Explore Denmark’s stylish capital like a fashion editor.
Danish design in cool Copenhagen.
with its cobblestone streets and plentiful bike lanes, Copenhagen is built for flats, not stilettos. So to check out the city’s spring/summer 2015 Fashion Week, I didn’t bother packing the Valentino heels that were ubiquitous in the front rows of the major fall shows just months prior. Instead, I opted for black-and-white Nikes and fit in seamlessly with the laid-back-chic locals as I navigated this stylish hub that is primed to rival Milan and Paris as the cool-girl fashion capital of Europe.
For more than a half a century, Denmark has been synonymous with avantgarde design, characterized by the modernist architecture and furniture styles made popular worldwide by Arne Jacobsen. But over the past decade, cutting-edge fashion designers like Malene Birger and Henrik Vibskov have taken the torch, and today Copenhagen Fashion Week, held every February and August, is the largest fashion event in Northern Europe.
In the vast square outside the palatial turn-of-the-century City Hall—the main venue for the runway shows—the appeal of the unpretentiously stylish citizenry is especially apparent. Photographers crowd around to capture local It girls draped in elegant silk T-shirts, roomy trousers, soft pleated skirts and breezy cotton tunics— there’s nary an ostentatious hat or neon fur accessory in sight. And in this city of 1.3 million, where almost half commute by bike, even the style set—their feet clad in Chanel sneakers—pedal to fashion events, past modern art galleries and landmarks such as the 19th-century amusement park Tivoli Gardens.
“The Danes have an easy approach to dressing,” confirms Freya Dalsjö, an up-and-coming designer whose show is one of the most hotly anticipated of the week. “They want to look good but be comfortable and practical.”
It’s not the only difference I encounter: Here, there’s a noticeable absence of carefully guarded guest lists. The Copenhagen Fashion Festival, which coincides with the runway presentations, offers an assortment of more than 200 exhibitions, parties, competitions and shows trumpeting the inviting tag line “Open to all.” Events such as the Global Fashion Exchange (a giant luxury clothing swap) and #streetstyleride (a stylish bike tour) are unticketed and welcome tourists and local scenesters in addition to international buyers and journalists.
Reciprocally, Danish designers take the public into great consideration when imagining their collections. “When I design, it’s very much about the women I see on the street and work with,” says Ditte Reffstrup, creative director for Ganni, which is building an international following devoted to its whimsical yet wearable staples. As the city’s style scene matures, other designers are challenging any single definition of what it means to be a Danish fashion brand. For her spring/summer 2015 collection, Dalsjö broke out with more daring touches, like coloured fur and beaded embellishments. When I ask her whether she has found it difficult to be different, she doesn’t hesitate to say that she feels “very supported.” That’s the thing about Denmark’s creative capital: It really is open to all.
Copenhagen’s H. C. Andersens
Boulevard (above) leads to City Hall Square, where the shows are held; the front row swooned
over Mark Kenly Domino Tan’s s/s 2015 collection (right).
The interactive #HappyWall in Nytorv square (right); top looks from Fonnesbech and Baum und Pferdgarten
(below and far right)