Copenhagen Fashion Week has big ambitions, or at least its newly appointed CEO Cecilie Thorsmark does.
During her nine-year tenure at Global Fashion Agenda (formerly Danish Fashion Institute) — most recently as communication director — Thorsmark, along with her team, has focussed a large part of her career on driving positive change around the way we produce, market and consume fashion.
Now with a new executive title at one of the world’s most popular emerging fashion weeks behind her, that mission still stands.
“We want to support those that are on the journey to become more sustainable but also incentivise those that are not yet,” Thorsmark tells Highsnobiety between shows.
Sure, Copenhagen remains known for its unique Scandi style led by a growing clan of pearl hairclip and (faux) fur-wearing influencers, popular womenswear brands including Ganni, Cecilie Bahnsen and By Malene Birger, and renowned trade shows CIFF and Revolver.
All of which have made the city an attractive destination for international press and buyers to visit twice a year and which have contributed to the Danish fashion industry reaching 47 billion dkk (about $7.2 billion) in 2018.
But Thorsmark knows all too well that in order to buoy press and buyers for the years to come, on all fronts the city’s fashion week must lead, not follow.
“Fashion, just like any other product, is consumption and consumption is bad for the planet. Sustainability to me is about having a holistic approach to it and seeing how we can do it better,” says the CEO, who has recently established CFW’s first-ever sustainability board, which will take the sustainability goals set by the United Nations as a framework to work with brands and tradeshows. “If all the brands do it better, that will also have an impact on the world.”
The use of electric cars to bring showgoers from show to show and the absence of physical show invites and press releases were only a couple of the many new initiatives set in place this season.
“The fashion industry is part of the problem,” Thorsmark adds. “It currently contributes eight percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions worldwide; that’s the same level of international flights and marital shipping combined. So as a fashion week we have a moral duty to speak up, to make it attractive and to use our voice to be part of the solution as well.”
Her transparency and optimism are certainly there and it’s a good first step in Copenhagen becoming a bigger force in the global fashion conversation. Certainly with the future of men’s fashion weeks like those in London and New York remaining uncertain as brands continue to flock to Paris and decide to show their men’s collections during women’s weeks.
But can Copenhagen ever reach London or New York heights? Does it even need to, to be successful?
“What’s strong about Copenhagen is the community between brands, retailers and press, even artists, politicians etc,” Soulland CEO Jakob Kampp Berliner tells Highsnobiety during a dinner at chef Frederik Bille Brahe’s Apollo bar, hosted by Soulland in collaboration with Revolver founder Christian Maibom and special guest speaker Secretary-General of the United Nations, Michael Møller, who fittingly made fashion’s important role in global sustainability the night’s main topic.
“The best thing that Copenhagen can do in terms of fashion week is realizing its size and power and then focus at getting better at the stage we’re on instead of thinking of being on a Milan level, which we can’t be because we don’t have the brands or the history to support it,” Soulland creative director Silas Adler added.
But how was the clothing itself? To find out Highsnobiety visited Copenhagen’s men’s FW19 shows to see if the city has the design potential to live up to its ambitions for growth.
MUF10 founder Reza Etamadi came to Denmark as a refugee and spent his early adolescence living in lower class neighborhoods while working as a pizza delivery guy. “I was 16 and surrounded by pizza owners who were the coolest in the world. They were local heroes with money, the coolest clothes and drove the city’s wildest cars,” Etamadi says prior to his Fall/Winter 2019 show. The backstory explained the otherwise random collaboration with Just Eat, whose logo was splattered across leather jackets and a light-weight technical anorak, which was layered under an ice-blue body puffer vest.
That honesty has made Reza’s MUF10 popular among Copenhagen’s tribe of street kids (and local editors) who flock to the young label for its logoed tracksuits, outerwear and dresses for the MUF10 women. This season’s ones came in hybrid denim-trench, plaid and colorful two-pieces with text-embroidery stating “Under Pressure”, “Identity” and “Sameness”. After all, Etamadi remains torn between the worlds of his turbulent past and his more glamor-filled future.
“A lot of people still see us as a cap and t-shirt brand, that is until about seven minutes ago,” Les Deux founder Andreas von der Heide laughs after his show. Born as a cap brand, the label was able to early capitalize on the rise of streetwear in the early 2010s. It sold 100.000 units of its signature logoed cap in its first two seasons alone.
Now in its seventh year, Les Deux is finally growing into its own with a broadened apparel offering. That means checked car coats, checked trousers, checked slim-fit suiting and checked everything. Classic menswear hues like charcoal, olive and navy also popped up throughout the extremely commercial and stripped-back collection that felt more clothing than fashion. However, von der Heide knows his clientele well. “Simplicity is a key word in Danish design. It’s about fitting in but standing out, that’s the Danish way.”
It was a scene out of South Park, the group of kids walking down the Haervaerk runway in primary colored ‘fits against an equally cartoon-y soundtrack and held at a children’s rave-cave. One look literally took inspiration from South Park character Kenny with an oversized red-hooded jacket.
