Copenhagen Sets The Standard For Fashion Weeks Around The World

Copenhagen has created a fashion week that has progressively transitioned its local brands and extended fashion culture – its street style, couture, and everyday looks – into the conscious space, mindful of climate and people. Denmark is already notable as the second happiest country in the world, producing brands like Kering-backed Lindberg Eyewear, and jewelry brand Pandora as staples of Scandinavian aesthetics, besides the more associated H&M retailer.

The SS24 Copenhagen Fashion Week reflected that sentiment, hosting a week-long fashion experience that educated and excited enthusiasts and global fashionistas. A frigid and rainy start, only a reminder of the climate that has grown fragile over the last decades, popped off the illustrious week of brands showcasing their mode, and their mood in the fashion industry. Copenhagen Fashion Week set a precedent by becoming the first fashion week to enforce sustainability criteria for participating brands back in 2020.

Today, at least half of the collections presented must be crafted from recycled or upcycled materials – a task that any up-and-coming designer can’t afford to avoid. This idea was heightened by the presentation by the Royal Danish Academy Master’s program runway show participants. A runway designated for graduates entering the next evolution of their fashion prowess is primed to come into a sustainable habit of fashion creation.

The organization “IN OUR NAME” also debuted at Copenhagen Fashion Week with MAD Brussels. Four designers from Brussels, all residents at the MAD incubator, including Kenza Vandeput of Kasbah Kosmic, shared the trade room floor at CIFF x REVOLVER from August 9 to 11.

Sentiment has grown over the years with each season displaying Scandinavian fashion through multiple channels, whether runway or the classic, showroom visit. CEO of the Copenhagen Fashion Week, Cecilie Thorsmark has converged the entire genre into ‘greener’ pastures, displaying globally what would have substantial benefits.

“We launched our sustainability strategy in 2020 and since then have completed the targets we set for ourselves,” CEO Thorsmark relays. “A major milestone in this regard was our sustainability requirements coming into effect this February 2023, which means that all brands on the official show schedule of Copenhagen Fashion Week are met by mandatory minimum standards that they must document.”

She continues, “While we are lucky to engage in a few international partnerships, we are still hoping for more fashion weeks and councils to follow suit as we are convinced that setting requirements – that cover the full value chain – can really move the needle in the industry.” From the most northern Fashion Week city, a message has been sent to the rest of the world in hopes of brainstorming global solutions for our shared climate as a fashion industry.

Day one hosted brands Latimmier, and 7 Days Active with indoor runways, but what was a test of fashion fans was the outdoor shows that A. Roege Hove and Saks Potts were lucky enough to plan, setting a tone for why climate change is a universal issue – to be addressed. The cold raindrops, however, were met with SS24 looks models strutted down runways; A. Roege Hove showed looks that used Renewcell’s Circulose® material just after the opening ceremony at the Designmuseum Denmark.

Saks Potts sought a coastline backdrop that really gave perspective to where we are with how unpredictable climate can be. Stine Goya opted to limit the transport of her collection and show, showing her looks down her residential alleyway to the designer’s home.

“Comparing our starting point to where we and the brands are now, I am experiencing more nuanced conversations,” Thorsmark notes. “It is not about if and why sustainability is important but how to implement measures with the greatest impact on environmental and social sustainability. More and more brands are aware of their material and design choices and of course, we see more designs made of already existing materials be it in the form of deadstock, reuse, or recycling.”

The fight against climate change was personified by the over 20-year Danish designer Henrik Vibskov. The concept of a box as a container that safeguards valuable items like the various fashion we receive through packaging and “unboxing” was met by the idea of a literal boxing ring in the middle of the runway. The show started with the jarring “Are You Ready” by the MC and ball performer Kyle London, a sound familiar to boxing fans and a call to gird up a community to defend the climate. Boxing gloves were themed as headgear for the models while a stage suggested audiences “choose your fighter” or select a look. Each model met another in the ring, circling a stoic MC as tempo changed for a faceoff between them.

Notable Swedish brand J.Lindeberg who hosted several events throughout the week noted the significant influence of the CPHFW organization. J.LINDEBERG creative director Neil Lewty says of the week, “We had a euphoric moment after the pandemic, lots of color, pattern and prints, more expressive dressing, this trend continues for sure but out of this we are seeing the opposite emerge.”

“‘Quiet luxury’ is a cleaner and simpler look, perhaps more longevity in items, of course, a heavy emphasis on sustainability. Trends, however, seldom flash in and out. I think now more than ever before, we see several fashion trends going at the same time, social media means you’re less likely to see something somewhere you haven’t seen before, but it has opened the door to a lot of free expression.”

This freedom is liberating designers and at the same time empowering them to aspire to greener methods. Lewty continues, “Copenhagen is a happy place – it has a lot of creative companies, independent brands, music, furniture, big food scene, so there are a lot of creative people there. The fashion week organizers are committed to sustainability, a big plus for the industry. There is an independent feel to [Copenhagen] Fashion Week with the type of brands that show, each adding to its success.”

