If your main point of reference for Scandinavian style is the Hygge interior trend that dominated Pinterest a few years back (characterized by minimalism, white walls, and blonde wood), then you may need a primer before catching up with the latest Copenhagen Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2023 designers. This season’s crop of emerging labels are less neutral-cozy and more cutting edge — and of course, not at all homogenous, crafting looks inspired by everything from their own family members to war films to queer love stories.
The biggest unifying factor between all the labels sending collections down the runway in Denmark’s capital city this week is their commitment to sustainability, a concept that Copenhagen Fashion Week’s organizers consider their core philosophy. They hope to set the standard on scaling back the notoriously wasteful practices within the industry with a sustainability action plan, with zero waste as the goal. Complete with full sustainability reports that detail their progress and impact as well as a full 18-point list of minimum sustainability requirements for participating labels to adhere to, CPHFW’s team recognizes that developing the looks of tomorrow requires a tomorrow to actually wear them in.
“All industry players – including fashion weeks – have to be accountable for their actions and be willing to change the way business is done,” Copenhagen Fashion Week CEO Cecilie Thorsmark said at a press event when the sustainability plan was being rolled out. “The timeframe for averting the devastating effects of climate change on the planet and people is less than a decade, and we’re already witnessing its catastrophic impacts today. Put simply, there can be no status quo.”
Five of the most exciting emerging designers showing at this year’s CPHFW, ahead, are putting these practices into action. Read on for some background on the soon-to-be Scandi fashion fixtures and the influences behinds their latest lines.
Founder Amalie Røge Hove’s background in textile design is obvious upon a cursory review of her decadent knitwear garments and meticulous craftsmanship. Her degree from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts has paid out in dividends with stints at both Cecilie Bahnsen and Mark Tan on her resume before she set out to start her own brand in 2019.
While knitwear, for some, calls to mind simple, old-school clothes stitched together by grandma’s own two needles, these garments are not that — the sensual, sculptural pieces celebrate the wearer’s form with cutouts and sheerness, and in some cases, both.
For this year’s show, the designer looked back into her own history and relationship with knitwear to advance her brand.
“After a few seasons of looking outwards and forwards, I had an urge to look back and inwards,” she says. “To dive back into the way I worked when I studied, where I was just focused on mastering different craftsmanship, allowing myself to create with no purpose. When you are studying you have such a big creative freedom ... I could get so absorbed and amazed by the systematics of knitting, the way loops of yarn could be tied repeatedly, one paving way for the other, until ultimately growing into a material systematically created from iterations. This fascination and way of looking at the systematics of knitwear and iterations has been a big inspiration this season.”
Focusing on the textiles and diving back into the processes of their creation has imbued each piece with that much more meaning. One piece in particular was a work-intensive masterpiece that Røge Hove is especially proud of.
“We have for example a voluminous dress that is made from around 13.000 rows on one of the machines,” she says. “We have [had] three different people working on it, and it has been on the machine for several weeks. It’s made in one-piece by manipulating the different directions when knitting and in that way creating shape directly on the machine.”
Røge Hove designs for “an aware consumer,” someone who can fully appreciate the quality of the garments and who also perhaps values sustainable practices. All of the designs are knit directly into shape, meaning there is no cut-and-sew method and therefore less waste in the form of leftover scraps generated by patterns. The team does not destroy any unsold items or samples, instead opting to design them into reworked collections each year which weave the leftover stock into new creations entirely.
“We wish to take full advantage of the craft of knitting,” she says. “A lot of the pieces from this collection are knitted on traditional knitting machines and hand-finished in our Copenhagen studio, and it’s also become a big part of our design process to use old samples when draping and creating new silhouettes. It's a good way of creating something new while staying close to our DNA.”
When he showed up to his Pitti Uomo runway debut this January dressed in full drag as alter ego Anna Konda, Finnish designer Ervin Latimer both proved he knew how to make a statement and set the tone for a year of thrilling, head-turning looks.
