On Tuesday January 31, the calendar for the next Paris fashion week was published: for the fall-winter 2023-2024 women’s season, the city will welcome a record number of brands, between luxury giants, national treasures and young designers. That same day began a completely different fashion week, that of Copenhagen. Although much more modest in size and reputation, this outsider who places environmental responsibility at the heart of his message encourages other capitals to think about the meaning of a fashion week.
Three or four years ago, Copenhagen had not made its place on the fashion world map, where Paris, Milan, London and New York reign supreme. Things change in 2020, when the general manager of Danish fashion week, Cecilie Thorsmark, has the savvy idea of anchoring it in the ecological challenge. With the support of a committee specializing in environmental issues, she drew up a list of eighteen criteria to be met in order to be part of fashion week.
These concern the entire production chain: brands must not destroy their unsold items, at least 50% of their collection must be made from organic, recycled or vintage fabrics, packaging must be reusable, their fashion shows must not produce waste… “These are rules, not advice.insists Cecilie Thorsmark. We can clearly see with the rest of the industry that advising is not enough to make things happen. »
While the last three years have been used to help the candidate labels to meet the standards, the entry into force of these criteria begins this season. “We never stopped organizing seminars, coaching, offering toolkits, explains Cecilie Thorsmark. We didn’t want to end with a ten-man fashion week! » “We had time to organize, confirms Cathrine Saks, co-founder of Saks Potts, which is one of the most important local brands. On the volume of certified fabrics (organic, recycled), we even managed to exceed the objectives! » In the end, only one brand failed to respect the set rules, and the ecological commitment even attracted foreign brands like the Hungarian Aeron. From January 31 to February 3, Copenhagen was able to present 28 mixed collections.
The success of the operation is due to the fact that most Danish brands are young and small compared to a Vuitton or a Chanel: change is easier at home, and some were even born with these principles rooted in the body. This is the case of PLN, which only manufactures to order to avoid unsold quantities, of A. Roege Hove, whose 100% knitted garments produce no manufacturing waste, since they are knitted to the correct size.
Or (di)vision, a label founded in 2018 but already strong with around twenty points of sale on four continents: it only uses vintage clothes or already existing fabrics. Their fashion show made people talk about it beyond the Danish borders, without deploying a lot of resources: in a restaurant with a chandelier and white tablecloths, (di)vision had installed its guests around tables strewn with cigarette butts, oyster shells and wine stains.
While a band played Red Hot Chili Peppers covers, diners watched the brand’s models/friends wander between the tables in their skater-cool dressing rooms, flirting with 1990s grunge (lumberjack shirt, tee- short-sleeved shirt over long-sleeved T-shirt) and the bad taste of the 2000s (baggy leaving thong and navel visible). The climax was reached when a “guest” got up from the table, taking with her the tablecloth sewn to her outfit and everything on it – it was, in fact, a mannequin.
Other brands have shone in very different genres. In the minimalist vein, Skall Studios has demonstrated its effectiveness, with its silhouettes designed in natural materials, presented at the Museum of Design, lulled by an electropop concert by Oh Land. Soft beige sweaters, well-cut jeans that lengthen the silhouette, white blouses with delicate embroidery, black cape coat that goes with everything… everything is desirable.
At the Museum of Modern Art in Arken, Ganni has declined a sexy wardrobe with a touch of madness, with many dresses: in very tight and transparent mesh, embroidered with vermilion sequins or draped in emerald velvet. For its part, Iso Poetism has deployed a monochrome wardrobe of protective down jackets and outerwear, treated with the same care as if it were ceremonial outfits.
An offbeat universe and attractive prices
So many very commercial proposals, if we compare them with the Parisian catwalks, where the injunction to creativity is much more important, the quality of the materials and the finish of the products much higher. Because the Danish parades are not only a communication tool intended to make the brand shine with a staging and extravagant outfits. The clothes shown are actually sold in store. “We find here very marked and slightly offbeat universes, with an interesting price positioning (for example, a hundred euros for pants, between 300 and 400 euros for a coat). It’s an offer that you don’t find so much in France”explains Agathe Nerguisian, female buyer at Galeries Lafayette in Paris.
Still, this fashion week does not intend to be cataloged “commercial” and has been working for several seasons to make room for more daring talents. This is the case of A. Roege Hove, who only offers knitted pieces, which she works like sculptures, sometimes molded on the body, sometimes draped in large volumes. Or Selam Fessahaye, a Swedish designer of Eritrean origin who imagines trouser suits made in patchwork from sequined dresses from the 1980s.
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If Copenhagen is inspired by the creativity of Paris, the capital could, for its part, be inspired by the Danish initiative, which imposes on brands a less carefree vision of fashion.