Designer Rolf Ekroth presented his runway on day two, August 8, and has made significant strides to get his brand into circular processes. His focus shifted towards eco-friendly production after the pandemic, using greener fabrics and now utilizing 75% recycled materials without compromising quality. Handcrafted details like crochet and knits add uniqueness but speak to his family’s crafting traditions and the theme of “missing” in the collection, drawing inspiration from different generations.

“The key chains are a bit special, and I want there to be something handcrafted,” says Ekroth. “Handcrafting traditions have been big in my family ever since I’ve grown up. I’m from Helsinki, Finland, but my mom is from North Karelia [easternmost region of Finland] where they do lots of these. The inspiration for the collection was the theme of ‘missing,’ and for me, it was, missing in three different generations. We always look to the past, like I always want to go back to my teenage years, which was for me, the nineties, my parents, the late sixties, early seventies, and then my grandma, the thirties in Finland.”

“That’s where we get the really big skirts. These were basically stuff that people were working in the fields. And the head bonnets are crocheted. We made all the crochet details ourselves [and] put many hours into handcrafting these pieces, like the hunting jacket. It has about 20 [crochet pieces], and one takes about three to five hours to hand tie. When we did this, I fell in love with the technique, and I started imagining this would be really cool, made into a full dress.”

The labor-intensive process, including a 200-hour handmade crochet dress, utilizes the same yarn, and a patchwork pair of shorts is an example of how to repurpose fabric swatches. The brand also collaborated with the Finnish jewelry company Kalevala, known to retrieve older jewelry pieces, which they then refurbish for collections, like the SS24 of Rolf Ekroth.

Brands also celebrated the week with thoughtful dinner events that captured the essence of the week, where buyers, stylists, journalists, and colleagues would discuss minor and major topics surrounding fashion. Jewelry brand and Copenhagen native Pandora would host a dinner at the GL Strand Gallery, naming their new global ambassador, Tony award and Grammy nominee Ashley Park. Esprit hosted an experimental culinary evening at Høst, with guests from the local Danish retailer and H&M affiliate Arket, as well as founder and editor-in-chief of Office magazine Simon Rasmussen, to name a few.

“Copenhagen Fashion Week was a no-brainer for us in terms of attendance,” Ana Andjelic, CBO of ESPRIT explains. “Scandinavian style is aligned with the ESPRIT Look probably more than any other style in Europe: functional, versatile, colorful, comfortable, and loosely fitting. This is the definition of the ESPRIT Look, which allows one to hop on a bike or go to a dinner or an office without changing.”

“ESPRIT also has historically strong sustainability and social responsibility credentials, and Copenhagen Fashion Week is the most sustainable fashion week in the world. We wanted our pop-up at the Creator Hub to feature our vintage leather and denim looks, to celebrate sustainability: we do not need to buy new in order to have new. There is already so much ESPRIT in the world. CPHFW was a perfect place to showcase this.”

Supported by Circulose®, The CPHFW NEWTALENT showroom, and platform, designed by Copenhagen Fashion Week, has been assisting emerging Nordic brands that have been in business for less than five years. It closed the week out with six brands displaying their current collections, including Vain, who previously shook up the fast food industry with a Mcdonald’s collab, something flounder Jimmy Vain has extended into its current collection. Made-to-order brand P.L.N. also shared its runway looks with the public at the Etage Projects location, recently dressing Travis Scott in a pair of their distressed, wax-liked trousers, made to weather and customize to the wearer over time.

There is a substantial effort happening in Copenhagen to reverse climate and reduce waste, exemplified by all brands involved in Copenhagen Fashion Week, including Lovechild 1979, TG Botanical, Gestuz, Rotate, Helmstedt, Mark Kenly Domino Tan, Deadwood, Wood Wood, The Garment, Merimekko, Stine Goya, Kernemilk, Nicklas Skovgaard, and Ganni, who has traditionally closed out the fashion week for Copenhagen.

CEO Cecilie Thorsmark explains, “Our sustainability guidelines influenced our way of working with brands to a great extent where we now not only talk to the CEOs, Creative Directors, and PR but in between fashion weeks to engage in dialogue with the sustainability, production or buying teams. This also means that we are getting closer insights into the day-to-day operations of brands and a better understanding of their challenges, also the opportunities.”

As many other Fashion Weeks exist around the world, there is much to note from the CPHFW organization, and through their partnership with Danish e-commerce platform Zalando have created an organization that is bounds ahead. Thorsmark concludes, “On a larger scale, implementing our sustainability strategy put Copenhagen Fashion Week in the global spotlight so that we’re now known for our sustainability efforts which provide motivation to better ourselves and also motivation and inspiration for other global fashion councils and fashion weeks. Moving forward, we plan to continuously raise the bar on the requirements so we don’t become stagnant on the status quo.”

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