In Copenhagen, Playing by the Rules Can Still Be Fun – WWD
COPENHAGEN — Copenhagen Fashion Week is at a busy crossroads.
The fuzzy Scandi aesthetic that has helped define the city for the past few years is transitioning, with one leg slowly coming out and the other ready to run for something new.
It was the common view among many designers that a shift was about to take place. Many didn’t hesitate to break free from the previous beige comfort zone as they adopted a new visual language that’s tougher, whimsical and more appealing to Gen Zers.
This season, Copenhagen Fashion Week learned to make actual noise and not sit out the spectacle of a fashion show that blows up on social media with performance art; sculptural installations; interesting show venues and internet personalities walking the shows.
“The Scandinavian design scene is evolving beyond the expected, showing the breadth and width of what is possible is an important step, which will allow Copenhagen to continue to hold the fashion crowd’s attention,” said Ida Petersson, buying director at Browns.
Sibling designers Nana and Simon Wick of (Di)vision disrupted Copenhagen’s punctual schedule with a late show that didn’t start for 30 minutes with a huge crowd outside the historic restaurant Josty, which was originally used as a teahouse for King Frederick VI in 1824.
The design duo applied their own grunge Y2K interpretation to the plush dining room tables, as if Woodstock ‘99 and the Met Gala were to merge: empty oyster shells, half-smoked cigarettes, wine stained tablecloths and stale French fries scattered across.
Simon revealed backstage that the collection was all about “contrast” and going against the grain, which is why they hired a jazz band to play renditions of Avril Lavigne and Linkin Park.
“We try to disrupt, what we’re trying to do is create an experience more than a show. When you go to our shows, we want to create that feeling that it sits in your body for more than one day at least,” Simon said.
The show left a gasping impression in person and online, as model Sarah Dahl’s tablecloth skirt, used as a prop for the table, stood up and swept the whole tablescape with her on the runway, which Petersson dubbed as the best show format.
For Henrik Vibskov, the Danish designer who graduated from Central Saint Martins 21 years ago, presented a collection that was true to his art and craft. The designer is no stranger to the city’s creative scene, being heavily integrated in art and music.
Vibskov returned to a concert hall in Freetown Christiania, a micronation inside the city that is famous for its open trade of marijuana, to stage his show, 15 years after his last one there.
“I’ve been doing theater here and concerts because I’m a drummer, so I just know it very well and it was free,” he said backstage with a beer in hand.
He first showed the collection during Paris Men’s Fashion Week in January as a presentation, but in Copenhagen he commanded all the attention with a 20-minute act that reimagined the Garden of Eden in a red set design with an iron art installation depicting a tree with hanging paper tomatoes, which models from all walks of life danced around, interacting with the hanging fruits.
“I really like gazpacho with garlic,” Vibskov said jokingly, explaining that he chose tomatoes for their rich history and how the production of the fruit is increasingly changing.
“In Spain, they have massive plastic areas where they grow tomatoes, but now it’s becoming too warm to grow tomatoes and in art, tomatoes have all kinds of weird plays,” he added, revealing that he will be taking his art installation to Berlin for an exhibition.
Art imitated life at Baum und Pferdgarten, where design duo Rikke Baumgarten and Helle Hestehave set up an orange tent inspired by Wes Anderson’s “The Royal Tenenbaums.”
The collection riffed off Margot Tenenbaum’s “mysteriousness” with some pieces featuring a line drawing of the character and an “update of what she would wear in 2023,” which according to Baumgarten and Hestehave would be preppy argyle jumpers; tennis jackets and track pants, and shades of bubblegum and fuschia pink.
At Stine Goya, the full flower power print collections of the past took an abstract turn as the designer’s vocabulary matured with crystal embellishments; textured fabrics featuring bumpy mountains; black leather; frosted dresses, and bags using a formula of boiling hot vinegar and salt water, which the items are dipped into for two minutes and then taken out to freeze straight afterward. Goya filled the show space with gigantic tubes of the blue formula.
Conceptual knitwear brand A. Roege Hove demonstrated the aptitude of wool with a nude model being dressed by two assistants in three layers of transparent stretch wool — a live act that emulated Bella Hadid’s spray-on dress at Coperni.
“Many in the audience have never touched any of our things. I wanted to give them an idea of the transformation from hanger to body,” said designer Amalie Røge Hove, a Woolmark Prize finalist, who is often questioned about the versatility of knit.
Finnish designer Ervin Latimer didn’t shy away from presenting his intimate 11-look collection himself. He took to center stage and sat on a small stool with a microphone to narrate each look that came down the runway, “Look number one, Anthony is wearing a cotton poplin shirt with a silk tie with a cockring,” he said, as he described each look that came out.
Latimmier’s small collection was the most profound as it ticked all the elements of a great fashion show by making every attendee feel informed. “He created a beautifully edited and covetable collection of looks, delivering on each and every one of them,” agreed Petersson.
The fashion showcase has built itself a reputation as the fifth fashion capital — the sustainable one, a word that Cecilie Thorsmark, the chief executive officer of Copenhagen Fashion Week has taken more seriously and rigorously than many other fashion executives.
