By  on October 5, 2007

COPENHAGEN — New York, Paris, Milan, London — Copenhagen?

Increasingly style-conscious trade fairs held here concurrent to Danish Fashion Week are helping to secure a place for Scandinavian style on the world's fashion map.

"It is Europe's best-kept secret," said Liz Conover, executive director of merchandising and marketing for New York's Takashimaya, who circled Copenhagen's foremost fashion fair, CPH Vision, as well as the first official session of Gallery, a boutique fair held here.

With fashion ranked as Denmark's fourth-biggest export, growing by nearly 17 percent annually, organizers agree they must concentrate their efforts on luring international buyers from the four corners of the world. "The main aim is to create a Scandinavian platform with established brands as well as young designers that otherwise wouldn't have had a chance to be seen," said Jan Busch Carlsen, organizer of CPH Vision, which displays Scandinavian brands and international labels while also serving as a springboard for fresh talent from all nations in the region.

Scandinavian brands are looking to export because trendy concept stores in their domestic markets are reaching saturation.

"We must focus on international buyers, it is the only way for Danish brands to grow," said Christian Gregersen, organizer of Gallery, the budding boutique trade show that boasted some 80 Scandinavian premium brands such as Noir, Filippa K, Acne Jeans, Whyred and Wonhundred.

Organizers noted an increasing number of international buyers visiting the shows, who lauded the labels on display for their selection of high-quality styles and affordability, despite a strong euro and overall sluggish retail markets.

"Today our customers are well traveled and well educated and can buy anywhere in the world, so we approach our selection from a global nomad point of view and Scandinavian brands have that worldly appeal," said Takashimaya's Conover, adding she's increasing her buying budget by as much as 12 percent.

To meet the growing demand for Scandinavian styles, Takashimaya, which launched an e-commerce site in late August, hosted a storewide event in New York to present a range of Danish fashion and design last month in the presence of Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark."There is a trend of modernity that runs throughout all the collections, it's very architectural without being too structural," said Andrew Mandell, a buyer at Takashimaya, who placed "substantial" orders with Iceland's Steinunn, Denmark's Trine Kryger Simonsen and Bitte Kai Rand. "Very well made clothes and good price points," he noted.

"Price points are more accessible," agreed Eric Atkines, buyer for Polite Society, a 3,000-square-foot, Seattle-based concept store focusing on new international brands. "We are reaching out to small shows to find designer quality lines that can sit next to established designer brands."

Atkines placed orders at Baum und Pferdgarten, By Malene Birger, Julie Fagerholt Heartmade and Iben Hoj. "Scandinavian fashion is incorporated into the country's active lifestyle. It can be sensual and forward as well as functional — just take a look at all the stylish women here on their bicycles."

Indeed, Copenhagen boasts a glamorous gridlock of stylish women who ride bicycles around the city.

After long winters with little sunlight, Scandinavian designers are all for adding a touch of color to their upcoming spring and summer lines. Taking their inspiration from nature, pastel pinks and sun-bright yellows were a recurrent theme at CPH Vision and Gallery. Lightweight knitwear, a Scandinavian specialty, in pastels as well as earth tones were on offer at Denmark's Iben Hoj and Soul Made.

Dresses remained a key direction for the summer 2008 season; however, the slightly more tailored styles on display proved trends are heading away from the loose-fitting looks that dominated stores last year.

Budding Copenhagen-based designer Stine Goya, who presented her first runway show at the Contemporary Arts Center, was looking on the bright side of fashion for her summer collection. Goya sent a line of colorful jumpsuits in pink and turquoise down the runway, while her playful prints — inspired this season by a magnifying glass — continued to underline her collections. "I was inspired by the dreamy world aspect one finds in Michel Gondry's films," said Goya.

She collaborated with Copenhagen's trendy jewelry brand Arena CPH to create a colorful necklace. On Wednesday, Arena CPH will launch Arena 10, the brand's first exclusive line made with 10-karat gold and diamonds. The line will be sold in 10 stores worldwide, including Copenhagen's Storm, Selfridges in London and Fred Segal in Los Angeles.Smart fabrics, such as ultralightweight nylon jackets at Baum und Pferdgarten, or plastic detailing by budding Berlin-based design team Pulver were also key directions for the summer season. Set in CPH Vision's separate hall for rising talent, Pulver's Utopia line, which ranges in price from 40 euros, or $56 at current exchange, to 170 euros, or $238, wholesale, offered elegant dresses with modern touches such as plastic trimmings and blouses with a nacre effect.

Subdued shimmer in blouses and dresses underlined many collections at the fairs. "People recognize Scandinavia for its strong commercial brands with an accessible price point, but today there is an increasing number of Danish designers that are making fashion labels and who are involved on the international fashion scene," said London-based Danish designer Jens Laugesen, who showed his collection in Denmark for the first time since he left to pursue his label abroad. Laugesen's elegantly crafted collection for the summer boasts trompe l'oeil effects on tailored women's suits.

Meanwhile, Scandinavian denim continues to be at the forefront of avant-garde denim styles. At CPH Vision, Sweden's Nudie Jeans presented a range of washed wide-leg denim in ultralight blue, while Acne Jeans also presented a range of new shapes focusing on wide-leg jeans for next summer. "The wide leg is very strong. In the past there has only been one style for denim such as the skinny, but the denim trends are becoming more eclectic, women can one day decide to wear the wide leg, and the next the skinny," said Michael Schiller, president of Acne Jeans, who noted two new Acne Jeans stores will open in Hamburg, Germany, and Oslo next fall.

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