The rise of the stylish “Copenhagen Girl” has become the topic of every article over the past two years when speaking about Danish fashion. While the influential group of early adopters — wearing maximalist dresses, pearl hair clips and flip flops — certainly sets the tone ahead of London, Milan and Paris women’s fashion weeks that happen the following month in terms of trends, to limit the Danish city’s fashion aesthetic to this demographic alone wouldn’t paint an accurate picture.
When buyers, press and influencers from around the world started flocking to Copenhagen en masse three years ago, they were met with a radically different type of fashion week than many were accustomed to. High-priced luxury fashion was substituted by contemporary and commercial garments. It presented an accessible way of dressing that appealed to the general population living outside of the fashion bubble.
That democratic approach also transcended across the week’s multiple consumer-facing runway shows and its embracing of influencers, who arguably have become the most important show attendees over traditional editors and buyers given the smart ways in which many influencers have monetized and supported homegrown brands. It’s made the barriers to entry a lot smaller compared to competitive fashion capitals.
But the week is no longer in its infancy. CIFF and Revolver are among the world’s most respected trade shows and once nascent brands like Ganni, Cecilie Bahnsen and Saks Potts are being nominated for prestigious international fashion awards, are worn by big celebrities, and are stocked at influential stockists globally. All have contributed to the Danish fashion industry reaching 47 billion DKK (about $7.2 billion) in 2018.
Earlier this month, Stockholm Fashion Week — for years Copenhagen’s biggest competitor — announced it would be skipping a season to make internal restructures. This has meant that in addition to many Norwegian, Finish and German brands already moving their shows to Copenhagen, the schedule got even fuller with Swedish brands like Hope being added to the schedule.
All of it has added to Copenhagen Fashion Week becoming more prominent on a global scale. Now with the business to back the buzz, it’s time to branch out beyond being known for birthing the “Copenhagen Girl,” something its new CEO Cecilie Thorsmark understands all too well.
Since taking on the role in November 2018, Thorsmark has made strides to become a leader in guiding Copenhagen Fashion Week to become more environmentally responsible in line with her previous job as communication director at Global Fashion Agenda (formerly Danish Fashion Institute). It was here where spent a large part of her career driving positive changes.
Currently in her second season at the helm of Copenhagen Fashion Week, she’s already established a sustainability advisory board, implemented a strategy based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and urged brands to rethink the way in which they produce, market and sell fashion. Smaller initiatives like banning plastic bottles and only using electric cars, too, have been put in place.
“We’re currently working on our three-year plan to be launched later this year which will introduce new standards for brands who wish to showcase their collections at Copenhagen Fashion Week,” Thorsmark tells Highsnobiety, urging other fashion weeks to sign up. “This is what has the potential to really propel change in the industry.”
But Thorsmark is aware that these initiatives will drive little change if the desirability around the fashion isn’t there in the first place, so this season, while the “Copenhagen Girls” were out in force, it was the Danish menswear brands, including Soulland, Holzweiler and newcomer Sunflower that stood out.
“Although Danish menswear has been strong the last decade, it would seem that the Danish womenswear successes like Ganni and Saks Potts have outshined them a bit. So I’m happy to see they’re regaining foothold because they hold great potential,” says Thorsmark.
Her partner Jacob Kampp Berliner, co-founder and CEO of Soulland, agrees. “What traditionally characterized Scandinavian menswear like good quality and functional fits has now evolved into something a lot bolder, with more interesting silhouettes,” he explains. “We [also] don’t have a long, proud tradition of menswear in Scandinavia [in general], so there’s also less strings attached and that gives more freedom to designers.”
Danish menswear is entering a new phase and it’s very likely that like its women’s counterpart will find a global scale in the next couple of seasons. Highsnobiety visited Copenhagen Fashion Week to discover what brands are driving the city’s menswear forward.
Leading the charge was Soulland who, after a five-year hiatus, returned to the official fashion week calendar. Founded in 2002, Soulland’s Spring/Summer 2020 collection was some sorts of a homecoming. Set in St. Thomas Plads, a local cul-de-sac in Copenhagen’s upscale Frederiksberg neighborhood — co-founders Silas Adler and Jakob Kampp Berliner both reside there — the brand showed a fully-fledged collection in homage to their hometown.
That meant extending their vision beyond menswear alone with the launch of its first fully-fledged womenswear line designed by new head of womenswear Mathilde Maalouf. It was a clear move away from the current “Copenhagen Girl” aesthetic and introduced utility vests worn over structured shirting and loose floral pyjama two-pieces. Summer at its finest.
