Friday, August 10, 2018

In Copenhagen, Fashion Grows Amidst Stylistic Confusion

From this August’s instalment of Copenhagen Fashion Week, you’ll hear almost as much about the sweltering Northern European heat and show spaces without air conditioning as you will the shopping lists of the energetic press and buyer cohort in town for the three-day-long event.

Denmark’s fashion week is the largest out of the four Scandinavian markets. It’s Copenhagen, with a growing list of essential press, buyers, and influencers in attendance, that is unofficially wrestling for the position of the fifth major fashion week. The local talent is a mix of emerging names—like Holzweiler and former LVMH Prize nominee Cecilie Bahnsen—and lauded commercial successes—Ganni, Stine Goya, Saks Potts. They all possess a commercial charm which draws the international fashion pack to Denmark. 

The event kickstarted on Tuesday morning and the opening day witnessed the shows from fashion colleges Scandinavian Academy of Fashion Design and The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, as well as the Designers’ Nest competition where Marie Rousing collected the first prize for her conceptual designs. 
Models at the Rodbejer presentation. Carin Rodbejer, centre, kneeling.

At 9 am on Wednesday morning, Rodebjer initiated day two by gifting champagne and condoms to guests. (The Swedish designer behind the label, Carin Rodebjer, decamped from Stockholm Fashion Week, where she showed last season.) The presentation took place in what was called a ‘Garden of Sin’ but the clothes themselves didn’t reflect any lascivious fantasies. They were rather sophisticated, in fact. The offering was an uncomplicated melange of colourful propositions and flattering silhouettes—wrap dresses and A-line jackets.

Stine Goya, a fan favourite amongst the influencer set, presented their show on Wednesday evening and their brand identity was squarely aimed at concocting a fashionable narrative out of chintzy patterns and demure tailoring. It was going well until a purple floor-sweeping shirt dress with a plunging neckline and a constellation of sparkling sequins trailed down the runway. One couldn’t help but imagine editrix Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada taking one look at it and pursing her lips. It was the deal-breaker. In a collection complete with retail-friendly separates and not much else, it was the purple dress which broke the collection’s back. ‘Granny chic’ in its purest form was the collection’s aim but the appearance of this dress, a satin shift, and a tulle concoction diverted the course and shifted the whole show into a confused territory, one that was especially tricky to negotiate.

Yesterday morning Mathilde Torp Mader christened her stint at By Malene Birger with a tumble. It seemed she was eulogising Phoebe Philo’s tenure at Céline than it offered an homage to Scandinavian modernism. The eponymous Malene Birger, who left the company in 2014 for interior design, was the proprietor of feminine minimalism in Scandinavian fashion, the covetable and recognisable style which inspires scores of women worldwide.
The finale at Ganni

Later in the day, it was Ganni’s turn to offer up what contemporary Scandinavian style should look like, what their Instagram followers and influencer stalwarts might emulate for Spring 2019. This runway isn’t about challenging any preconceived notions, rather it’s modus operandi is to act as the bellwether of contemporary-level fashion. In the digital age, perhaps there isn’t a more accurate example of ‘Designed for Instagram’ fashion than Ganni. Granny chic, glamping gear, tie-dye, double denim: The clothes didn’t warrant anything more than a hashtaggable description, they encapsulate the ephemerality of trends and they can change with the wind.

“What I’ve learned is that I’m happiest when we’re not trying to start again every season. I want to refine and perfect what we do; it’s about evolving our DNA with each collection,” said Cecilie Bahnsen in her show notes. It’s why you could look at her Spring 2018 show, presented one year ago, and scan her Spring 2019 show, presented on Wednesday afternoon, and see the same silhouettes, familiar colours, and recurring concepts—sculptural silhouettes and soft, almost-childlike saccharinity. It plays to her advantage. 

This season, she updated the codes with puffer dresses which were uncharacteristically light, florid baby doll dresses in blue and yellow, and open-backed dresses with bow details. She concluded, “each collection must be strong, but they need to sit alongside each other in harmony. It also says something about the women who like to wear the label – it doesn’t own them. You see who they are.”
Finale tableau at Cecilie Bahnsen.

The same could be said for the Saks Potts show which brought down the curtain on Copenhagen Fashion Week. This season it was inflected with a post-I, Tonya mood. Cathrine Saks and Barbara Potts, the 24-year-old designers, could’ve been defter with some of their realisations, it wasn’t as sharp as Tonya Harding’s figure skating in her prime. It did remain true to their signatures—70s influences and strong tailoring.

Copenhagen doesn’t propose earth-shattering ideas, but that’s not why editors and buyers come. They come for the lifestyle. They come for a slice of hygge. They come for the sellable aspiration of blonde and blue-eyed style mavens who assume the position of sartorial bellwethers.

Copenhagen has become the epicentre of the upscale high street, where consumption is linked to Instagram trends. The designers here are plumb the archives of Instagram pages dedicated to 1990s nostalgia and ironic fashion. It’s a sobering thought but amidst the there are virtuosos like Cecilie Bahnsen whose Scandinavian minimalism is at once practical, pretty and emotional.

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