Tove Styrke Is a Hit-Making Swedish Pop Star Who Supports Emerging Designers

Tove Styrke (pronounced “tuva stierka”) is a Swedish pop star who radiates energy. It emanates from her small frame, giving the impression that, like Superman, she could leap tall buildings in a single bound, though she’d probably swap the cape for a cowboy hat. “What I wear, how I do my makeup is an extension of what I’m trying to communicate, and I want to find interesting ways to present myself and to make myself feel larger than I am, like a superhero version of myself,” she told Vogue on a recent visit to the office. Styrke turned heads in a metallic-blue vinyl-by-the-looks-of-it suit by a French designer that she paired with a white sports bra and Eytys sneakers. Clearly, this is a woman who loves fashion, and is not beholden to trends.

Styrke, now 27, relates that her first fashion memory is of sequins, which says a lot. The singer clearly retains a sense of play. She wore shredded denim to a black-tie event recently, though she’s careful to steer clear of costumes. What she wears onstage, she insists, has “to be fashion; it needs to feel modern and smart, and it needs to feel human, not like, ‘Oh, it’s a character onstage’—it needs to be me.” To that end, Styrke often commissions pieces. There’s a photo of Styrke with her arm around Katy Perry (in 2018 Styrke toured with the “Dark Horse” singer, as well as with Lorde). In the pic, the Swede is in a top by Antonia Larsson Pihl, who was then still a student at Beckmans College of Design. “I think I tend to work a lot with young designers or design students because they don’t need to sell, they can experiment, and just go for it and have fun,” Styrke says.

Her interest in fashion isn’t random or simply decorative. “Fashion and makeup and all of this can be so freeing and liberating,” she says. It’s not just this Swede’s energy that’s infectious; her empowering message is too. “To me,” she says, “loving yourself is a really important thing. I want to inspire younger people to be thinking that [they’re] awesome!” Clearly, Styrke is leading by example.

As the Fall 2019 shows kick off in Stockholm, Styrke riffs on Rihanna, “badass socks,” and more.

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When did you realize you had musical talent?

I grew up in Umeå, Sweden, and I moved to Stockholm when I was 17 to pursue music. My fixation with expressing myself through music started really early. One of my earliest childhood memories is being mesmerized by a keyboard and the fact that I could make sounds through it. I always had this confidence in music that didn’t really come from talent; it was just a language I felt that I understood and was free to use however I wanted.

What’s your first fashion memory?

Sequins. Freaking sequins, man. I got a sequined skater skirt in hot pink for my sixth birthday that my friend’s mom made. I still remember exactly how it smelled (plastic and amazing) and how it would flow around me straight out to the sides like a pink glittery wave when I twirled.

Backstage in a look commissioned from Selam Fessahaye.
Backstage in a look commissioned from Selam Fessahaye.
Photo: Emma Svensson / Courtesy of Tove Styrke

How did you dress as a teenager?

Part princess, part skater boy, part Shakira, when I decided to perm my hair to look like her.

Do you have any style icons or other influences that have helped you shape your own style?

Rihanna. Everything looks good on her. Whenever I’m unsure of how to style something, I go, “What would Rihanna do?” and I do that. It doesn’t matter if it’s a selfie of her wearing a bikini and a belly chain, or red carpet in a Swarovski crystal embellished gown, she’s always first, she’s always the coolest, she always feels true to herself. She’s also a chameleon and she uses fashion to change people’s perception of her, which is something that resonates with me.

In Rave Review.
In Rave Review.
Photo: Courtesy of Tove Styrke

How do you use style to express yourself IRL and onstage?

Style to me is all about creating space for myself to broaden who and what I can be both on and off stage. I want to constantly push myself and play with expressions, put a twist on things people have seen before, and create something new and fun and unique. In my personal life I like to experiment with style as a way to communicate my identity and alter how people perceive me. I like to do that in my day-to-day so that I can then zoom in on an expression that feels particularly interesting and that works with the music on stage.

Do you wear a lot of pieces by Swedish designers?

Tons. Some brands I really love are Ida Klamborn, Eytys, STAND, Diana Orving, Arethé, Rave Review, and Antonia Pihl.

You were wearing Antonia Pihl before she even graduated. How did you decide to seek out and boost young designers?

I feel like it just happens naturally. You wear something on a shoot that’s really cool and in most cases it turns out to be a new up-and-coming brand or somebody who’s still studying at Beckmans or Swedish School of Textiles. Or you find out that a friend of a friend is making really cool things. And it’s awesome because it’s a win-win situation; it means a lot for them to have an artist wear and support them, and it’s nice for me to be able to have that personal contact with someone where you can just reach out and say, ‘Hey! I need something like X. Can you help out?’ I love that.

Can you share some of your discoveries?

One of my favorite brands is Rave Review. All of their pieces are made from reused materials such as old lace tablecloths, curtains, and bedsheets. Every single piece is unique. When I’ve wanted more bold but wearable pieces, Antonia Pihl has been great. She makes these oversize T-shirts, for instance, with bold prints front and back that I love and wore for all my press pictures. I also love the RABBITO pieces that Sara-Lovise Ewertson makes. Other people I’ve been working with are Selam Fessahaye, Emelie Janson (Swedish School of Textiles), and Alina Bendikova [of] Arethé.

Why is it important to you to promote emerging talents?

Because I feel that there’s so much creativity and fearlessness to be found there. I’m the kind of person who will scavenge sex shops, have pieces remade or sewn from scratch to create a look that feels interesting and fun to wear. I want clothes that don’t just look good, I want what I wear to say something. Mean something.

What are some highlights of your stage wardrobe?

The green neon pants that Selam Fessahaye made for me became sort of legendary on the Melodrama Tour when I opened for Lorde in the U.S. I don’t know how many people came up to me screaming that they needed my pants and wanted to know where they were from. And, of course, there’s the “Tove Styrke” hat. It took on a life on its own. People really loved it.

Can you tell us more about the hat?

Well . . . I came up with this genius idea that, because my logo is round like a life buoy, wouldn’t it be so obnoxious to put my name around the brim of a big hat and wear it onstage like a halo around my head. And we did it! My stylist, Natalie Olenheim, made me three different ones. First was the red one with pink glitter that I wore for the Katy Perry tour, then one in black alligator vinyl with my name in crystals, and lastly we made a white cowboy hat that just said “Sway” in big black letters on one side.

Do your style choices influence the design of your own merchandise?

With my merch, I wanted to draw from the artwork for the music because I wanted the designs to feel familiar to those who love the music and have lived with those single covers on their lock screen since the songs came out. Me and Sepidar Hosseini, who created all of the designs, worked very hard on picking colors that contrasted [with] each other in a fun way. For example, the pink and green (which is my favorite), along with symbols that represent something personal to me about each song. I think next time I wanna take it a step further and incorporate even more of my own personal style in the garments. I’m thinking thigh-high cowboy boots with sexy prints on them, badass socks, thongs, jewelry. If anybody wants to collab, call me.

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