We'd argue that accessories make or break an outfit. Whether you're running errands or dashing through passport control, your bag of choice matters. Nobody wants to be that person spilling bits and bobs out of their tote - we've all been there. If you haven't already heard of luggage brand Carl Friedrik, let us introduce you to the game changers of accessories - the experts in laptop sleeves, briefcases, weekender bags and suitcases.
We caught up with the brand's co-founders, brothers Niklas and Mattis, to talk about what inspired them to create Carl Friedrik and what's to come. When the dynamic duo aren't busy drawing up new lines and sourcing materials, you'll likely find them recharging in their hometown, Norrköping. Here, they give us the inside scoop on the stylish Swedish city, taking us inside the best craft breweries, must-visit galleries and letting us in on where the locals hang on a Friday night.
Design museums and vintage boutiques: in conversation with Carl Friedrik's co-founders
Carl Friedrik rover bag collection, left, and their carry on suitcases.
What inspired you to start Carl Friedrik?
N: The story of Carl Friedrik really starts with my brother, Mattis. It was a special occasion and I wanted to gift him a leather laptop case - one that had the right blend of quality, craftsmanship and value for money, and that wasn't obscured by excessive branding. I couldn't find an item that offered exactly what I was after. We've always been curious about making our own things, so it was natural for us to start designing our own items. From that day on, Carl Friedrik, or Oppermann London, as it was originally called, was born.
What sets you apart from other luggage brands?
M: An unwavering commitment to quality. Suitcases aren't typically handled with care and have a relatively short lifespan as a result. Our designs incorporate high-impact-resistant polycarbonate shells and sturdy aluminium frames, and they are tested rigorously to imitate a lifetime's-worth of use. That's why we confidently offer a lifetime guarantee across our entire collection.
What did growing up in Norrköping look like?
M: My overriding memory is of time spent fishing and boating on Lake Yxningen. It's renowned for its clear water, with visibility up to a depth of 7m. I still find the same serenity there today as I did as a small child.
What's Norrköping's vibe?
M: Dubbed "the Manchester of Sweden", Norrköping was once a thriving industrial hub, but today the city has a much calmer and quieter attitude. With three postcard-worthy promenades and the Motala cutting through the centre of the city, it makes for a great long-weekend destination. The city also has a thriving cultural scene, with music and arts events taking place year-round.
When's the best time to visit?
N: If you can handle cold (and we mean seriously cold) weather, visit early in the year. The frozen river winding through the city is almost surreal and blissfully beautiful. A Swedish winter's tranquillity is something everyone should experience.
Where should we stay?
M: The Lamp Hotel - it's legendary. The 18th-century building has recently undergone a renovation, with original features retained and contemporary furnishings added. Slip into the state-of-the-art spa, tuck into Swedish-Asian plates and enjoy a nightcap at the bar.
The city's architecture, left, and a tram.
Where should we head for breakfast?
N: Grab a coffee and traditional pastry from Kafé Kuriosa. If the weather's good, take an early-morning stroll along the Motala, where you will see locals fishing for salmon.
And for dinner…
N: Boca is a charming Italian pizzeria that takes traditional recipes and puts a contemporary spin on them. It's often described as a meeting place where the vibe of the outdoor dining scene in Paris and Milan meets the attitude of Copenhagen. There's a real sense of community and locality - the chefs even invite guests into the kitchen to customise their own pizza.
Any must-visit nightlife spots?
M: Lagerqvist. The underground gastro-style restaurant is tucked away in an 18th-century brandy vault. After dark, the dining area turns into a dance floor flooded with local party people. It's the cocktail menu that has us returning, though. My personal favourite is the smooth and floral - a Jamaican rum-based short drink.
An experimental cocktail, left, and some freshly baked Swedish pastries.
Cultural musts in the neighbourhood?
N: Art lovers should visit Norrköping Art Museum - the home of one of Sweden's largest collections of modernist art. The city is also famous for having some 7,000 unique petroglyphs (rock engravings), with most dating back to the Bronze Age. Himmelstalund Park is our favourite place to see them. Lastly, The Museum of Work is a great place to discover the city's industrial heritage. It's located in the Strykjärnet (Flat Iron) building, a former cotton mill that is arguably Norrköping's most iconic landmark.
What are the best independent shops to visit?
M: Stroll around the city and you will find the streets brimming with independent boutiques, including Prylo, which specialises in vintage clothing from the 50s to 70s. Foodies should take a trip out of town to Sänkdalens Gård farm, where there is a delicious organic ice-cream factory.
Any artisans that are doing cool things in Norrköping?
N: Olséns Auktioner showcases a range of beautiful antiques. Selling everything from jewellery to trench coats, coffee tables and lamps, it's the sort of place you visit and can't help but spend an entire afternoon rummaging through its shelves. I actually used to work there while I was studying. It definitely shaped my respect for timeless design.
The Museum of Work, left, and a secluded lake.
Any suggestions for day trips?
N: Take an hour's drive east from the city to the seaside village of Arkösund. If you're visiting in the warmer months, rent a kayak or explore the coastline by hopping on one of the boat tours. Then, head to Lykke for enormous scoops of ice cream. Motor enthusiasts, meanwhile, should carve time to visit Autorema, which specialises in renovating vintage sports cars - you can even take one out for a test drive.
Tell us a secret spot only locals know about.
M: It has to be Knäppingen. Housed in an old townhouse in the heart of the industrial district, the deli and craft brewery was dreamed up by four brothers. It's incredibly relaxed and not the sort of place you'd visit for stunning interiors, but bag a table in the upstairs microbrewery and prepare to taste some of Sweden's finest craft beer. It's well worth booking onto one of the tasting tours, too, where you can try five different types of beer and learn about the manufacturing process. It also serves food: the house burger is up there as one of the top three I've ever tasted in my life - and that is a serious statement.
And lastly, what's next for Carl Friedrik?
N: Lots of exciting things are happening behind the scenes at Carl Friedrik HQ. We're set to release two co-branded products in the coming weeks, both of which are partnerships with brands that we are truly inspired by. We're also looking to kick 2023 off with bang. New materials, lines and products are in the pipeline, so keep your ears pricked and eyes peeled.