“It’s all about a pre-teenage kid who is at an age of still finding out who he wants to become, I kind of take the piss out of it with this exaggerated, cartoon version,” Haervaerk founder Niels Guntoft Hansen tells Highsnobiety post-show. That exaggeration manifested itself through child-like bright crewnecks, polo shirts and cargo trousers. There were also mittens, neck tats and tie-dye. The colored hair, ripped panty-hose and discolored Dr. Martens were references to the punk movement, so was the finale’s soundtrack by British punk band IDLES.
It was a sensory overload that poses the question if shoppers want to dress like teenagers, let alone awkward ones searching for their identity.
Swedish fashion house J. Lindeberg was founded by Johan Lindeberg in 1996, offering skinny jeans, lengthened jeans and leather jackets that proved successful among a celebrity clientele including Justin Timberlake, Ashton Kutcher and Brad Pitt.
But there was none of that on today’s runway. Instead, creative director Jens Werner showed well-crafted streetwear and tailoring that felt more in-tune with the ways in which today’s generation dresses.
“It was time to explain what the brand was in the past and where we are [deciding] to take it,” Werner tells Highsnobiety.
Werner brings experience from Adidas’ Style team, where he worked on the fashion collaborations with Yohji Yamamoto, Rick Owens, Kanye West’s Yeezy and Raf Simons.
It was the latter which was referenced too heavily throughout the collection. The balaclavas, oversized tailoring and the finale’s punk soundtrack could be forgiven, that is without the other countless Raf-isms. Sneakers were a hybrid between Simons’ Ozweego and Detroit Runner models, while chunky knitwear was turned inside out, much like at Simons’ final runway outing at Calvin Klein 205W39NYC. Other knitwear doubled as scarves and one T-shirt looked too much like the Belgian designer’s oversized American tee. Werner’s collaboration with friend, and punk rock, photographer Susie J. Horgan screamed Raf Simons x Robert Mapplethorpe.
Yes, the clothing was highly desirable as a result, but if Werner wants to bring J. Lindeberg to an international stage these literal references need to be ironed out.
Probably one of the most sustainable brands showing this week was Holzweiler. Around 60 percent of all the wool and cashmeres in its co-ed 5th anniversary collection was recycled. No small feat for a business that last season produced 120.000 scarves — the items remain the company’s best-selling product category.
It was reason enough for Holzweiler founders Susanne and Andreas Holzweiler and Maria Skappel Holzweiler to pay homage to the practical fashion item for its FW19 show. As a result, scarf motifs popped up everywhere throughout the collection. Each rendition was different, and better, than the last. It was refreshing to see this season’s layering and overall styling being stripped back, courtesy of stylist Alexandra Carl.
The show’s last looks included light, plastic outerwear and trousers. Alarming at first sight but Andreas Holzweiler was quick to squash any presumptions about the notorious material. “It’s all made from 3m insulated padding which is more sustainable than using real down and the plastic is biodegradable. The [see-through] material shows what’s underneath the surface so we’re not hiding anything.” Radical transparency in the literal sense.
Heliot Emil is Copenhagen’s answer to London’s A-COLD-WALL*. Both labels were founded around the same time and take style cues from architecture, product design and geometry. What’s makes them different, however, is the darkness in which brothers Victor and Julius Juul approach their collections. FW19 was no different.
“We’re slowly getting more into it,” says Yeezy alumnus Julius Juul, the company’s creative half. “We keep on drawing from the same inspirations but we’re developing more, with more financial stability comes more creative freedom.”
There was indeed more fabric experimentation this time around. There were even more technical materials than before, which were used for straight-cut trenches, logoed trousers and minimalist skirts and tops for women. There were also new water-proof, breathable, and heat-sensitive fabrics as well as a newly developed textile with a membrane lining which fully displays the Heliot Emil logo when it gets wet. That kind of innovation will take them a long way.
Martin Asbjørn felt confident this season. Perhaps it was because of the opulent inspiration he based his latest collection. Gangster culture and all its excesses. “It was about trying to dress to impress,” he says after one of his best shows to date. References were made films like Scarface and American Gangster but let’s not forget those 1990s R&B videos like those of Usher, whose track Such a Good Kisser played in the background.
That unexpected dichotomy has been a signature for Asbjørn since he started. His latest outing wasn’t any different. 1930s-inspired tailoring was made modern through vibrant colors and modern, sport-y fabrics. “I did some tailoring in my last collection and it sold really well, but then there are these elements of sport and street as well.”
The giant faux fur coat and oversized 1960s eyewear were standouts. Dressing to impress indeed.
Closing the week was Mfpen, which once again reinterpreted the traditional notion of Scandinavian menswear through an experimental approach to fabrics and fit. Its FW19 collection, titled Morgenluft (morning breeze) looked at the experience of going home after a night out, while early risers are already on their way to work.
“You’re in between the two, not going out but neither home and people are drifting by you. Their day has just begun and yours is about to end,” explains founder and creative director Sigurd Bank. What that looked like clothing-wise was down-to-earth dressing. Boxy shirts, padded vests and slouchy trousers were present. Paired with Chucks, the inspiration came alive. Mission succeeded.