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Retailers Play It Safe at Copenhagen Fashion Week

While some labels fear zero growth this year, others expect sales gains of between 10 and 25 percent.

COPENHAGEN – Denmark may have been the first European country to officially enter a recession, but the bright corals and pinks in collections during Copenhagen’s fashion week seemed to express the prevailing optimism among many of the country’s fashion players.

Despite sluggish economies, an estimated 50,000 vistors, including buyers from overseas department stores plus international journalists from Paris, New York and Beijing, attended the five-day event, which ended here Aug. 10. It was held concurrent with a trio of trade shows, from mainstream brands at the Copenhagen International Fashion Fair, to streetwear, denim and young designers at CPH Vision and designer names at Gallery.

Confirming Copenhagen’s status as a showcase for Nordic design, Sweden’s Cheap Monday staged its first runway show, while fellow Swedish brand Acne unveiled its latest women’s wear collection and Finland’s Marimekko showed a collection of bold nature-inspired prints, marking the first runway show by a Finnish brand here. Denmark’s Day Birger et Mikkelsen, meanwhile, staged a theatrical show to rival Paris, commandeering the city’s main square to fete its 10-year anniversary with 1,500 guests that climaxed in a firework display.

Yet there are rumblings that rising inflation and skyhigh housing prices will impact the country’s retail market. “The latest estimate was that 300 shops would close by yearend,” said Jan Busch Carlsen, directior of the CPH Vision trade show, noting that a whopping 560 fashion stores have opened across Denmark this year.  “Whoever gets last on the train will have to get off very quickly.”

Many retailers here are trimming the number of suppliers, according to Michael Rand, managing director for Bitte Kai Rand. “In Denmark, there was this bonanza where everything was possible and it was very easy for new labels to get started. Now retailers aren’t taking as many chances.”

“Before, I could sell anything,” said Ane Cecile Remvig, owner of Remvig, a 1,000-square-foot store carrying mid-market labels for 25 to 35-year-olds in Copenhagen. “I was bringing in labels nobody knows. Now I’m playing it safe.”

But some say Denmark’s economic worries have been exaggerated. “I know that many small boutiques have had a slower season than last year, but it’s not as bad as you would believe when you read the newspapers,” said Hato Westrum, managing director of Hato Ans Scandinavia, which represents French denim brand Kaporal.

“We’re hearing [about recession] over and over again, but it hasn’t hit us yet,” concurred Anna Wallen, distribution and marketing manager for Sweden’s Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair.

Indeed, while some labels fear zero growth this year, others expect sales gains of between 10 and 25 percent. The Danish reputation for reliability stands them in good stead in tough markets according to Luc Biermé, sales manager for Paris’ Who’s Next trade show. “Retailers can be sure the collections will be delivered on time: That there will be a good management of stock and of the choice and the style of the product,” he said.