Forget about minimal. Copenhagen Fashion Week, which ended its three-day run on Friday, was all about playful colors and prints. The palette reflected the upbeat mood that prevailed given that exports were up, especially to Germany. Buyers praised the region’s cool street-style scene, design talents and trade fairs.
Total exports of Danish fashion, which account for 60 percent of the Danish fashion industry’s output, rose 7 percent in the first quarter of 2015 to 7.02 billion Danish kroner, or $1.04 billion at current exchange, with exports to Germany, Holland and the United Kingdom being the main drivers of growth in volume terms.
For the first time since the 2007-08 crisis, domestic sales were up, posting a 4 percent increase at wholesale in the first quarter of 2015.
Michael Hillmose, head of international affairs of Dansk Fashion and Textile, the trade association for Danish textile and clothing companies, attributed the rise to shops also buying stock for their e-commerce sites. “We remain cautious and wait to see the full first-half numbers,” Hillmose said.
With exports being the lion’s share of business, Danish labels are plotting their international expansion by sending out colorful and high-end collections, a departure from a traditionally darker and easy-to-wear aesthetic, and focusing on different strategies.
Helping them tap new markets is an industry-wide initiative to boost exports.
“I haven’t seen black for the whole fashion week. It’s wonderful,” enthused fashion editor Lotte Freddie, a longtime fixture of Copenhagen Fashion Week.
“Danish collections are much lighter and feminine; the style is softer, less gothic and dark or not so starkly minimal. [Danish designers] were inward-looking at some point. They are opening up to new markets — it’s the zeitgeist,” explained Tiziana Cardini, fashion director at La Rinascente.
Thirty women’s and men’s labels showed this season, including newcomers such as fur-focused Saks Potts and T.A.C., designed by print specialist Tatiana Andersen Camre, who graduated from Central Saint Martins.
Copenhagen-based brand Lovechild 1979, which made its runway debut last year with its spring collection, was given the opening show slot.
German brand Lala Berlin, a Berlin Fashion Week regular, showed for the first time in the Danish capital, alongside homegrown talents such as Mark Kenly Domino Tan, Freya Dalsjø and Nicholas Nybro, plus established labels such as Henrik Vibskov, Baum und Pferdgarten and By Malene Birger.
Other local labels were absent from the Copenhagen runway schedule for various reasons, including Soulland, Wood Wood, Designers Remix, Sand and Stine Goya.
Wood Wood is eyeing a London presentation in January and a Paris showroom in October.
“Distribution-wise and for brand-building, we are better off showing in London or Paris. We are so strong in our home market that we don’t need to have a show here; being at trade fair Revolver worked really well for us,” Wood Wood cofounder and designer Karl Oskar Olsen told WWD.
Soulland already shows during London Collections, while Designers Remix is skipping catwalk shows to focus on a new strategy.
“We have a lot of things going on around the globe: pop-ups, new accounts that demand a lot of our attention. Plus the week is a bit too early for us — we haven’t even ended our sales of the resort 2016 collection yet,” said a brand spokesman.
Designers Remix recently hired Los Angeles-based public relations company Marked, which specializes in celebrity dressing.
Anne Sofie Madsen is to show on the schedule of Paris Fashion Week for the third season on Sept. 29, but still staged a performance featuring her resort collection, presented in New York in June.
Models-of-the-moment, including Frederikke Sofie, Hana Jirickova, Nadja Bender and Caroline Brasch Nielsen walked the Copenhagen runway this season. Victoria’s Secret angel Josephine Skriver heated up the Dalsjø runway, whose references this season included Carrie Bradshaw. Rising Danish actress Klara Kristin, whose acting debut in Gaspar Noé’s “Love” caused a stir at the Cannes Film Festival, was spotted front-row at her friend Freya Dalsjø’s show.
Even royals hit the runway: Crown Princess Mary of Denmark walked the Designers’ Nest award show catwalk wearing the sustainable Danish label Fonnesbech to present the competition’s winner, Sara Lundberg, with the award. She was seen the day before sporting a long black dress at By Malene Birger’s show.
“I am looking for feminine outfits, fashion but not too fashion,” the royal’s stylist Anja Alajdi, sitting front row at Tan’s show, told WWD.
“What is very cool this season is prints,” said Danish stylist Pernille Teisbæk, whose Instagram profile Lookdepernille counts 255,000 followers. “I love that: everywhere from Stine Goya to Ganni and Lovechild 1979, there are very aesthetic, playful and naïve prints.”
Ganni creative director Ditte Reffstrup detailed the inspiration behind the collection: “We started with the movie ‘Romeo and Juliet’ from 1996. I was maybe 15 years old when it came out; I was really touched by it. Then we went to Los Angeles and I was captured by the optimism there. I thought: ‘Hey, we really need to bring this — the contrast between sadness and optimism — to a collection.’” This translated into a yellow and black flower print worn by Nadja Bender.