At the beginning of the week, Thorsmark revealed that all 29 brands participating on the official schedule have complied with the 18 mandatory rules in the action plan that span across six focus areas put in place three years ago — these include fur-free collections, zero waste set designs and show productions, signing the Danish Fashion Ethical Charter and considering diversity and inclusivity when casting models.
“We will introduce one new minimum standard per year and we will also revise the existing standards, making some of them more stringent,” Thorsmark told WWD, adding that the guidelines have been met with confidence from the designers.
Thorsmark, who was present at every show on the schedule, is certain that the only way any fashion week can remain relevant is to be constantly implementing new sustainable strategies and answering to the world around.
“Fashion should never refrain from using its voice to advocate for environmental and social change. We can and we must challenge the status quo of our industry,” she said in her opening ceremony on Tuesday morning.
This is the second time that Copenhagen Fashion Week has partnered with Ukrainian Fashion Week.
In doing so, they chose to spotlight the work of Tatyana Chumak, the designer behind TG Botanical, an emerging brand that grows its own material on Ukrainian soil and a finalist for the Zalando Sustainability Award.
“This is something new, some kind of new life after the war that is happening in our country. It is a new feeling for me,” Chumak said backstage in a bittersweet spirit.
The overarching mood of Copenhagen was hopeful and joyous for many designers, especially the big names such as Ganni, Rotate, Saks Potts and Cecilie Bahnsen.
“I think it’s quite surreal. For me it’s always been about the creativity and the passion and to see that that work translate into people’s everyday lives, that’s really the biggest part,” said Bahnsen in response to her brand being on track to hit $10 million in sales this year.
“It’s really dear to me because you can have a dress with five different seasons in it and you get to reflect on what you’re created and kind of create a new chapter for the brand. For me, it’s really a creative outburst,” said Bahnsen, who will be staging her next fashion show in Paris, which will be inspired by American sculptor Keith Sonnier’s neon lights installation “Louisiana Suite.”
At cult party label Rotate, the people make the clothes. Designers Jeanette Madsen and Thora Valdimarsdottir’s “goal was to please every woman” as they invited “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Lisa Rinna to strut down the runway with the likes of Vivian Hoorn, Grece Ghanem and Ceval.
“Rotate has long been a favourite amongst the Mytheresa buying team, and this season was no exception. The show featured fresh fun designs in the partywear category. Whilst the collection was more subdued in colour palette than usual, this season’s looks were disruptive for the brand, adding a new element to their repertoire — the little black dress,” said Tiffany Hsu, vice president, womenswear and kidswear fashion buying at Mytheresa.
The party continued over at the Arken Museum of Modern Art, where Copenhagen’s big ticket Ganni took over with two big buses packed with their fans.
The brand’s creative director Ditte Reffstrup said that this season she wanted to reflect on past seasons because of “everything that has happened the last year, from the pandemic to the war, I feel like no one is how they used to be.”
Reffstrup is going through a transformation — just like a butterfly, Ganni’s new logo designed in collaboration with young artist Esben Weile Kjær.
“We took the time to look back and take some of the hero styles that we have been working with through the years. I can see that people are starting to look back more and I can really feel that there’s a change, especially among young people that they want to have some of the old stuff,” Reffstrup said on Zoom ahead of the show on Thursday evening.
This was Ganni’s most sophisticated collection to date — the tailoring, outerwear and dresses weren’t trying too hard and that’s what made it an enjoyable collection to watch on the runway. Reffstrup may have finally found the magic recipe for a good show that’s appealing to all ages.
“It was a great return to what the brand does best: cool, wearable clothes that can be easily layered in with your existing wardrobe and are still powerful enough to get you stopped in the street,” Petersson said of the collection, which nodded to French couture and Parisian street style.
“This season we saw a more mature collection. This new approach is still very feminine and fun but shows a more tailored, more at ease version of the brands signature style,” added Hsu.
Next season’s shopping baskets could be filled with buttery yellow knitwear as seen at Aeron and Stamm; classical and distressed double denim from P.L.N., OpéraSport and Holzweiler, and wabi-sabi style jackets courtesy of Helmstedt and Selam Fessahaye.
“Wardrobing is back with foundation pieces at the forefront, the ultimate in effortless layering. Denim, which we have seen coming on strong, was everywhere and in every silhouette and category. Not new per se; however, something I deeply associate with Copenhagen are cowboy boots, which are dominating the footwear scene along with technical boots,” Petersson said in regards to the top trends.
“Technical outerwear was also a theme with Ganni’s 66 North collaboration and Iso.Poetism delivering some strong looks to beat the cold weather.”
Denise Christensen, CEO and creative director of Remain, proved that her smooth glossy designs can have an edge as she played with Frankenstein-like proportions in tailoring that was paired with brown American aviator-style leather; Amelia Earhart caps; newly worn leather, and a suede trompe l’oeil to produce a metallic blazer and trousers.
“It wasn’t actually intentional to make it glamorous. I think it’s very important for me that when we design the collection that it’s wearable and then you can tone it up or down,” she said.