Ten Denmark-based designers landed in New York last week for a whistlestop tour to learn about export opportunities and the U.S. market and to show their collections.
Funded by the Danish government, the trip was organized through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, the Danish Chamber of Commerce and the industry organization WEAR. The program is called “WEAR – Danish Design in New York.” Any Denmark-based designer was eligible to apply for the three-day trip, which had been postponed three times due to the pandemic. WEAR holds similar delegations in the Netherlands and Germany.
In promotional material for the program, Berit Basse, the consul general of Denmark in New York, noted how clothing store sales in the U.S. are expected to climb to nearly $437.3 billion halfway through this year, compared to more than $195.85 billion in 2019 based on U.S. Textiles and Clothing Exports data provided by the World Integrated Trade Solutions.
Participants included the sportswear companies Mos Mosh, Elise Gug, A View, MSCH, and Coster Copenhagen; the contemporary labels Oval Square, B. Young and ICHI; handbag brand HVISK, and the men’s and women’s line Minimum. Some of the brands are already in the U.S. like HVISK, ICHI and B. Young, while Oval Square will be sold in American Rag in August. Sustainability is a priority for many of the brands.
The export events in Manhattan included talks with fashion authorities and branding specialists to give designers a better understanding of how to export, industry insights, marketing and distribution options and digital and social media opportunities. How and what piques U.S. consumers’ interest and how they take in information was discussed as well as e-commerce, social selling, live selling and the shifts in wholesale and retail, according to the New York-based commercial adviser Garette Elizabeth Johnson. Holden Bale, group vice president and head of commerce at Huge, was among the speakers, as was Fern Mallis and executives from Ipsos and Meta (speaking about Instagram and the implications of the metaverse). The event was in partnership with the wholesale management platform Joor.
Speaking enthusiastically about Danish design, Johnson said, “I went to Denmark years ago before I took this position, because I was so profoundly interested in how Danish culture informs design on a holistic level. That’s urban planning, architecture, interiors. While I was there I found a very deeply ingrained sense of creativity across their culture from education at a very young age into careers that approach design thinking and problem solving at a humanistic and solutions level. That translates into fashion, into product design and into furniture. And that practicality and sense of curiosity was something that I’m very drawn to and also the sense of delight and playfulness across everything that they design. They really do enjoy the design.”
In between presentations by industry authorities, designers had time to buzz through museums and take part in a retail safari that included stops at Showfields, Dover Street Market, Kith and Wolf & Badger, among others. The designers welcomed the media, influencers and retailers to see their collections Friday afternoon in the Starrett-Lehigh Building. Describing the reaction as “very well-received,” Johnson said, “People are certainly interested in Danish design. It does have a bit of prestige globally and there is a curiosity around it. There is a quality that everybody understands. There is also an appetite in fashion for a sense of tailored clothing and elegant, but comfortable clothing as we get out of our sweatpants and want to go back to work, but we don’t want to be as uptightly dressed as we had been in the past. Things that are a little more relaxed but structured are perfect for what’s happening with people in the market at the moment.”
With shipping to the U.S. still a concern for some retailers due to sourcing problems related to the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and product shortages, there were fewer buyers than organizers had hoped for. For the designers, the opportunity to hear from Americans about what the market looks like, consumer behavior and opportunities in retail from a boots-on-the-ground perspective was advantageous, she said.
The Danish brands appeared to be most surprised by the depth of opportunities in e-commerce and social selling here, according to Johnson. While that exists in Scandinavia and in Europe, “there is widening potential on multiple platforms to support each and every channel across different marketplaces and media channels.”
Johnson declined to comment regarding what Meta discussed in its presentation and a spokesperson for Meta had not responded to a request for comment Monday.
Having worked in fashion in New York for 15 years at Kay Unger, Nicole Miller, Adrianna Papell and other brands before joining the Danish consulate, Johnson said of the Danish designers, “What gravitates me toward their particular aesthetics and quality of design is the fact that it’s delightful and completely wearable, but it’s still human conscious and environmentally conscious. That’s a very important aspect to be bringing to the U.S. market that is as of yet, slightly unsatisfied but has the market for.”