On a quiet street called Krukmakargatan in the Södermalm area of Stockholm is Nitty Gritty, a shop that offers a considered edit of clothing from emerging and established labels. Founded in 1991 by a group of Northern Soul collectors, Nitty Gritty was named after The Nitty Gritty, a record by American soul singer Shirley Ellis, after they decided to select a name by pulling a record randomly from one of their crates. The shop was previously located in Old Town, Stockholm’s original city centre and expanded by moving to the current space in 2003. Now, the shop front is located at the base of a residential building, next to a florist and an independent magazine shop called Papercut.
Since 2008, the shop has been owned by Marcus Söderlind. “I was drawn to Nitty Gritty as it has a heritage, something very unique and special – both in Stockholm, and the world,” he says. He wanted to establish the shop as a destination. Now, there are two shops next to each other – one for menswear and one for womenswear. “I wanted to take it to the next level,” he says. “To capture the feeling of something that should be in Stockholm forever.”
Key to that vision is Nina Wiik, Head Womenswear Buyer. She began working on the shop floor straight out of high school, then started styling and shooting pieces for the website along with some assistant buying. “As it is at smaller companies, you get to do a little bit of everything,” she says. “So my position evolved.” After a few years studying anthropology at university, Nina returned to Nitty Gritty a few years ago. She was drawn back by the joy of working as part of a close-knit team. “You feel like your voice is being heard and you can fulfil your mission in a way.”
“The way we want to express ourselves is to work with both music and art. We have always had a lot of exhibitions here, both from unknown and established artists.”
Fostering a sense of community is key to the shop’s vision. Integral to this is Art in Store, an endeavour which sees contemporary art displayed in the shop. “The way we want to express ourselves is to work with both music and art,” Marcus says. “We have always had a lot of exhibitions here, both from unknown and established artists, but for the last year we wanted to express ourselves even more.” They plan to have three or four exhibitions a year. “It's an important part of us now.”
Nitty Gritty often presents work from two artists alongside each other. As part of Stockholm Art Week, the shop hosted an event to celebrate their exhibition which was curated by Saskia Neuman and featured new work by Swedish artists Ilja Karilampi and Haidar Mahdi. “We always want to be relevant, and to do that we can't relax,” Marcus says. “We make an event out of everything.” They have DJs in the shop almost every weekend. “That’s something that's so important for us, to be alive.” The shop even has its own beer, called Store Hours, created by local brewery, Spike.
This sense of creativity is reflected by Nitty Gritty’s offering. “We reference youth culture and architecture through shapes and fabrics,” Nina explains. “But whatever I pick has to be true to the label’s DNA, while also connected to what Nitty Gritty is. A core part of the shop is to be progressive, so Nitty Gritty is always changing in a way.”
Despite there being separate menswear and womenswear shops, Nina often chooses womenswear clothing with an androgynous feel. “I don't buy into a lot of traditional female or male roles,” she says. “That's always been appealing to our customer base”. From TOAST, she often chooses knitwear for autumn. Then for spring, it's tops and quilted jackets that are particularly popular.
Customers return for Nitty Gritty’s laid-back approach. “Everybody who works at Nitty Gritty is genuinely interested in what we do,” Marcus says. “We can talk about brands that we don't even sell, but that we like. So we have customers coming to us just to hang out.” Nina attributes the shop’s success to the way it incorporates events and art. “I'm so proud of the way we build the community around ourselves,” she says. “We're really comfortable and people seem to really like that too.”
Interview by Alice Simkins.
Photographs by Niklas Marklund.
A curated selection of the TOAST collection can be found at Nitty Gritty in Södermalm, Stockholm.