Latimer’s approach to presenting his FW22 “Performances” collection struck the appropriate tone for a line that drew heavily from drag and ballroom culture. Examining gender as performance through his pieces is a strategy he acknowledges as having been sourced from the realm of drag. “As a drag performer and a member of the local scene myself I must give credit where credit is due,” he says. The art of staging is rich intellectual territory for the founder and creative director, who again references the theme of performance in the brand’s Instagram bio: “For the Performance of Masculinities.”
“The tagline is a simple way of saying that we design clothes that stem from the history of menswear without focusing on the male gender,” he explains. “Latimmier designs clothes for anyone who wants to perform masculinity or investigate their masculine side. We draw heavily on the history of western menswear by filtering some of the tropes through our subversive DNA.”
That subversion and exploration of queer art follows through to his SS23 collection, which is influenced by a 1998 Swedish lesbian teen comedy drama Fucking Åmål. “It’s a story of these kids looking for their place in the world while being frustrated to live in a small town where seemingly nothing happens,” says Latimer. “There is a theme there, the feeling of being stuck while naively thinking that the grass is greener on the other side, that can be seen throughout the collection.”
The label’s Copenhagen Fashion Week debut this year feels extra sweet, considering it’s in OpéraSPORT’s hometown. Co-founders Awa Malina Stelter and Stephanie Gundelach originally met through their boyfriends and went on to become friends themselves, eventually becoming aware of the fact that they both shared the same dream. Their union was cemented with the official launch of their brand in 2019.
“From there, it all went very fast,” the two tell TZR in a joint statement via email. “After a few intense months everything had fallen into place. We were ready to launch OpéraSPORT and the foundation for it was to make sustainable fashion sexy.” They share that business is booming: Their collections are getting bigger and their distribution is growing, and now after a few years of getting established, they’ve joined forces with British model Alva Claire to send their garments down the runway for the very first time. (Claire, who recently appeared as one of the faces of Beyoncé’s new IVYTOPIA line for Ivy Park, knows a thing or two about dressing well.)
Instead of putting out lines by season, OpéraSPORT runs with edition releases as a way of curbing excess. With smaller seasonal drops, the production volume more accurately reflects demand and prevents the waste that the industry is infamous for, as the calendar calls on designers to churn out collections every few months.
"We've been thinking about creating a show for a long time, but it's only now that we feel ready for it,” Gundelich and Stelter say. “We have spent a few years building up our universe digitally, and we now think it could be fun to invite people into a physical universe. We are so happy and proud that we can now present our first show during CPHFW and to share it with friends, family, and close business partners since it is in Copenhagen.”
The line is inspired by Claire’s favorite vintage pieces from her personal archive, fused with OpéraSPORT’s own brand DNA, which draws inspiration from contrasts — sexy, casual, elegant, and practical are all descriptors the team hopes to exemplify. The founders recall their first meeting with Alva as very inspiring, noting that the model came with lots of ideas and sketches influenced by her wardrobe staples. The trio took part in a number of digital workshops before deciding on the final 12 styles to show. “We loved her style, vibe, and her strong personality,” they say. “Her confidence stands out from the crowd. Alva had strong opinions about this project and a lot of ideas which was very inspiring.”
In fact, the OpéraSPORT woman that Gundelach and Stelter have in mind while designing sounds quite a bit like Claire herself. They describe the quintessential OpéraSPORT buyers as “powerful women who carry themselves with a certain confidence in all ages, shapes ... the OpéraSPORT woman is confident, relaxed and not afraid to stand out.” Debuting the result of their creative dream team in their brand’s birthplace is certainly a promising way to start off a runway showing career.
Sibling team Nanna and Simon Wick launched their brand in late 2018 with the goal of using deadstock fabric, upcycling, and other creative sourcing to create their DIY-inspired unisex lines. (di)vision’s trademark two-toned pieces illustrate the duality suggested by their name, with jackets and trousers sliced right down the middle and resewn as two halves of a new whole and patchwork dresses with outside stitches, proudly displaying the intentional union of a rainbow of fabrics that have all lived previous lives.
In the past few years working together on (di)vision, the duo has found that their contrasting strengths when it comes to ideating lines and operating the business combine to make for one solid pairing. Initially, Nanna’s practical knowledge from studying fashion in Copenhagen met with Simon’s idea to separate two jackets and sew them together, and thus the brand was born.
