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Swedish sensibilities

By Rebecca Lo | China Daily | Updated: 2013-09-15 07:32

Swedish sensibilities

Karin Gustafsson, COS' womenswear designer.

Considered the sophisticated older sister of H&M, COS presents a Fall/Winter collection that emphasizes cocooning and precise silhouettes. Rebecca Lo sizes it up.

Related: COS Fall/Winter 2013 collection

COS stands for Collection of Style. Compared to its parent company H&M Group, which dates back to the 1940s in Sweden, it has a relatively young history at just barely 6 years old. However, COS quickly gained a loyal following consisting originally of H&M groupies who needed tailored clothes suitable for the office but prefer attire that embodies the brand's attitude.

COS' solid colors, flattering shapes and timeless basics also won it a new clientele of men and women who wanted to remain stylish without looking too radical in business meetings. It has already opened two shops in Hong Kong and Shanghai, plus one each in Beijing and Tianjin.

For its stand-alone boutiques, COS tends to situate them in buildings with character, while creating a neutral gallery within to showcase its designs.

Swedish native Karin Gustafsson is COS' womenswear design manager. She joined the label in 2006 as an assistant designer when it was still in the embryonic stage.

"I was super happy to be part of such a brand new concept and felt an immediate affinity with its aesthetic, ethos and design aspirations," Gustafsson says.

She was promoted to her current position in 2011. "In this role, my main responsibility is to shape a season's collection: from coming up with inspiration for the seasons' colors to developing new and interesting silhouettes."

Gustafsson began making garments at an early age.

"I grew up in the Swedish city of Linkoping, where I was inspired by my mother to make my own clothes," she says. "I started to experiment with patterns. This led me to study traditional womenswear tailoring and dressmaking in Stockholm, where I started to develop a signature technique of designing through draping."

At the age of 23, she began designing her own clothing range. "Through that, I was offered the opportunity to further my education at London College of Fashion. I loved being in London, in such a big city and around such an established fashion industry," she says.

"I then made the decision to continue studying at Middlesex University, then at the prestigious Royal College of Art. The team from COS happened to be at my graduate show, where they noticed my work and offered me a position. I have never looked back."

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