Thoughtful Beauty: Swedish Jeweler Efva Attling
Whether it’s fashion, furniture, or Ford models, Sweden has a long history of exporting its beauty to the rest of the world. The celebrated Swedish jeweler, Efva Attling, who has six concept stores in Scandinavia, as well as more than two hundred retailers around the world, has branded her line of jewelry with the moniker "Beauty with a thought" - a sentiment that beautifully illustrates the leggy Swedish former model’s well-lived life as an activist for love.
At sixteen, Attling was apprenticing with one of Sweden’s best-known silversmiths when she was approached by a modeling agent from Eileen Ford in New York. For the next twelve years, Attling’s visage graced the covers of multiple fashion magazines as she catwalked her way around the world - and today, Attling still enters a room with pantherine grace and inimitable style.
"My new bag," she says to me, when we first meet at the Hotel Rivington in New York, showing me a brand-new Chanel purchase from Bergdorf’s. Attling has paired the bag with a thrift-shop find: a perfectly-tailored, white leather safari jacket that she found "right over there," she says, pointing out the window.
Beauty with a Thought
Attling is a stunning woman, and over the course of a week during which we meet at several locales in both New York and Stockholm, it becomes increasingly clear that she exemplifies her adage: Beauty with a thought.
"I’ve been married four times," she says, laughing, "and three times to the same woman." That would be the consequence of Sweden’s evolving LGBT civil rights laws, which in, 2009, became gender-neutral, enabling Attling to marry her long-term partner, Swedish singer, Eva Dahlgren.
Together since 1996, the two women were also married in Vegas, at a chapel - "with ’Elvis,’" says Attling, producing an iPhone photo of the event.
Asked how it was for her family to accept her coming out as a lesbian, Attling speaks about her father, a Swedish pastry maker, who loved jazz enough to make a pilgrimage to Harlem. "We grew up listening to Billie Holiday," says Attling. "There was always music in the house. And sometimes my father would say, ’He’s queer, but he’s okay. And him, too - he’s queer, too. They’re okay.’"
It was in 1981 that Attling started her own band, the X Models, for which she wrote the chart-topping hit "Two of Us." And it was during her years fronting the band that Attling befriended the pop singer, Eva Dahlgren. Throughout the years, when both women were in the music world, they remained in touch, albeit just friends - until, in 1996, when "lightning struck," says Attling, smiling like a Cheshire cat. When told of Attling’s attraction to the Swedish pop star, Attling’s father said, "Oh, I like her."
As for her two sons, conceived with her former husband, Attling told Dahlgren, "These are my sons; they are yours as well!" And it is with particular delight that Attling shows me a text from her youngest that briefly interrupts our interview: "Hello, Mothers. When are you coming home?"
The Swedish emphasis on secularism (rather than religious hegemony) in most areas of government and culture fosters an attitude of acceptance across Swedish society. When asked about her sons’ reactions to her marrying a woman, Attling smiles and recalls that her youngest boy wrote a wedding speech. "He toasted to his two mothers," she says, smiling, "and he said, ’Mom, I’m really glad that you went a dyke.’"
"Love Is In the Air"
Early in December, the two wives, Attling and Dahlgren, made an orchidaceous entrance at the "Love Is In the Air" reception in New York. VisitSweden and SAS Scandinavian Airlines (as well as Efva Attling, Inc.) were sponsors of the event, whereby two LGBT couples were married in Swedish air space, 38,000 feet above ground, while a third LGBT couple was married in the Great Hall of the IceHotel in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden nearly one hundred miles above the Arctic Circle. Attling had designed all three pairs of wedding rings and she was giddy and gorgeous in a Lanvin-designed gown, which was the prototype for Alber Elbaz’s Lanvin line at H&M.
While clearly gratified with her career successes in the fields of fashion and music, it is Attling’s role as a jeweler that perhaps most wholly fulfills her. "My jewelry connects people," says Attling - and she’s not only referencing the newlyweds’ rings. For those who were lost in the 2004 tsunami, Attling created a necklace, the profits of which went to charity (more than $50,000 thus far) - but beyond the monies raised, there was the moment of solidarity that came from those wearing the necklace when they recognized it on each other "It was connection," says Attling.
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