“Running (di)vision as a family business is everything to us and a big reason to we have come to where we are today,” Simon tells TZR. “Growing up together allows us to bring certain perks to the table. Nanna and I are very different in many ways, but our core is the same, as we grew up on the same values. Where Nanna is better at doing structured work, I’m better at impulsive work. The same rules go into designing a collection or running the label, allowing us to make big decisions fairly quickly because we often have two opposite meanings and have to compromise on the right decision which works for us.”
The Wicks kicked off last year’s show with a bang by arranging for local rock band Woodpecker to accompany their presentation. A punk band set was fitting background sound for their Spring/Summer 2022 line, featuring (di)vision’s signature edgy patchwork garments and some bold, circular sternum cutouts. The line’s grungier elements were balanced out by a few playful prints including a vibrant cerulean-and-white floral matching set as well as some unexpected accessories, like cowboy hats.
(di)vision’s look is all about carving what’s new and next out of the remnants of the past — as Simon puts it, in reference to their upcycling ethos, “creating from what already is.” So it makes sense that the team looked to a classic, epic film to inspire this year’s line.
“It draws heavy inspiration from the cult war/military movie Apocalypse Now by Francis Ford Coppola, both in whole look and feel,” says Simon. “We love to work with pop cultural references for our collections and our Spring/Summer 2023 collection no exception. [It’s] inspired by 70s U.S. military uniforms as well as the anti-war protest happing in the same era but in a more androgyne and contemporary approach.”
The Swedish designer launched her eponymous brand in 2020 and characterizes it as a label that “explores and challenges the conventions of femininity whilst embracing the beauty of imperfection.” With a focus on examining tradition and femininity, it’s only practical that she probes her own matrilineage for inspiration.
Cropper found a muse in her grandmother and her dauntless approach to living. She initially conceived of the brand as an expression of another version of herself — an alter ego — but realized in doing so that the woman she was actually envisioning was her grandmother. “I am inspired by my grandmother and her unapologetic, independent way of life,” she says. “Her empowerment, confidence and uniqueness is what I aim to convey through my collections.” In this latest line, Cropper looked down one notch on the family tree to her mother’s work.
“This collection grew from the inspiration of my mother’s photographic studies of decaying leaves and flowers,” she says. “It is inspired by the colors of nature and the beauty of the imperfect and decayed, something that we both share a common interest in. The history, value and beauty of something old becoming new. Handcraft, the abandonment of old principles and an exploration of emotional sustainability is at the center of the creation of this collection. There is a consciousness about the value of garments and the full process of their journey from creation to runway is reflected in the end-result.”
The backstory adds layers of richness to her designs, but ultimately the garments speak for themselves. Just look to her Fall/Winter 2022 line, where delicate maxi-length gowns with thigh-high slits and gritty, badass biker-girl leather ensembles both found a home on the same runway. It might not sound like it on paper, but the collection was absolutely cohesive: this is the same woman, perhaps going to different events, but she’s graceful, powerful, comfortable in her femininity, and, as the knee pad and motorcycle helmet accessorizing might imply, not to be messed with.
Of course, having a few celebrity fans doesn’t hurt to boost the credibility of the young brand; Julia Fox, who made it clear this spring that runway fashion is her ready-to-wear, graced the streets of New York in Cropper’s luminous asymmetrical slip dress. Another vote of confidence? Kim Kardashian, who donned the designer’s printed bikini last year and helped drum up some early buzz.
Cropper imagines the woman she designs for as confident, independent, unique, unapologetic, and also a conscious consumer — someone who cares about sustainability as she herself does. She’s on a mission to steer away from the fast fashion the industry has seen explode in recent years. In contrast, she’s built her brand around using deadstock and recycled material. Eco-friendly practices are not just rules for Cropper, but frameworks through which to experiment, and often fruitful ones.
“Sustainability is a central part of my designs,” she explains. “Solving different sustainability problems gives me ideas for techniques and constructions, that makes the pieces versatile, multifunctional and timeless.”