Sustainability and a sense of community dominated Copenhagen Fashion Week
The streets of Copenhagen exude fashion. The city's inhabitants are renowned for their unique style, a far cry from the usual conventions of their European neighbors. They parade around on bicycles wearing meticulously careless looks, bright color combinations, voluptuous bucolic dresses or technical and environmentally friendly fabrics. The idealized picture of minimalist Danes with a "hygge" ethos is more than just a stereotype; it has become the unwritten rule in a capital city plagued by functional Rains raincoats and Ganni logos. Between August 10 and 12, the capital hosted its most important fashion events simultaneously: the Copenhagen International Fashion Fair (CIFF) and the Copenhagen Fashion Week shows. Let’s take a closer look at a capital city that sets itself apart with its drive for innovation and sustainability.
More than 700 international brands gathered at the 59th edition of CIFF, an event held in the middle of August a few weeks ahead of the traditional "rentrée" of trade fairs and fashion weeks in September. Held in its usual location, the luminous Bella Center on the outskirts of the capital, the event celebrated its particular return to normality under the slogan ‘Together Again’.
Although CIFF only cancelled one of its fairs due to Covid-19, in February last year, its last edition was the first one organized without the restrictions of the pandemic, resulting in widespread enthusiasm in its corridors, as attendance of firms, buyers and foreign press exceeded last year's figures, when the event attracted 198,000 visitors and 500 participating brands. Among the international buyers, the UK was particularly well represented by Browns, Harrods, Selfridges and Fenwick.
Christina Neustrup, director of CIFF during the last two years affected by the health crisis, stepped down from the position during the last edition of the fair, which she described as a "cooperative movement". She handed over the baton to former L'Oréal executive Sofie Dolva and became CEO of the jewelry firm Kinraden.
“It has been a tough period, but we have focused on developing CIFF as a global platform with fixed objectives linked to our community. We are convinced that we do things better together. I am happy to see the return of American, Asian and European visitors. Momentum is back," said Neustrup, summing up the state of the event upon her departure. The first edition led by Dolva, coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the event, will take place from February 1 to 3.
The halls of the show were marked by innovation and sustainability, the two core values of CIFF Sustain, a space set up three seasons ago and dedicated to leading brands in the field, such as German labels Oftt and Black Velvet Circus, Hungarian brand Manuela Collage Arts or Ukrainian brand TG Botanical. Founded during the pandemic by Tatyana Chumak, TG Botanical employs 25 women and is committed to local production, experimental dyeing techniques and fabric production technologies from nettles, flax or hemp. After the Russian invasion, the brand is struggling to relocate its business.
TG Botanical was not the only Ukrainian firm in search of international contacts to ensure its survival after the war. The artisanal tailoring brand Litkovska (formerly known as Litkovskaya) presented garments made from surplus fabrics. It shared the spotlight at the entrance to the main hall with the impressive installations of local label Han Kjobenhavn, New York-based brand Quod and Labrum London, whose African-influenced British tailoring has already paraded at London Fashion Week. Present at CIFF since 2017, Labrum noted that "before the pandemic, the fair was huge and it was easy to get lost in," adding that "now it's smaller, but the space is very well curated."
“Attendees come looking for Scandinavian inspiration, but it is important to offer a comprehensive universe as an overview of the industry capable of surprising", said Neustrup. In fact, the new Vintage area (the only area dedicated to the BtoC of the entire fair), complemented the Danish designs with brands from London and Los Angeles; and the men's space presented a good handful of Japanese and British collections, such as those of Aton or Kaptain Sunshine. However, several international buyers consulted described the range offered in the menswear area as "limited".
The future of Danish events: sustainability and innovation
Likewise, the more commercially oriented Scandinavian and international womenswear had two large dedicated spaces and an area devoted to circular economy, with more than 40 Danish brands promoted by the Lifestyle & Design Cluster. The spaces served as a dissemination area in which sustainability was addressed from the circular design approach by brands such as Andersen-Andersen or KnowledgeCotton Apparel; the sourcing of respectful and innovative materials by Copenhagen Cartel or Design Agger; responsible production and distribution by the BrandTag tool or the packaging company Re-Zip; the extension of the life cycle of garments by Ganni’s rental service or Aiyu’s repair service and recycling done by companies such as Green Cotton Group or Haack Recycling.
