COPENHAGEN, THE FASHION CAPITAL OF SCANDINAVIA?
A lot of people might not count Copenhagen Fashion Week on their list of the world’s most important fashion events. The Danish Fashion Institute (DAFI), on the other hand, speaks of Copenhagen Fashion Week as “the world’s greenest fashion week” (referring to an article by Vanessa Friedman in Financial Times), “the largest fashion event in the Nordic Region” and underlines that up to 40,000 buyers, designers and press visit Copenhagen twice a year due to the fashion week. DAFI describes the Nordic fashion industry’s qualities like this:
“Scandinavian fashion is known for its unique take on design, which marries modern elegance to playful aesthetics and conceptions of a dress”.
40,000 attendees towards New York Fashion Week’s 200,000 is not a lot – but a big part of the designers and artists of Copenhagen Fashion Week understand how to exploit the smaller audience and the freedom that comes with it. They do not have a major group of people to saturate and many of them are still in the phase of developing their DNA. The progressive creativity and the hard work are impossible to avoid when attending the fashion shows. Newer designers on the scene like Wali Mohammed Barrech and Mark Kenly Domino Tan are some of the designers that stand out from the crowd and challenge the original perception of the minimalistic Nordic way of designing – both in the good and the slightly too exaggerated way.
As many of the presenting designers are in their phase of establishing their business and living out their vision the organisation behind Copenhagen Fashion Week is as well. Trying out new ways of communicating and serving the growing group of press-attendees with busses that goes from show to show, a ‘business-lounge’ and even a CPHFW app for smart phones they are about to shape their image. The benefit of this smaller fashion event is, that there is room for many young designers – only the more classic show’s of Malene Birger and Henrik Vibskov are considered as heavyweights. Asger Juel Larsen has grown into a great ambassador for Danish fashion as well, especially after winning the International Woolmark Prize 2014/ 15 in Europe’s Regional Final Menswear.
Another designer that has profiled Danish fashion on the bigger scale is Freya Dalsjø – a designer that even attracts editorial staff from Vogue to her front row. Nordic elements can be found in her clean cuts and elegant design, but her way of using colours is way beyond Danish design and her way of working with fur and colours are unique. Decorating clumsy MBT-sandals with colourful fur she brought a humoristic twist to the collection of timeless pieces that are “created to be saved for a long, long time”, as the designer herself describes her vision. The fact that she is presenting her collection at the Copenhagen City Hall makes it clear that she is about to turn into a settled designer that the society will make room for – a strong achievement when only in the beginning of her twenties.
The young designer that Freya Dalsjø partly shares her studio with, Wali Muhammed Barrech (that she studied with on the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerpen) has similarities in terms of their wish of creating surprising reactions but obviously has another design vision. Placing his show on the top of an industrial car park he is the enfant terrible of the Scandinavian fashion scene. The design is different, the models he is using are different, the concept is different and in a league of its own – but still underlining a trend, that permeated most of the catwalk shows this season: sport. Along with his heavy statement ‘sandals’ he showed classic skirts and shirts but sewed in rough materials that we would not have expected for summer collections like strong nylon, neoprene and rubber. Everything topped up with an endless army of bicycle-shorts and graphical print. This way of working with special fabrics usually used for raincoats and waterproof boots can even be transferred to the universe of the designer Mark Kenly Domino Tan – a designer that is way more elegant and creates ball gowns to be shown on Louboutin-wearing models that still move our conception of how glamorous clothes should look and be cut like.
This leads us to a more down-to-earth and affordable designer. The well-established Ganni chose to take a more elegant take on the sporty trend and chose to show their collection on a tennis yard on the top of a luxurious, central hotel to create the perfect girly atmosphere with Eniko Mahilik and Caroline Brasch Nielsen among the models. Along with Malene Birger and brand Bruuns Bazaar they are in the traditional classic league of the Scandinavian designers that are not afraid of pastels, which is also a big trend for the SS15 season.
A big disadvantage than ran through many of the shows is the designers’ lack of availability to concretize and kill their darlings. A long repetition of toned-down every-day pieces can be boring in the same way that neon-colours can be – all the magic disappears if the outcome gets over-done and defeats the concept. Some of them reached too high – placing your show on the top of a car park or telling your models to act like puppet dolls execute massive heights of expectations and designers as Barbara i Gongini and Designer’s Remix should have known their limits. Never provoke just for the provocation’s satisfaction. Not everyone can get away with transforming fashion into an art performance like Henrik Vibskov can do it. Designers like Maikel Tawadros and David Andersen should have reached higher – sticking too much to your DNA will never bring you further.
Copenhagen Fashion Week plays its cards safe, but are about to develop and take up the challenge of breaking through traditional, minimalistic Scandinavian design history. It was a week of surprises, disappointments, laughs, tears, struggles and achievements despite the terrible economical times that we are going through – now it is time for the designers to refine their vision and fight back. The most important thing is clear: the sustained diligence runs through the Danish fashion industry’s nerves.