By  on January 24, 2012

With Danish retail in the doldrums, designers at Copenhagen Fashion Week, which runs Feb. 1 to 5, are likely to have an increased focus on capturing international buyers.

Exports of Danish fashion increased 13.4 percent in 2011 to an estimated 24.8 billion kroner, or $4.31 billion at current exchange, representing 94 percent of the total market of 26.38 billion kroner, or $4.59 billion, according to estimates from trade organization Dansk Mode & Textil. In 2008, exports accounted for 90 percent of sales, proving the increasing importance of international sales to Danish designers.

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A characteristic of the Danish fashion community is that it groups together an impressive number of small designers — estimated at around 800, although the lion’s share of the market is held by majors like Bestseller.

“[Danish designers] tend to create something you don’t see elsewhere,” said Michael Hillmose, Dansk Mode & Textil’s head of international affairs. “And they are really having a hard time at the moment because multibrand stores are not doing well in Denmark. They are seeking to grow their business in other markets, because the Danish retail market is very weak at the moment.”

Denmark’s biggest export markets for textiles are Germany, the rest of Scandinavia and the Netherlands, Hillmose said. Together, they account for nearly two-thirds of exports. The U.K. and Spain are also strong markets.

The share of emerging markets is growing, however. “Danish brands are getting more global and notably receiving more attention with buyers from Asia — mainly China, South Korea and Japan,” Hillmose said. “That’s a major change.”

Despite Europe’s dreary financial horizon, Copenhagen Fashion Week chief executive officer Eva Kruse is convinced that her country’s design proposition, which she describes as “functional and affordable,” has something to offer in the current climate.

The atmosphere in the run-up to the shows is positive, she claimed. “We have the largest number of runway shows ever, new brands as well as some major brands back on the runway.”

There will be 40 designer runway shows, compared to 31 last February. (This is in addition to trend shows organized by the trade fairs.)

One of the brands returning to the runway for the first time since 2007 is 30-year-old Sand.

“The designers are fighting against the times and marketing their way out of the crisis,” Kruse commented. “It’s now a question of, will the buyers come and will they have the budgets?”

At the trade shows — the key aspect of Copenhagen Fashion Week — expectations are somewhat tempered. Jan Busch Carlsen, founder of the CPH Vision trade show, which has now teamed with competing show Terminal-2, said, “We have reached a level where we cannot go much lower. In terms of exhibitors, we have a full house, however, and are able to maintain quality.”

Fashion week’s four concurrent fairs — which also include Gallery and Copenhagen International Fashion Fair — expect to attract 65,000 trade visitors, on a par with last February’s numbers, according to Kruse. About 40 percent of these are international buyers.

The combined shows have 2,300 exhibitors. CIFF, Gallery and CPH Vision are focused on contemporary women’s ready-to-wear, while Terminal-2 features denim and streetwear.

CPH Vision’s Busch Carlsen said preregistration numbers were up at press time, and that he expected visitor numbers to be flat or slightly up.

This season, CPH Vision and Terminal-2 will be held in separate venues for the last time, before coming under one roof for their August editions.

To make life easier for buyers, the organizers have introduced smartphone ticketing via QR codes.

It has also improved its smartphone catalogue, making it more interactive, so visitors do not have to carry a heavy paper version around.

Fashion week events will include the opening of a new boutique for denim brand Acne, as well as a Green Rock Night hosted by Liam Gallagher at the Zen nightclub on Feb. 1 and a White Swans & Black Knights event for Marc by Marc Jacobs at Simons on Feb. 2.

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