“We cannot forget that trade shows are a business, but at the same time we are obliged to use our voice to steer things in the right direction. It is imperative that the fashion industry addresses the climate crisis. One of my main goals has been to turn a platform into a sustainability and circularity educational and training tool, as well as to push technologies to be more sustainable," said Neustrup, admitting that "although it is a very specific field, it is where we can make a difference".
Together with Copenhagen Fashion Week, CIFF has set sustainability and transparency targets for 2023 that will place minimal demands and accountability on participating brands. "Sustainability should not become a competition but a shared goal. In our industry there are networking groups, where firms can share knowledge and ideas on sustainability. As most brands face difficulties when confronted with the same challenging issues, it is important to support each other," said Cecilie Thorsmark, CEO of Fashion Week, on the importance of building synergies in this area.
In order to have a physical presence in addition to its biannual celebration, CIFF has 20,000 square meters spread over 2 floors dedicated to showrooms of brands throughout the year. When asked about the future of fairs and their format, Neustrup stated that "they should be places where innovations are built together, functioning as spaces where conversation and inspiration take place, not necessarily for traditional business trade.”
In her opinion, digitalization will be "the most disruptive element in the industry". "I am confident that at future trade fairs there will be no need to produce swatch books; instead, we will use avatars on the stands to modify sizes and colors. Collections will be presented using NFT and 3D technology that will recreate the motion of the garments," she added.
Fashion week takes over the city
“In Scandinavian creative practice there is honesty, purpose, and authenticity. The way our designers have translated this has had a very positive effect on a large scale, as these values are aspirational and it is possible to identify with them," enthused Thorsmark, commenting on the appeal of Copenhagen Fashion Week and the international exposure of Scandinavian brands.
Building identifying narratives seems to be one of the secrets of Danish success. Easily wearable garments, relatively accessible brands with values shared with their clientele and shows free of grandiosity and with a democratic style, with diverse and inclusive model castings and events often open to the public, are examples of the strategy behind the specific and relaxed nature of Copenhagen Fashion Week.
While the well established brands Iso.Poetism by Tobias Birk Nielsen and Rotate opted to hold their shows at CIFF's very own venue, the Bella Center industrial space, others such as Ganni, Saks Potts and Wood Wood preferred to take over different open spaces in the capital. The former, founded by Ditte & Nicolaj Reffstrup in 2000 and now a mainstream phenomenon outside the Danish borders, organized a massive fashion show on Ophelia Plads. With the local sunbathers seen on the docks serving as a backdrop, pastel decor, diving ramps and social media star Emma Chamberlain in attendance, who also starred in the campaign of the brand’s latest collaboration with Levi's, Ganni brought life to the city by displaying cheerful looks in bright colors, models riding bicycles and two collaborations dedicated to "upcycling" with Barbour and 66'North.
A strong love for Copenhagen was also felt in the central Kongens Nytrov square under the attentive gaze of tourists and passers-by, at the show of the brand founded by designer duo Barbara Potts and Cathrine Saks, Saks Potts. Inspired by Princess Mary of Denmark, the collection featured long leather coats, fuchsia sequined dresses and skirts, golden garments and fringed details. Some exceptional guests like local influencer Pernille Teisbaek or designer Аna Kraš were among the models that walked down the runway.
Stine Goya, another of the most internationally known names that showed at the fashion week, unveiled Tap1, an industrial space on the outskirts of the city that the brand decorated with columns of sand that gradually collapsed. The collection presented fluid garments in fluorescent tones, oversized silhouettes and watercolor prints and geometric patterns that stayed true to the signature style of the brand launched in 2006 by its eponymous designer. The brand is set to open a store in London this September.
Wood Wood, founded in Nørrebro in 2002 and boasting stores in Berlin and London, decided to take its collection to the Lille Langebro bridge, usually crossed by cyclists and pedestrians who, on this occasion, watched the show from opposite sides of the river. The show was a tribute to the brand's ties with the city held in the form of a sunset rave, with avant-garde garments featuring denim overlays, camouflage prints, sporty silhouettes and splashes of orange and neon green.
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