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How Swedish label Cos has changed the way we dress

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When Cos first opened in London in 2007, no one predicted the influence it would have. Everything about the new brand from the Swedish retail giant H&M was quiet – and the fashion world at that time was not.

This was the year Fendi threw a fashion show on the Great Wall of China, the era of body-con minidresses and YSL Tribute platform shoes, of Uggs and denim shorts. Even the name of the new brand was understated. Cos? Collection of Style, in case you didn’t know. But H&M – known for its cheery, fast-fashion global chain – had spotted a gap in the market for a store that offered superior design at a good price.

“Early on we decided that, for us, good design is something that lasts for more than one season in our customers’ wardrobes,” says Karin Gustafsson, Cos’s creative director and a member of the original design team. “Not only because of the quality, but because of the aesthetic. We wanted a timeless look that would be a lot more understated.”

The result is a distinctive, architectural style that until then was only seen in European luxury fashion houses: A-line skirts, tunic dresses and buttonless coats. The white shirt was key and there were lots of black, grey and solid colours rather than prints.

“We didn’t set out to be minimal,” says Gustafsson. “We were focused on functionality, on designing pieces to last. And it worked.”

Cos now has more than 210 stores globally, including three in Australia after launching here in 2014.

The brand’s aesthetic continues to attract a certain mindset rather than a certain age. Ten years is a long time to be in fashion, but real style lasts a lifetime.

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