By  on July 26, 2005

Even the grittier parts of copenhagen, a pristine, compact capital, are picturesque by metropolis standards—and getting hipper by the minute. Vesterbro, once the cradle of prostitution and porn, is today dotted with fashion boutiques and hip cafes that morph into seriously cool bars after dark. And the cultural renaissance extends to the entire city, thanks to a bold new crop of restaurateurs, architects and fashion designers—the latter group emboldened by their glamorous young patron: Crown Princess Mary, a chic Australian who has put her weight behind an industry that represents Denmark's fourth-biggest export. The Danish fashion community is still searching for a handle for its look, but "Nordic bohemian" is a good starting point. Think of something chic to wear on a bicycle.

For an introduction to Danish brands, stroll the thronged pedestrian corridor Strøget and you'll discover a whole new world of popular labels: B Young, Matinique, Sand and Mads Nørgaard, to name a few. But make like the locals and detour at will. "Danish people who are into fashion like to turn in and out of the small streets," says fashion designer Christina Julsgaard, who planted her gallery-like Yiip boutique next to others off-the-beaten-path at 5 Bagerstraede. Don't miss her new Yiip jeans, with long and low back pockets. Other out-of-the-way boutiques worth the extra steps are Pede & Stoffer at 19 Klosterstraede, which carries European and Scandinavian brands; trendy Dico at 21 Ravnsborggade, and the newcomer Bark |at 26 Elmegade and 3 Lille Kirkestraede, whose knits printed with lines of Danish poetry are a highbrow alternative to the usual souvenir T-shirt. Over in funky Vesterbro, start at the western end of Istedgade and dip into an endless number of small design, thrift and fashion shops. Donn Ya Doll, at 55 Istedgade, is stuffed with clothes made with retro curtain prints that are a hallmark of Scandinavian design, and also stocks toys and novelties. Independent designers gravitate here, and you can often find them sewing in the back. At Asfalt, at 83 Istedgade, Hanne Zachariassen makes dresses and skirts from old tablecloths— a sort of kitchen couture.

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