 years, we have another superstore in Sweden, with a mix,

which I think will be the really interesting thing in the future. A few things from many places, instead of many things from one place. You have to come up with something else worthwhile. Because there is, again, this value for money, this question of environment, question of fulfilment, wellbeing. I mean, those are big questions that will change the consumer society. I mean, we have to... I think that we are in the middle of a cleaning of society, of the market, I would say, more than anything else because there are so many shops, so many products, that we really don't need. And in order to be able to work or to do something that we are good at, all over the world, we need to reflect and to think about what do we really need? All the same, Sweden's domination of the high street doesn't show any signs of slowing down. It may well just be speeding up. After all, Swedish style has been adopted by most of the modern world as its style of choice. What do you think is within this country of 9 million people that has allowed you to develop this extraordinary company? It's a lot of different things. But I think our, um, stubbornness, our very, sort of, true beliefs in what we do and holding onto something, um, is also quite Swedish. But I think that the core inspiration that we seek for is how is people living their lives and how will they improve their lives? It's easy to love what we do. While there's something exciting about powerful brands that hail from a mild-mannered, unassuming nation, there's also something quite scary about them because in their homeland they've all but crushed a culture of small shopkeepers. Super-retailers are starting to have a similar impact elsewhere, with more cities looking eerily alike because they all have the same collection of megabrands. Ultimately, if it is lifestyle that informs the retail sector, it may well be that the next big idea to change the world's living rooms and wardrobes will come from Sweden. Well, that's all from Sweden. I'm off to Italy now to look at one of the last countries in Europe where small business is part of everyday life and craft and providence still count for something. Supertext Captions by the Australian Caption Centre Captions copyright SBS 2006 Coming up in SBS World News Australia at 9:30. There are concerns tonight

that millions more American jobs could be in jeopardy, with the collapse a proposed $1 billion bailout of American car-makers. Senate talks broke down over demands by Republicans that workers take steep wage cuts. Disbelief as Zimbabwe's President claims the cholera epidemic is over. Robert Mugabe's comments come as the World Health Organisation predicts tens of thousand more people may become infected. Violent protests continue to grip Greece leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. The latest unrest saw protesters clash with police in central Athens and outside a prison and university. Protestors also blocked several main roads in the capital. Many already consider it a wonder. 27 August 1939 - a few days before the start of the Second World War. A convoy of trucks is leaving Paris. Its destination is secret. Its cargo, priceless. The most famous paintings of the Louvre Museum, including the 'Mona Lisa',