By  on August 12, 2014

COPENHAGEN — An upbeat mood reigned at Copenhagen Fashion Week since Danish fashion companies are expanding their work forces for the first time in five years amid signs of sustained strength in the industry’s foreign sales.

Total exports of Danish fashion, which account for 60 percent of the Danish fashion industry’s output, rose 1.8 percent in 2013 to 22.7 billion Danish kroner, or $4.17 billion. Germany and England were the biggest drivers, with exports up 5 and 7 percent, respectively, versus 2012. This offset the 5 percent drop in domestic sales in 2013. Currency conversions are calculated at average exchange for the periods concerned.

Dansk Fashion and Textile, the trade association for Danish textile and clothing companies, expects Denmark’s fashion exports to grow 2 percent this year.

“The numbers are positive in the first half of 2014,” said Thomas Klausen, chief executive officer of Dansk Fashion and Textile. “The mood is very optimistic. For the first time since 2009, more companies expect to hire than fire.”

Out of around 170 companies surveyed by the association, 60 percent said they were expecting to hire and 70 percent said they were expecting growth. Another positive sign is the growing number of international visitors to Copenhagen Fashion Week, which this season ran Aug. 3 to 8, according to Klausen.

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Buyers praised Danish fashion’s light modern aesthetic and the innovative use of fabrics, as seen on the runways of rising talents Asger Juel Larsen, Mark Kenly Domino Tan and Max Nørgaard. The region’s jewelry also impressed with high-quality materials.

“The focus on sustainability is what differentiates us,” said Eva Kruse, ceo of Copenhagen Fashion Week, which draws around 40,000 industry professionals. “We are putting the focus on all the brands that are telling a sustainable story,” she added, citing Barbara I Gongini, who had the opening show, and newcomer Fonnesbech.

They were among more than 30 women’s and men’s labels showing this season, including rising talents such as Freya Dalsjö and Larsen, winner of the European regional award of the International Woolmark Prize in men’s wear, and regulars such as Designers Remix, Baum und Pferdgarten and By Malene Birger.

Model Hanne Gaby Odiele walked the runway for Nørgaard’s show. Another highlight was Ganni’s runway show, held on a rooftop tennis court. Ole Yde hosted a cocktail event to present a more commercial line, while his main line is to be presented in Paris on Oct. 1.

Copenhagen native Peter Jensen lifted the veil on his spring 2015 collection in collaboration with “Peanuts,” consisting of around 30 women’s looks. “I have always loved the comics,” said Jensen. “But I didn’t want to do anything with Snoopy. I based the collection mostly on female characters — Lucy, Sally Brown, Charlotte, Tapioca Pudding. I have done various prints with them and quotes.” The designer also has a capsule collection in the pipeline with French label Kitsuné.

Jensen took part in Copenhagen International Fashion Fair, one of the three competing trade fairs — along with Gallery and Vision — that the region offers. This season, CIFF shifted its days from Thursday to Sunday to Sunday to Wednesday, resulting in the city’s fairs being spread out over a longer period.

Continuing with its major re-branding, the fair upgraded its Crystal Hall area, showcasing a mix of avant-garde brands alongside an exhibition space. It presented an installment by Off White’s Virgil Abloh, who is also creative director for Kanye West and cofounder of Chicago concept store RSVP Gallery, and an exhibit dedicated to the late Malcolm McLaren, curated by his longtime partner, Young Kim.

“We have moved Crystal Hall to another level that is more cultural,” said Kristian Andersen, CIFF fashion and design director. “That’s part of our strategy for the future — to be more lifestyle- and cultural-oriented — because fashion is so linked to art and music. It was a natural collaboration [with Abloh and McLaren’s estate]. Brands want to be part of something that is more than just a trade show.”

Andersen estimated the fair attracted around 19,000 visitors, representing a small increase versus August 2013. The fair doesn’t provide definite numbers.

