The COS Aesthetic: The Creative Mind Behind the British High Street Brand

Karin Gustafsson continues to lead the London-based label of gently priced clothes that are cool and distinctive.

Karin Gustafsson

In late March, inside Corsie Sistine, a wing of a 15th-century hospital on the River Tiber’s curve, a fashion show played out. COS, the British high street brand known for its wardrobe staples that express a Nordic intonation, chose Rome as the setting for the presentation of its summer Atelier collection. Thirty-three looks in neutral hues of stone, black, white, and sand with bold pops of red enveloped male and female silhouettes: deconstructed tailoring, billowing forms, mesh vests, everyday jumpsuits, denim suits, organza blouses and dresses. To close the show, Italian model Mariacarla Boscono wore a wonderfully long number made of folds that opened with every step she took. As is customary, designer Karin Gustafsson popped out post-finale for a salute.





The fashion show has become as much about the location, the atmosphere, and the setting as the clothes. “The Atelier collection is focusing on traditional craft, and Rome, as a place, is the starting point of the finest dressmaking,” Gustafsson commented after the show. “The architecture is very statuesque, and I had that in mind that it would make for a nice backdrop to the clean lines [of the collection].” Design through draping (a skill that Gustafsson mastered while studying fashion at Royal College of Art) informs the COS aesthetic, and a COS garment comes to life on the body—movement is so important to understanding how the pieces will look and feel for the wearer.


Backstage at the spring/summer 2024 COS show in Rome.



COS opened its first store in London in 2007, expanding globally to now nearly 50 markets, and despite belonging to the H&M Group, it operates on its own. Gustafsson has been with the company since the beginning. “My personal aesthetic is very similar,” she says when asked how COS is an extension of her and her lifestyle, “and I think that’s probably why I’ve been working with the brand so long.” There is a quiet confidence to Gustafsson and the clothes she creates. The brand is the go-to for a European ideal of cool—wardrobe essentials defined by an understated elegance, just as the name Collection of Style, or COS, in short, suggests.





At its core, each collection is evergreen and versatile, values important to “someone who buys into timelessness and wants investment pieces but doesn’t have to be a high-costed thing,” Gustafsson says. COS “is not only for the season. You may not want to wear it every season, you may rest it, or you may pass it on, but it has that emotional connection that you never throw it away. A closet can never have too much COS.”