Much like the beliefs that New Yorkers only wear black and French women always accessorize with a beret, there’s an outdated misconception about Scandinavian style. Martin Asbjørn, REMAIN’s new creative director who kicked off his career in the ‘90s, sums it up best: “Traditionally, there has been a stereotype associated with Scandinavian fashion, characterized by a clean, minimalistic, and uniform approach to dressing.” Is there some truth to this? Absolutely. However, the way he sees it, even though this captures the essence of Danish fashion, there’s much more diversity and creativity to the signature look.
“It’s not minimalistic as everybody thinks it is,” the industry vet adds. No, it’s not strictly about pared-back looks or, on the other hand, playful dressing — there are elements of both. This begs the question: What really defines Scandi style right now?
But before diving into how Denmark’s fashion has evolved, it’s important to note what started fueling the masses’ interest in the Scandi style in the first place. House of Dagmar’s CEO Karin Söderlind and Creative Director Sofia Wallenstam have a few theories. Wallenstam begins by saying Denmark-based folks were early adopters of social media, which contributed to the world’s deep knowledge and understanding of emerging and established Danish fashion labels.
Just look to Copenhagen-based brand GANNI, which had a meteoric rise after establishing a social media community known as “GANNI girls” in 2015. (Fun fact: Helena Christensen and Kate Bosworth got the #GANNIgirl hashtag off the ground when they snapped pics in matching jackets from the label.) Its community of influencers and style connoisseurs began sharing how they styled their GANNI looks, and things snowballed from there (hence the label’s 1.4 million IG followers). The cult-favorite brand also undecidedly ushered in a new idea of quirkiness — see puff-sleeve dresses, leopard jackets, and colorful graphic tees — that most people associate Scandi style with today.
There’s also the fact that Scandinavian fashion is a leader in sustainability, notes Söderlind. “Copenhagen Fashion Week was the first fashion week to give out a sustainability award, and we were the first brand to receive one in February 2021,” she tells TZR. It’s no secret consumers, particularly those in the Gen Z age bucket are becoming increasingly conscious of fashion’s impact on the environment, which is just one reason eco-friendly Scandi brands have drawn in shoppers over the years.
Because Denmark fashion’s grip on the world shows no signs of changing anytime soon, learn more about what the local style is all about in 2024, according to brand founders and creative directors.
Fashion Meets Functionality
Anne-Dorthe Larsen, the founder of LOVECHILD 1979, says residents’ on-the-go lifestyles influence their fashion choices; therefore, functionality takes precedence. “In Denmark, where cycling is a common mode of transportation, our clothing reflects the need for comfort and flexibility,” she explains. Naja Munthe, the brainchild of Munthe, agrees, saying clothing and accessories must be practical. “You should be able to go on a bike, and when the rain comes, the style should be adaptable,” she explains, adding, “If you would go directly from work to meet some friends for a cocktail, your outfit should reflect that.” It makes sense, then, that trench coats, chunky knitwear, and comfy sneakers are wardrobe staples for the Danish pack.
Scandi folks also don’t sacrifice style for comfort. In fact, Larsen notes that it’s not uncommon to see people strolling around in their pajamas, paired with flat shoes and a knit or blazer. “This easygoing approach to fashion might be less common in other countries.”
Individuality Is Key
Of all the things Munthe is proud of when it comes to Scandinavian women, she says creating their own looks is at the top of the list. “Of course, everyone is exposed to seeing what is shown on CPHFW and prone to see all the different collections that are created, but a Scandinavian woman would not wear a full look from one brand.” Instead, folks would rather mix and match pieces to find an outfit that suits their sartorial taste.
Take a few Danish influencers, for example. Pernille Rosenkilde, an It girl in Copenhagen, has a reputation for juxtaposing unique silhouettes, like, say, a feathery Sleeper jacket and tie-dye sweat pants. Julie Blichfeld, a content creator who also lives in the bustling city, is constantly wowing her followers with intriguing outfit combos — think a multi-color Sita Murt/ polo with a hot pink Hofmann Copenhagen midi skirt.
And this sense of individuality not only goes for consumers but for creatives, too. “If you look at the fashion industry, I think that we see a scene of very strong Danish designers within their own right,” states Munthe. “Some are more minimalistic, some are more driven by prints, and others are very young and contemporary. But I do believe that all in all, there is a big diversity in the design they create, and you can’t put the same label on everyone.”
Designers Don’t Skimp On Quality
“Scandis are very fortunate to be used to great design, so we also expect that from our fashion,” says Gestuz’s founder Sanne Sehested, who further explains that Scandi style is about high-quality materials as shoppers have high standards. House of Dagmar, for one, is transparent about the fabrics used, as they have a page that breaks everything down. Earth-friendly materials like GOTS-certified organic cotton, TENCEL, and certified silk are all commonly found in the collections.
And over at accessories label ATP Atelier, co-founder and creative director Maj-La Pizzelli says the brand doesn’t create products just for the sake of it. “Our pieces have to fill an actual gap and make real sense in your everyday life,” she tells TZR. “I would never put something on that was uncomfortable or didn’t enhance my everyday life long term, just to follow a trend.” In short, she says Scandi women have a no-frills approach to fashion as well as a mindset that spending your time and money on things that last, one being well-made clothing, is crucial.
A Capsule Wardrobe Is Always A Yes
If flowy, voluminous dresses à la Cecilie Bahnsen come to mind when you think of Scandi style, you’re certainly not alone. And though ladies do gravitate towards the flirty, one-and-done number, there are many more core looks they’re known to wear. In fact, Söderlind and Wallenstam tell TZR how individuals are all about creating a capsule wardrobe — aka, a collection of versatile, no-fuss silhouettes that seamlessly work well with one another. “It has to be of good quality to last for a long time but also have a high level of design not to be boring,” they say about the common lineup approved by Scandi women, specifically crediting a great pair of jeans, crisp shirt, relaxed suit trousers, and white tee as must-have looks.
They Wear More Than Just Neutrals
Similar to New York, Wallenstam believes there’s a stereotype around everyone only donning black in Denmark. And as it happens, Scandi women are particularly enamored with the hue — so much so it’s a go-to in the summer, as she adds that the shade gives an instant chic coolness to any outfit. However, Sehested says though they love their neutral looks, they’re not afraid to wear color, either. Browse through some of these aforementioned Danish designers’ recent collections, and you’ll notice an abundance of greens (see olive and lime), blues (like royal and and turquoise), and yellow (think a buttery hue).
Loud Prints May Be Less Common Today
It depends on who you ask, but according to Munthe, dramatic prints have slightly fallen out of favor over the past decade. Don’t be mistaken: You’ll still spot them walking up and down the streets and on social media, but the appeal isn’t as strong these days. “People are still interested in details and a lot of expression, but it is not so much in your face [like before].” But then again, who knows if that’ll change over the next few years, as the future of fashion is notoriously hard to predict.