By  on September 25, 2007

A battalion of Danish designers descended on D&A and, true to their design-friendly homeland, they did so with flair.

Upon entering the Chelsea Art Museum, visitors may have been tipped off by the Arne Jacobsen-designed chairs loaned by Fritz Hansen. The 12 Denmark-based companies wanted to steer clear of being clustered together beneath generic-looking signs signaling a trade mission. Jack Renteria, senior trade adviser of the Royal Danish Consulate General, explained, "We didn't want to make it too governmental or official trade council stuff."

Cofinanced by the Trade Council of Denmark and the Federation of Danish Textiles, the Danish companies agreed to be interspersed with other brands. The only difference was that the Europeans had tasteful red signs above their booths. Appropriately so, given how this miniscule Scandinavian country introduced Danish Modern to the world.

Casch Copenhagen's designers, Gro Abrahamsson and Carsten Schlamovitz, said they are trying to make U.S. sales 50 percent of their overall business, compared with today's proportion of 40 percent. Having been in business for 20 years, the company has been selling in the States for six or seven years. Controlled growth has helped the label cultivate domestic customers who now buy collections as opposed to pieces, said Schlamovitz, who started out by lugging sample-filled suitcases up and down the streets of New York looking for the most suitable stores.

Marie Worsaae, who owns a signature showroom representing five Danish labels, said, "In Denmark, we try to aim for everyone instead of focusing on a specific customer. In the U.S., it seems the bigger the collection and the more Champagne at the booth, the more product they sell."

In June, D&A co-producer Barbara Kramer got a firsthand look at the way things work in Copenhagen, by biking — the city's preferred mode of transportation — with Worsaae from showroom to showroom. "Denmark has such a design aesthetic from its history. With its industrial design and architectural design, the fashion industry already has a template for good design. It's in their DNA," said Kramer.

At Baum und Pfergarten, Christian Hansen, public relations and marketing coordinator, said she had doubled the number of U.S. accounts to 25 or so. She said she encourages retailers to place smaller orders initially and to build relations with the company. Bestsellers at D&A included a $145 flounced purple blouse, a $140 straight gray skirt and a $185 jacket with puffy sleeves. Those items are also the most popular looks with European buyers.Designer Hellen Hesthave said, "I have been surprised how good they are at picking out the best pieces."

By Malene Birger is a $23.7 million sportswear label that sells to 17 countries and exports to 32. About 52 boutiques currently sell the collection here, said Niels Dam, international sales and retail director. The company has adjusted its shipping schedule so U.S. stores now get deliveries on the same days Europeans do, which has helped boost the brand's sales by 34 percent in the past year, he said.

"Americans are very obsessed with getting everything delivered and delivered on time," Dam said.

Mads Nørgaard, another sportswear label that also has a multibrand Copenhagen store, made "The Copenhagen Experience," a short fashion film featuring catwalker Freja Beha, instead of holding a runway show during last month's Danish Fashion Week. Screenings were held at the Danish Fashion Institute and the flick was beamed on the sides of buildings in Copenhagen. The company also bought the rights to the song "Copenhagen" used in the film and will release it on iTunes next month. The spring line is called the "mash-up collection" — as in the term used for mixing music. Public relations and marketing manager Christina Hee Colstrup also noted the line always has a lot of color "to keep a more positive vibe."

Tina Casmose, who has a signature collection of sportswear and dresses, said she picked up 15 new accounts at D&A, including Takashimaya in London. She was gearing up to show her collection in St. Petersburg, Russia, next month, as part of a Nordic Council-backed initiative. D&A showgoers gravitated toward a sleeveless dress, at $125 wholesale, and a silk and cotton blouse that can be worn with short or long sleeves, at $102. Many were looking for organic fabrics more for the comfort factor than the environmental one, Casmose said.

Another exhibitor, Gudrun & Gudrun, a handmade knitwear collection produced in the Faroe Islands, 18 tiny islands in the North Atlantic, played up its untreated organic yarns. The collection was particularly popular with Japanese buyers, and several American ones said they were interested in seeing the winter collection, since that is the more important season for the category.Iben Høj, a brand consisting of delicate tops, offered a few items blended with bamboo. The collection, which wholesales from $130 to $210, currently is sold in a few New York stores including fellow Dane Helena Christensen's Butik in TriBeCa. Jens Friis, director of sales and public relations, said the company wants to expand its U.S. business because "people here have good taste."

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