Ana Andjelic is senior vice president and global strategy director for Havas Lux Hub.
Copenhagen was, in 2014, voted the happiest city on the planet. Mention this to any Copenhagen resident and you’d be met with an eye roll. With good reason, too: After all, Denmark gave us Lars Von Trier and dark television thrillers like Brön/Broen, Forbydelsen and Borgen. Danish fashion is a little bit like the Copenhagen residents: unique, individualistic, practical, no-nonsense and thoroughly street.
Denmark has recently been going through an extended fashion moment, and not only because of Sarah Lund’s wooly jumpers. Brands like Henrik Vibskov, Baum und Pfergarten, Wood Wood, Won Hundred and Norse Projects gaining the international distribution and appeal. The question is, why this didn’t happen sooner? Almost all of these brands — Henrik Vibskov aside — are relative newcomers to the U.S. market. Although Danish styles fly off the shelves, their availability is still limited to a few edgy boutiques in New York and L.A. Which is strange, considering Danish designers seem to have been the the first to go street, to encourage fashion experimentation and risk-taking, to play with durability and technical quality of materials, and to create clothes that are both edgily cool and thoroughly wearable.
To unlock this mystery, Glossy chatted with designer Trine Young, print and accessories designer at Baum und Pfergarten. Edited highlights below.
What are the most inspiring things happening in the fashion business right now? Who has the most power?
It’s the customer and consumer, no doubt. However, in my opinion it is the designers and brands who hold the biggest responsibility in terms of the design that they choose to bring to life, by creating good design that cares for people and the environment and sustains our next generations.
It is unavoidable to notice that these are changing times for the fashion industry. “Sustainable fashion” is a term that has somehow lost its power. Nonetheless, it is what more and more consumers and pioneers call for when purchasing products. I think it is very inspiring that Denmark is hosting the biggest summit on how to address the the future, the Copenhagen Fashion Summit. Big players like Nike and Patagonia have already taken up the challenge and they are to me very inspiring in the sense that they are showing a more “conscious” path for the big and settled fashion businesses as well. I feel we are taking the first crucial steps towards a more conscious and thoughtful approach and way of life in general. Organic food has taken root and I believe we are to experience a similar paradigm shift in the fashion industry very soon.
Is there something you’d call uniquely Copenhagen street style that you haven’t seen anywhere else?
If you take a stroll down Strøget, the main shopping lane in the heart of Copenhagen, you’ll notice that people are very laid-back: wearing sportswear, sneakers and comfortable yet fashionable clothes. Although Copenhagen does deal with all the fuss that comes with being a capital city, a friend of mine has described the atmosphere here as if there is an ‘everlasting holiday-ish’ mentality.
Unique Copenhagen street-style is quite oversized, hence the comfortable-priorities of the Danes which leads me to the unavoidable piece of clothing in a rainy country like Denmark: the raincoat. Some Danish brands somehow succeeded making the most hated clothing piece extremely fashionable and trendy. Now you see raincoats adopted into the Copenhagen’s street-style wardrobe in a variety of prints and colours, which one could say is a ‘signature’ of Copenhagen street style.
If shopping makes us happy and Copenhagen is the happiest city on Earth, does it mean that people here shop like crazy? Is hedonism what rules your city or is it exactly the opposite?
I would say both. What probably makes Copenhageners happy is their freedom to decide what they want and when. This, of course, links with a welfare system where people can afford to take some time off, self-management in terms of balancing work hours: as long as you get things done. If we get time to do what makes us happy we can overcome our daily tasks at work more effectively, which leads to more leisure time and more shopping. That being said, Danish people often see it as their “right” to shop and buy new clothes, not as a reward and result of hard-work. Appreciation is probably what is lacking and so I would also say that people here do shop like crazy — or at least, unconsciously, which can sometimes end up seeming a tad “spoiled.”
How would you describe Danish fashion?
Simplicity, comfort and attention to detail. Danes are very attracted to any small detail that will make them stand out from the crowd. Individuality is quite an interesting phenomenon in terms of Danish taste and style: Funnily enough, if you ask any Dane on the street to describe his or her style in one word, most would say “individual” or “unique”. Ironically, Danes don’t like to stand out from the crowd in general, which is quite interesting in terms of how Danes perceive themselves and how they are actually perceived by other nationalities.
Danish fashion seems to merge being practical with being innovative. Can it be that the root of Danish happiness is also in practicality: the realistic expectations in life?
Definitely. I believe that when we have certain limitations, such as rough and rainy whether, people work with what they have, which often leads to something very unique due to these ‘necessities’ in life such as keeping warm and being mobile. To give an example: You will never sell a winter coat to any Dane despite amazing design and great value for money if it can’t keep you warm throughout the freezing Danish winter. And that is just a fact. So yes, Danish designers or people who wish to make it in the Danish fashion business must keep focus on the practical part of the design as much as the fashionable part.
What makes a great fashion product?
Attention to detail in terms of functionality. Comfort paired with beautiful and simple design solutions. High-quality and sustainable materials. A design which has been thought about in terms of the impact of people and the environment. A well-designed fashion product is a product that is holistic: Thought-through from early design-sketch throughout the production cycle and finally including how we dispose of it. A great fashion product is not only about designing the product, but designing its entire lifecycle.