City

The Scandinavian model

We join model Sylvia Flote as she returns home to Oslo from London to spend a day rediscovering the city in the new Volvo XC40.

WORDS: LEO WILKINSON | PHOTOGRAPHY: SAM CHRISTMAS

The latest model: Sylvia Flote prepares to explore Oslo in the XC40

Oslo is the archetypal Scandinavian city – a hotbed for architectural innovation and minimalist modern style, it’s an outward-looking, progressive place that feels lively yet relaxed. Nestled between the sea and forest, it’s somewhere you can enjoy the buzz of urban life yet within a few minutes get out of the city and be surrounded by nature. Sylvia Flote is a Norwegian model who lived in Oslo for five years. Today she is back in the city, rediscovering it from behind the wheel of the compact SUV that’s tailor-made for urban exploration – the Volvo XC40.

It’s an early start on a chilly Oslo morning, so we take the opportunity to switch on the heater in the XC40 remotely by using the Volvo On Call app. With the cabin suitably warmed up we head to Aker Brygge, a chic waterfront district that showcases the kind of high-quality modern architecture that Oslo has become famous for. As photographer Sam Christmas pulls bag after bag of photographic gear out of the load compartment of the XC40, Sylvia marvels at how spacious and stylish it is.

The seamless blend of form and function in the XC40 is echoed by the buildings around us. And this is the characteristic that defines Scandinavian style, suggests Sylvia. “For me, it’s all about combining functionality with pleasing aesthetics. The best Scandinavian design makes things look effortless, and it pays attention to details like the use of material and texture.”

Sylvia has her own creative outlet. She enjoys knitting. And today, as is often the case, she’s modelling one of her own creations. “It started as something to while away time during travelling,” she says. “I also had an idea of the kind of jumper I wanted, but could never find the right fit or style. So the only thing was to learn how to do it myself!”

We move from the waterfront through central Oslo and then into Grünerløkka, Oslo’s equivalent of London’s Shoreditch or Williamsburg in New York, and one of Sylvia’s favourite areas of the city. Over lunch we plan the afternoon ahead. Even though the XC40 is parked around the corner, we’re able to check whether it’s locked using the Volvo On Call smartphone app and lock – or unlock – it remotely if necessary.
“The best Scandinavian design makes things look effortless, and it pays attention to detail”

After lunch we head back into the city centre, where our destination is the new Oslo flagship store for Norwegian Rain, a luxury outerwear brand that combines high-tech functionality with minimalist, Japanese-influenced design. Sylvia has modelled for Norwegian Rain in the past and designer T-Michael is keen to show her around the store – a building that used to be a stable but which is now full of exquisite clothes and mid-century furniture. It’s a remarkable space and it’s clear that a lot of time and thought has gone into giving it such a luxurious yet functional feel. Once again, it’s a reminder of the combination of form, function and innovation that sums up good Scandinavian design.

Back out on the street, the sun is starting to set. As we jump back into the XC40 its LED cabin lighting provides a welcoming atmosphere and highlights the uncluttered layout and carefully selected materials. At the press of the starter button the centre touch screen comes alive, showing our route to the airport. It’s time for Sylvia to return to London, with a renewed appreciation of Oslo, and a new-found admiration for the XC40.