New York, London, Milan, Paris … Copenhagen? The city of boundary-pushing architecture, sleek interior design and droves of cyclists has lately found itself grouped in with the fashion industry’s four traditional capitals, extending the fall fashion month calendar into early August. This year’s spring 2024 runway season saw a bump in the number of international guests and, as a result, a reduction in the number of people wondering why the Danish capital is suddenly so hot.
It certainly isn’t the sideways rain and grey skies that greeted guests upon arrival on Aug. 9, but more so what that unexpected weather illustrates: a need to create a more sustainable fashion industry.
“I do believe it is strongly tied to our sustainability efforts that we ramped up since 2020,” says Cecilie Thorsmark, chief executive of Copenhagen Fashion Week.
Working with her team, Thorsmark implemented 18 minimum standards that brands complied with in order to show on the official schedule. These included at least 50 per cent of collections be made from recycled materials, and zero-waste set design and show production for the presentations themselves.
“This system gives us a unique position in the global fashion week landscape as we are the first – and only – fashion week to have implemented strict sustainability requirements,” she says of CPHFW.
While the event’s sustainability measures are rigid, its creative spirit is anything but, pushing designers to reach new levels of inventiveness. Ervin Latimer, founder and creative director of Helsinki-based label Latimmier (one of this year’s CPHFW New Talent designers) welcomes the challenge. “It was a relief for me,” he says. “When you have set boundaries, it’s easier and fun to play within them.”
Latimmier’s Wolf of Wall Street-inspired collection was created with more than 70 per cent certified sustainable, organic or recycled materials. One suit was dyed with post-consumer waste coffee, its print made from shredded invoices from collection agencies.
The New Talent program is CPHFW’s way of tapping into the vibrant current that runs through emerging designers in the Nordic region. It’s meant to develop and promote younger labels on a global scale through means such as financial support. Some of the week’s more progressive shows came from this group, including Nicklas Skovgaard’s, whose romantic bodices and Renaissance balloon skirts were showcased in a performance by his muse, Amsterdam-based performance artist Britt Liberg. She dressed and undressed using Skovgaard’s ruffled pieces.
Rolf Ekroth explored the concept of cross-generational nostalgia, carrying a rose motif through several garments including a handmade crochet dress that took more than 200 hours to make. Equally eye-catching was Paolina Russo and Lucile Guilmard’s London-based brand Paolino Russo. A collection called Monolith married a folklore aesthetic with sculptural knitwear, laser-cut denim and intricately woven skirts.
Copenhagen’s focus on newer names is balanced by Denmark’s growing roster of globally recognized labels. Catherine Saks and Barbara Potts of the brand Saks Potts have mastered the city’s effortless vibe. For their show, models in effervescently coloured pinstripe shirts, cotton polos and leather pleated skirts were styled with string bikinis, strappy sandals and clear plastic belt bags filled with pebbles. That last detail was a nod to the Danish coastline that was the backdrop for their presentation.
Ganni, arguably Copenhagen Fashion Week’s headliner, relied on model Paloma Elsesser for the season’s buzz. She not only opened the show in a hooded draped dress with co-ordinating trousers, but will continue to work directly with the brand on her own size-inclusive capsule collection for the spring.
Copenhagen’s other big draw happened off the runway. Street style moments during other fashion weeks can feel fussy, forced and paid-for, but the sartorial surprises of Danish showgoers came across as refreshingly real. Local brands were mixed together in a way that felt front-row ready but also practical enough for hopping on your bike and heading to the next show through the drizzle.
While Copenhagen’s cachet is rooted in its sustainability efforts, this ease that threads through the city’s fashion scene is what makes it feel so relevant today.
The weeks to watch
In an increasingly decentralized industry, these fashion capitals are also demanding attention
The growing interest in Korean music, beauty, fashion and culture has all eyes locked on South Korea’s fashion week, held at Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul. A diverse street style scene and long list of local brands such as Andersson Bell, Ader Error and Minjukim have already garnered international attention, attracting a larger scale audience to the K-pop capital.
“We have been attending Seoul Fashion Week for a few years now,” says Brigitte Chartrand, vice-president of women’s-wear buying for Ssense in Montreal, which offers an arsenal of K-fashion brands to choose from. “We love to maximize our time visiting many of the well-established, multibrand showrooms there.”
Held only a few days prior to Seoul Fashion Week, Tokyo Fashion Week (otherwise known as Rakuten Fashion Week) is one of the largest fashion events in East Asia. The city’s unparalleled street style is studied from a global trend perspective, often to the same degree as the runway shows themselves. The latest official schedule featured 50 brands (35 in-person and 15 digital) with crowd-pleasing names such as Rainmaker and Hyke opting for the latter. A slew of up-and-coming designers shook up the calendar this year including minimalist women’s wear brand Kanako Sakai and the award-winning Fetico.
Artisan-crafted details and culturally rich designs are the heart and soul of Lagos Fashion Week, both on and off the runway. The Nigerian city sets the tone as a melting pot for creativity and business in Africa. Ones to watch include Abiola Olusola, Emmy Kasbit and Naomi Campbell fave Kenneth Ize. Lagos alum Adeju Thompson, of the Lagos Space Programme, recently premiered his spring collection in Paris to rave reviews and was awarded the 2023 International Woolmark Prize. – NADIA PIZZIMENTI