MEET the DANISH DESIGNER TAKING ON ‘TWEE’, INFUSING FANTASY INTO her MODERN VISION of FEMININITY, as OSMAN AHMED DISCOVERS
WHAT DO YOU GET when you combine Scandinavian modernism, Parisian frou-frou and London whimsy?
The answer is Cecilie Bahnsen, the Danish designer known for her take on girlie staples such as swing-skirted frocks, puff-sleeve shirting and babydoll dresses. This might seem saccharine to some, particularly at a distance, but make no mistake: Bahnsen’s version of the typically twee is fundamentally modern, thanks to her touch-me textures and off-kilter styling. That, and the chunky hygge knits and socks occasionally added to an ensemble.
‘You can wear the pieces every day and throw them on with trainers and a T-shirt,’ Bahnsen says of her designs, seen on women such as Ariana Grande and Lorde. ‘That’s what I love about them — they’re not too precious,’ she says. The label is rooted in her own outlook. She grew up just outside Denmark’s capital, flitting between wellington boots and cute smocks, with an interest in emblems of feminine solidarity — school uniforms, homemade dresses, mid-century couture and Sofia Coppola movies. Bahnsen shares that emphasis on fourth-wave femininity with designers such as Molly Goddard and Simone Rocha – also building businesses loved by women of all ages.
Before launching her own label, Bahnsen studied fashion design at the Danish Design School, before assisting designer Anja Vang Krag on opera costumes at the Royal Danish Theatre and undertaking freelance commissions for Christian Dior. She also studied on the master’s course at the Royal College of Art in London, alma mater of industry legends such as Ossie Clarke, Philip Treacy and Erdem Moralioglu, the last of which Bahnsen also briefly worked for.
Her work with Vang Krag landed her in Paris, where she turned an internship into a full-time job as a print designer for John Galliano. After graduating, she took the leap to go it alone. In 2008, Bahnsen was selected for the International Talent Support competition, and after presenting her collection in the showrooms at London Fashion Week, it caught the attention of Dover Street Market’s buyers. They promptly secured it for the rails of Rei Kawakubo’s emporium and her clothes have been sold there ever since — as well as at Matches Fashion and Net-a-Porter.
She was also a finalist for the LVMH Prize in 2017, pitching her label to a glittering cast of judges including Karl Lagerfeld, Phoebe Philo and Marc Jacobs. ‘Having a talk with Nicolas Ghesquière about craftsmanship and textiles — and seeing how that is still so important to developing a luxury brand — gave me faith,’ she says.
As a result, Bahnsen places an emphasis on handcrafted techniques, producing all samples in Copenhagen and ensuring all production happens in Europe. ‘The woman who has a factory here is actually my old teacher from the RCA,’ she points out, adding that right now her team is just three. ‘It’s a nice family feel.’
Familial, yes. Feminine, without a doubt.
FINALIST Bahnsen with Rihanna at the LVMH Prizein 2O17Skirt, £1,210Shorts, £210
FUTURE OF FEMININITY Bahnsen’s pure and pretty Cruise 2019 collection
THE DESIGNER Cecilie Bahnsen