Bahnsen’s ethereal designs have captured the Instagram zeitgeist, quickly making her an industry darling. Her pairing of featherweight tulle dresses with beaded utility strap sandals (created in collaboration with Japanese shoe brand Suicoke) set off this past summer’s trend for Tevas-as-formalwear. In the last year, Bahnsen’s LVMH Prize shortlisted brand has grown its roster of stockists from 80 to 105 and has scaled staff up from a team of four to 11.
While her name might be a difficult sticking point for Americans (pronounced: seh-SEAL-yeh BAHN-sehn), the U.S. has become her top market nonetheless.
“At the moment, we are just trying to keep momentum while maintaining the values of the brand and the sustainable way we do things. Even though we are becoming bigger I still want it to feel like a family where we are excited by the things we are creating,” Bahnsen said from a cozy corner of SoHo’s 11 Howard.
Bahnsen’s brand is among a group of labels that have forged a new wave of Scandinavian design — one that exudes a certain carefree, optimistic viewpoint on style while also prioritizing comfort and ease of wear. Together, they have helped reinvigorate Copenhagen as a global hotspot for fashion, making the city’s semiannual fashion weeks a must-visit for buyers, editors and influencers.
Now, with a considerable following, the designer intends to chart forward with a renewed focus on accessories, separates and retail concepts.
WWD: Welcome back to New York. How does it feel?
Cecilie Bahnsen: It’s my second time ever in New York. I was here last time for fashion week in February, so it’s nice to be back for this season and have to explore. I was here last time for only two days and did an event with Dover Street Market, which was my first stockist in New York. Now I will have time to go to the galleries — my list of gallery visits is very long.
WWD: What shows are you hoping to see?
C.B.: I was really excited to visit the Met, it was a big dream for me to go there. I saw the Egyptian wing and the Native American art, loads of beautiful textile references and things like that. I went to the Guggenheim, which I wanted to see for the interior and the building design. This weekend we are going to go out of the city to the Storm King Art Center. I always love the combination of art and nature so I hope it will be inspiring.
WWD: What do you think about New Yorkers’ style, now that you have spent a bit more time here?
C.B.: Something that seems very New York is how people feel free to wear a beautiful dress on a Monday. I love Denmark but we all sort of have a similar approach to wearing dresses and I like to see new and different ways of how people can do it. You are allowed here to mix a lot more styles, and it’s super inspiring. I saw this lady wore one of my tulle dresses over a hoodie and I would have never thought to do that!
WWD: How do you think your designs resonate in the U.S.?
C.B: It’s really interesting, since February the U.S. has become our biggest market [surpassing Japan]. People are really reacting to my stuff because it’s feminine but quite minimal and you don’t feel too overdressed or too girly. Our cotton pieces are doing really well; it’s a collection that’s more for everyday.
WWD: What are your plans for the upcoming months? How do you see yourself growing?
C.B: I’m really excited for the next few months in my studio creating the fall-winter collection, which allows me a lot more layering because it’s the knitwear, outwear, shoes, socks — a much more complex collection than spring.
I’m focused now on crafting much more of a total look, an effortless kind of way of dressing without putting too much jewelry or bags. We will focus on shoe partnerships and our outerwear. We plan to look into installations and interesting pop-ups in key stores for the next year as a good retail testing ground.
For me it’s about quality, longevity and a love for dressing. In the beginning people would ask me, ‘What’s the new thing?’ but for me I’m building on what we already have and making the universe stronger by adding pieces each time without turning the brand on its head. The collections evolve but one is not too far off from the other. It’s about growing with the brand while keeping it close to my heart.