It was a smart move to not “shrink-and-pink” their menswear silhouettes, which themselves were the strongest Soulland has done in seasons. Leopard-printed fleece, patchwork denim and new buckled round bags were standouts, as was Soulland’s third sneaker collaboration with Nike SB which blew up online. This one came in a snakeskin-embossed leather upper with a mini metal swoosh — made to be scratched when skating — and a large velcro swoosh on the backside. These are set to drop in November.
Fittingly titled, the collection was named “The Commuter Trilogy” and explored the diverse modes of transportation that trend around the world. Volume One focused on the power of walking. The diverse set of men and women from all ages and backgrounds walked down the runway together during the finale. It’s an exciting new era for the eco-conscious brand.
The Copenhagen crowd has always had mixed feelings about MUF10. Founder Reza Etamadi has many hardcore fans who live for the brand’s Scandi take on streetweard, including logoed denim, trench coats and tees — all casually paired with the flip flops the city has popularized in the past two seasons. But not everyone feels as connected to the distinct clientele the designer has attracted.
Etamadi came to Denmark as a refugee and spent his early adolescence living in lower class neighborhoods where local hustlers were perceived as heroes. Etamadi and his crew have now come out on top for the next generation who are attracted to the brand’s high-low aesthetic rooted in club culture.
His latest collection was stripped back, perhaps realizing that now five years in, his designs need to appeal to a wider group if the label wants to appeal to a group outside of its core customer base. It certainly has to decide how it wants its identity to be perceived, and resonate, with stores and press overseas. So far artists like Kendrick Lamar and Swae Lee have been seen wearing pieces from MUF10, so the first steps have been made. Focussing more on social issues — like done in earlier seasons — without losing good design would be a good shout.
Holzweiler has always had a substantial business. With its signature silk, lambswool and cashmere scarves its attracted over 200 retailers around the world from Net-a-Porter to Good Hood to Isetan to Selfridges.
But the Norwegian fashion house, founded in 2010 by siblings Susanne and Andreas Holzweiler, ventured into ready-to-wear a number of seasons ago before its business could be restricted to one product category alone.
“Sometimes it’s about figuring out what direction we want to move into, but now we’ve found our way,” said Andreas Holzweiler. “Our clients now expect more than just scarves and sweats.”
In contrast to many Danish brands, Holzweiler has always understood the importance of creating an international business from day one. Its partnerships with stylist Alexandra Carl and renowned casting agent Anita Bitton has helped the brand’s exposure amongst an influential fashion crowd despite its remote location in Oslo.
While the silhouettes of the clothing aren’t innovative in itself, it’s the wearability of them that has allowed them to appeal to many. That said, an exceptional long white woven car coat and matching bag, showed the first signs of the brand taking its first steps venturing into a more fashion-forward future.
Another menswear debutant was Sunflower, who staged and open-for-all runway show at an industrial terrain, 30 minutes outside of Copenhagen’s city centre. Its first presentation shown in January was named the highlight of the season by many, so the anticipation for its Spring/Summer 2020 collection was high. And it delivered.
The brand operates as a collective but was founded by Ulrik Pedersen, which previously spent a decade working at NN07, another fashion label he launched. Pedersen has always understood the power of music on the runway. In January, it was August Rosenbaum who added a layer of emotion to the tiny gallery space. This time around it was time for something louder where big Marshall speakers blasted music played by a local guitarist.
With Sunflower, Pedersen’s aim has always been to be a counterexample to an industry driven by conspicuous consumption and fast fashion. He said he grew frustrated with rapidly changing fashion trends season-on-season. “What we like is taking real dressing from the streets, like nice tailoring but mixing it up with neon pants,” he explained.
Sunflower brings back timeless designs in luxury materials, but through clever styling tricks and off-colors it remains contemporary. “We look for personality and characters, different kinds of guys.” The brand is already a new favorite among young Copenhagen men, but it’s a name to watch internationally.
Malkit Singh spent multiple years heading up Danish sportswear line Halo in partnership with Rasmus Storm, founder of influential Copenhagen boutique Storm. Earlier this year the Spring he launched 7 DAYS to finally have something that was completely his own. Singh spent many years as a professional basketball player in Denmark so naturally, sportswear was heavily referenced for his debut collection held at Søpavillonen — the city’s newest hot spot that doubles as a club, restaurant and private members club.
“It was all inspired by athletes,” said Singh after his strong show. Having lived the lifestyle, the clothing becomes more authentic, one showgoer noted. The bright colored tracksuits, sports leggings and cropped sweats are meant to be worn inside of the gym as much as they are on the street. Many were made in partnership with (Di)vision, another young Danish brand co-founded by model Simon Wick, whose girlfriend Sarah Dahl opened the show. Other friends of Singh and Wick, too, sported cowboy hats, speedos and parkas. It’s that community-driven approach to starting a label, mixed in with the collection’s highly commercial appeal, that will grow the brand going forward.