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Gallery, which was held from Aug. 6 to 8, has unveiled a collaboration with Danish fashion e-tailer Miinto. Starting next season, it plans to take 3-D pack shots of all the collections, or around 20,000 styles. “Gallery will become virtual. Before the fair opens, people will be able to prepare better and we can attract new buyers from Australia, Japan, etc., who wouldn’t come to Gallery otherwise,” said Gallery ceo Christian Gregersen. Visitor numbers were not available at press time.

Vision went back to its previous venue Øksnehallen, a former market hall. A jury of designers — Gongini, Silas Adler of Soulland, Charlotte Eskildsen of Designers Remix, Astrid Andersen and Anne Sofie Madsen — selected Andreas Eklöf, a student at the Swedish School of Textiles, as the winner of the fair’s Designers’ Nest competition.

“It’s really sophisticated outerwear,” said Madsen about the winner. “I think to use recycled materials in the same collection as new fabrics is a cool new approach. It is not recycling, it’s a way of upscaling,” added the designer, who didn’t show in Copenhagen this season.

Buyers generally lauded the region’s offer.

“Anne Sofie Madsen gives an identity to the store,” said Terrell Tate, creative director and buyer at the concept store Sprmrkt in Amsterdam, which also carries Asger Juel Larsen and Won Hundred.

Laura Larbalestier, buying director at Browns in London, agreed: “I think Anne Sofie Madsen’s collection is the most spectacular. The style is quite cool.”

Martin Premuzic of Temporary Showroom in Berlin, a store that carries Danish labels including Henrik Vibskov and Stine Goya, cited Asger Juel Larson as a good example of what’s in trend. “He does a lot of mesh and his aesthetic is very Nineties,” said Premuzic.

“I like to look at new development in fabrics,” explained Larsen. “For spring-summer, I did a lot of fabrics with layers on top, like Neoprene underneath and mesh on top. It is almost like a 3-D effect.”

“Acne is the only Scandinavian brand we carry for the moment. We are looking for the new Acne,” said Sandy Trébuil, luxury and designers buyer at Galeries Lafayette in Paris, noting she liked Wood Wood, Samsoe & Samsoe and Baum und Pferdgarten. “We also saw Max Nørgaard’s collection that we liked.”

Nørgaard sent out a sporty collection featuring fabrics such as chambray and cotton in light blue and white, with a little volume in dresses and blouses.

Trébuil said overall trends included boxy and oversize shapes on tops as well as bottoms. She saw a lot of technical materials such as Neoprene and mesh, as well as shiny and transparent fabrics.

“We are looking for something fresh out of Denmark,” said Keven McDermott, creative director and buyer at Layers London. McDermott said he bought Barbara I Gongini around three-and-a-half years ago but stopped carrying the brand. “It’s an amazing brand, but her aesthetic is very dark and avant-garde. People in London have moved on in a slightly different direction and even though the avant-garde scene is still big, the younger crowd want more color, younger and sportier brands.”

McDermott and his colleague Darren Rudland attended the Mark Kenly Domino Tan show. Rudland praised “strong bits within it.” The graduate of the Royal College of Art in London impressed with his collection of classic and feminine silhouettes reinterpreted in a modern context — a nod to Raf Simons at Dior — with a palette of fuchsia, rose, silver and shades of gray.

“I went to see the David Andersen show. It was nice,” said Bora Jun, a buyer at 10 Corso Como in Seoul, which already stocks local lines such as Wood Wood and bag line PB0110. A new location of 10 Corso Como is set to open in Beijing, she said.

Beginning next season, the Copenhagen fairs landscape will see a major reshuffle, with Vision set to be replaced by Revolver. New dates for CIFF weren’t available at press time, while Revolver and Gallery are scheduled to be held from Jan. 28 to 30.

Before that, some 25 Danish brands including Designers Remix, By Malene Birger and Soulland will get the royal treatment, having been chosen by The Hudson Bay Co. to be part of an event in Canada scheduled to coincide with a visit by Danish Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary to Canada next month. A pop-up shop will be dedicated to the labels at the Hudson Bay flagship in Toronto.

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