At Copenhagen Fashion Week (CHFW), you won’t find real skateboards knotted into wooly JW Anderson sweaters, or Jean Paul Gaultier perfume bottles reconfigured as dresses, as you would in other fashion capitals like Milan or Paris where avant-garde fantasies and an appetite for newness take precedence over wearability and longevity. Meanwhile in the Danish capital, form takes after function. Fresh blood on the CHFW S/S 23 schedule reminded the industry that good design may not always need to reinvent the wheel, but still requires a healthy dose of imagination.
Functionality is a prerequisite when it comes to Danish architecture and furniture design, with innovative proposals in the 20th century such as Verner Panton's 'S' chair still proving popular today; soft on the toosh but intriguing to the eye, what's not to love? The archive at the Design Museum in Copenhagen - a 'Danish design' mecca - shows that beautiful, functional product impacts our daily experience of life for the better. The many renovation projects which emerged during lockdown are case in point.
Fashion is no exception, but a wall caption at the Danish Museum offers the industry food for thought: 'star [fashion] designers who create constant flows of new trends…are totally unsuited to the future facing us now.’ As summer temperatures soar to record-breaking heights, the fashion industry - which is responsible for roughly 4% of global emissions - needs to readdress why it's really making all this stuff. The best designers often have both function and form at the forefront of their minds; Issey Miyake, the avant-garde fashion designer who died earlier this week, always waxed lyrical about the importance of comfort.
The refreshing thing about what we saw on the Copenhagen runways is that these are clothes which make their way onto the street to be worn, not just by fashion week peacocks but by the wider public in their daily lives. It's evident when walking around Copenhagen, or seeing show guests from the local community seated front row. It's perhaps because cult labels like Ganni, WOOD WOOD, Soulland, Samsøe Samsøe, Stine Goya, Rotate and Saks Potts can be bought into at a much lower price bracket in comparison to luxury giants elsewhere in the fashion ecosystem, but still reflect the industry-leading sustainable and ethical standards which are embedded into these businesses. Features editor Hetty Mahlich rounds up the highlights of the week.
COPENHAGEN INTERNATIONAL FASHION FAIR (CIFF)
Next year CIFF will turn 30, but the biggest trade show fair in Northern Europe still lives up to its legacy as a creative hub for innovation, housing apparel, jewellery, accessories, footwear and homeware stalls. Their priority is to sell to buyers and meet press, but at CIFF, designers are encouraged to tell bigger stories, and SHOWstudio previously collaborated with the fair on some of these special projects, such as Virgil Abloh's DIY chair installation. Taking over the role of director in 2020, Christina Neustrup tells me that it was important to continue to elevate the concept of a traditional trade show with the bi-annual three day event, by showcasing new and established talent and engaging with digital fashion developments and sustainability in projects which are infiltrated throughout the stalls. ‘Brands are realising you can use the trade show as a marketing tool, and tell the story of the brand’, she explains.
Alongside the Circular Fashion & Textile Days exhibition, curated by Betina Simonson, the CIFF SUSTAIN project invites visitors to discover and potentially collaborate on new ways of working. You can try on the augmented reality filter of a Rotate dress created by Mojomoto, or discover 3am Eternal, the brand launched in 2019 by London designer Caitlin Price and their sister Emily Price, a vintage buyer. Curated capsules upcycle and reconfigure vintage and pre-existing designer pieces, whether it be a cream Christopher Kane suit trimmed with kitsch silk ribbons, or a retro floral gauze number modernised into a baby doll dress.
As of last week, Sofie Dolva will take over the director role from Neustrup, who are working together on a seamless transition to ensure CIFF's global impact continues to grow. ‘It’s not a one man job, it’s the industry, we need to do it together’, Dolva says of their aim to create a 'trade show 2.0' which fosters inspiration through collaborative and innovative events.
By no means new to the scene, launching in 2012, Holzweiler's show on Tuesday presented models oscillating on podiums wearing woven headpieces by Noel Stewart, and was a great example of bridging the wearable with the artistic. Set to the sound of birdsong, the Norweigan label's S/S 23 collection featured men's and women's looks spanning from draped dresses made from deadstock parachutes to utilitarian harnesses and pilot jackets rendered in earthy, natural tones, and prints made up of glitchy paisleys, wildlife illustrations by Steven Michael Gardner and vintage-inspired skydiving logos. Handcraft is key for Holzweiler, and human touch was felt throughout from crochet chevron stripe mules through to Stewarts bird nest-like creations made with the Taiwanese technique of rush weaving. Themed 'In Motion', Holzweiler nailed the balance of conceptual fantasy and clothes to move seamlessly into our future with.
Fashion's digital future underpinned the most exciting aspect of cult brand Rotate's S/S 23 offering. This season they collaborated with digital fashion provider Mojomoto on an AR wearable and NFT sold through the platform The Dematerialised. Their iconic puff sleeve dress can be digitally worn through the Snapchat app, where flames undulate across the skirt. ‘As soon as the metaverse becomes mainstream there will be so many opportunities', Mojomoto founder Lars Rahbæk explains. With Rotate being a hugely influential brand in Danish fashion, we can expect to see their contemporaries follow suit.
A Scandinavian mainstay on the Copenhagen schedule, WOOD WOOD's new design team showed that wardrobe staples don't have to be boring. In her role as Head of Design, Cecilie Liv has brought on London menswear designers Liam Hodges and Dominic Huckbody - a University of Westminster graduate who has a previous spell at Burberry and featured in SHOWstudio's Class of 2020 showcase, together with Cecilie Engberg from Balenciaga. Unveiling their debut collection at sunset on the Lille Langebro bridge on Wednesday evening for a self-titled 'Escape to Paradise', the S/S 23 collection suggested that WOOD WOOD will remain a reliable go to for anything from relaxed suiting, denim and bias cut dresses to swimwear. The added flair came from youthful proportions and sexy fabrications, be that the black mohair used on mini skirts, or Hodges' staple acidic prints applied to shirts and scarves.
What do you get when you take five weight lifters, a gym and a fashion show? Finnish brand Latimmier! Inviting guests to a gym stinking of testosterone, designer Ervin Latimer kept performance at the core of their second runway show, continuing to explore notions of masculinity. ‘It’s an extension of what we’re doing with the brand', they explain. Having stolen the show at Pitti Uomo in Florence for their debut back in January, Latimer plays with the functions of sartorial dress to make way for self-expression. The brand is for people who ‘like to think, want to have a conversation about the body’, the designer tells me. Latimmier is for ‘people who appreciate the experience of fashion' and how clothes feel on the body.
Inspired by the 1998 coming of age film Show Me Love, Latimer took the film's theme of a frustration with small town values gagging sexual expression, to create a collection about both freedom and restriction. Shirting features straps which allow the wearer to constrict or expand the garment, distorting the traditional silhouette in the process. Chest binders are for the people 'who maybe their idea of masculinity means binding the breasts’, in a wardrobe which encourages the consumer to perform their own definition of masculinity. These are things people actually need.
Latimer admits the high price points limit the reach these clothes can have, but with an ethical supply chain and thoughtful fabrics, it comes with the territory. Produced entirely in the EU, the S/S 23 collection is made up of 60 % sustainable and ethical fabrics such as vegetable tan reindeer leather. ‘We feel we don’t need to talking about it’, Latimer says of the brand's sustainable credentials, which they see as a work in progress. For fashion's next generation of designers, well made clothes which last but also inspire, are a non-negotiable; just the way it should be.