“Well, it only took 10 years!” exclaimed Karl Lindman backstage at Toteme with his wife and cofounder Elin Kling by his side. Over the past decade, the brand has grown mightily in cachet, clientele, and commercial success without ever staging a proper fashion show. Lindman noted that they are perfectionists, hence one reason for holding off, but that this milestone was motivating.
Though not unprecedented, an off-calendar ready-to-wear show on the first day of haute couture could be perceived as a cheeky move. But the Toteme team were tactful. Rather than a large audience for the sake of generating maximum buzz, there was an insider-y feel as some 70 industry people (with a sprinkling of Parisian celebrity—think: Clémence Poesy and Caroline de Maigret) arrived to an airy and relatively intimate space, many exuding the subdued Scandinavian chic that is a hallmark of the brand.
Did Kling think differently about the looks knowing they would appear on the runway? Not necessarily, she said. “We design for real women, and we wanted to ensure that everything we show here is something that we offer.” She did, however, revisit their archives and discover that they have remained consistent all along. Fine-gauge sweaters with wraparound neck ties have been a constant, for example, and knits continue to comprise one of the more covetable categories (many were made from recycled cashmere and wool or wool certified by the Responsible Wool Standard).
A few enveloping pieces aside, the emphasis was on constructed shoulders and tapered legs, some visibly reined in by straps at the ankle. Dresses and skirts followed a similar long and lean silhouette, while those that draped contoured the body without clinging. Amidst the monochrome lineup, the styling was persuasive, as these tucked-in yet nonchalant looks satisfied what we often envision as evolved work attire. Similar options can be found elsewhere, of course—and across different budgets. But through its accessories, Toteme is proving more distinctive: see a pump that cantilevered over its heel, the molded belt that encircled the hips, or the polished bag with T-stitching. Whether or not the hand-crocheted dress was a nod to couture, it showed they have the ability to create on a more intricate level.
It made sense that a French-sounding brand launched in New York by two Swedes debuted in Paris with a fall collection versus spring—all those luxe shearlings offered oomph. Are they considering a return to the runway, perhaps during the ready-to-wear season? According to Lindman, “What we can say is that we’re all addicted now, so this probably won’t be the last time.”