Justin O’Shea, buying director of MyTheresa.com, is considering for the first time adding Ganni to its stable of Danish contemporary labels, which already includes Wood Wood and By Malene Birger. “The show was a big step forward for the brand,” he said.
O’Shea also praised the region’s cool street-style scene. “You can notice trends here far before anywhere else. Its authenticity brings me back every season. Every girl from Copenhagen is born with a sense of casual chicness,” he noted.
The latest rage among Copenhagen’s “It” girls is keffiyeh-inspired pieces by Cecilie Copenhagen, the label of 21-year-old designer Cecilie Jorgensen.
“We discovered Cecilie last summer during Copenhagen Fashion Week. The collection sold out instantly and we struggle to keep it in stock. The recognizable print and the limited-edition colors make it the must-have label for summer cool,” said Laura Larbalestier, women’s buying director at U.K. retailer Browns Fashion.
Cecilie Copenhagen plans to add new types of fabrics and host an event during Paris Fashion Week in February.
It was a full house at City Hall for Henrik Vibskov’s show, whose set consisted of living sculptures. “He stages stunning mixed-media performances and yet he’s able to make his style experimental and playful at the same time,” Cardini enthused. La Rinascente Milan will carry Vibskov’s men’s wear beginning with the fall.
Cardini also noted Tan’s “high-end” vision, distinguished by sculptural volumes. “He brings something different to Copenhagen,” she said.
Gender-bender was among the key trends in Copenhagen. Men’s wear designer Asger Juel Larsen, winner of the European regional awards for International Woolmark Prize in 2014, sent out feminine looks, while Tan had transgender model Vincent Beier walking his runway, in women’s wear pieces.
“He’s a beautiful young man; his gender isn’t important to me. He has a very feminine and elegant style. He’s inspiring for persons who challenge the gender. He fits perfectly to this season’s cast. He doesn’t have breasts, so it wasn’t too constructed around that area,” Tan explained.
Meanwhile, transgender model May Simon fronts the cover of Danish magazine Cover’s August issue.
Rune Park, buyer for Henrik Vibskov’s flagship in Copenhagen, whose assortment consists of 50 percent of other brands — including KTZ, Yohji Yamamoto and Comme des Garçons — said his finds at the CIFF fair included Rombaut, a vegan shoe brand created by a Belgian designer, and Brazilian ready-to-wear brand Beira. “The aesthetic is almost Japanese with clean lines,” Park said.
“I am looking for the next Acne,” said Ben Hurren, men’s casual wear and denim buyer at Selfridges. “Copenhagen is up-and-coming, but it comes late in the buying season for men’s wear,” he noted.
Tim Sturmheit, senior sales manager at online platform Tomorrow, praised CIFF’s curation of labels including Stampd, Blackfist and Filling Pieces. CIFF’s newly launched area, Raven Projects, was curated by John Skelton, creative director and founder of retail concept LN-CC. The fair doesn’t disclose visitor numbers, but still reported an 8 percent increase in unique visitors, and a 20 percent increase in the number of buyers from the U.K. compared to last summer’s edition.
Revolver, the brainchild of Christian Maibom, had 350 exhibitors, including designer brands such as Larsen and Tan, in a reduced space. The fair doesn’t disclose visitor numbers, either. Maibom said he was happy with the second edition and that around 65 percent of visitors came from Scandinavia.
On the sidelines of Copenhagen Fashion Week, the Danish Fashion Institute cohosted The Jewellery Room, an initiative now in its fifth edition, aimed at positioning Danish jewelry on the international fashion map.
It showcased the region’s heavyweights such as Pandora, Ole Lynggaard Copenhagen, Shamballa Jewels and up and coming labels like Orit Elhanati, which won the Danish Elle Style award 2015 for its organic design.
Dansk Fashion and Textile is planning to run a major two-year campaign Stateside, starting with a study trip this fall, including a visit to Amazon.com headquarters.
“Danish companies are looking to expand to the U.S. and many American buyers are looking to European brands because of the strong dollar,” said Hillmose.
“We are also crossing our fingers that the TTIP [Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership] will be signed soon. That would be a great benefit for the premium brands that produce in Europe,” he added.
On her wish list for next season, Copenhagen Fashion Week’s chief executive officer Eva Kruse wants more brands to return to the coop.
“Danish movies and series such as ‘Borgen’ and ‘The Killing’ are popular in the U.S. and abroad, as are Nordic food and lifestyle. It opens a window for Danish fashion,” she added.
The next Copenhagen Fashion Week will take place Feb. 3 to 5.