COPENHAGEN Aug 8 Textureless fabrics in white
and beige swept down the runways of Copenhagen Fashion Week in a
celebration of a minimalist Nordic design tradition that is
flourishing in a climate of economic uncertainty.
The shows - featuring female models lounging on seats
reading magazines, or men swaggering in gothic kilts and leather
jackets - proclaimed a new Danish style that rejects grandeur
for simplicity and irreverance.
Growing exports from houses such as Ganni, Acne and Malene
Birger together with international acclaim for designers such as
Asger Juel Larsen show the growing influence of a pared-back,
"It's exotic minimalism. Beautiful simplicity is in their
DNA. It is not based around high heels and mini skirts," said
buying director Justin O'Shea of Munich-based luxury fashion
online store MyTheresa.com.
O'Shea, an Australian, said Copenhagen was one of only a few
cities that inspired him. He was drawn to the Nordics not so
much for the detail of the designs but a vibe, a casually
glamorous lifestyle expressed through clothes.
Danish designer Barbara I Gongini produced models with
birds-nest hair and scowling men in black trousers that tapered
at the calf, with knee-length jackets covering their shirtless
chests. Expressionless women wore asymmetrical, untailored
dresses - a ruffled but simple and monochrome look.
For organisers of the fashion week, the aesthetic is
fittingly austere for a continent still trying to move on from
the financial crisis.
"Through time, economic circumstances have been reflected by
the lengths of women's skirts and there is no doubt fashion
collections in general have been cautious during the crisis,"
Copenhagen Fashion Week CEO Eva Kruse told Reuters before the
The prolonged recessions in many European countries may have
created an opportunity for spartan Scandinavian fashions that
eschew the sequined glamour of the boom-times.
Denmark's fashion exports have grown by 16 percent since
2009, with much of the demand coming from Germany where sales
were 6.1 billion Danish crowns ($1 billion) last year.
For Kruse, the luxury end of the Nordic fashion industry
remains more available and affordable than the likes of Louis
Vuitton and Prada, but more exclusive than one of the world's
largest high-street brands, Sweden's H&M.
"We make uncomplicated clothes that many men and women can
relate to. It's neither outré or very expensive and it is meant
for people who want fashionable everyday clothes," Kruse said.
As if to emphasise the down-to-earth approach, Designers
Remix by Charlotte Eskildsen was presented in the concrete
backyard of investment bank SEB, where models were dressed in
mostly white and beige knee-length dresses or plain, loose
The next day, a live band thrashing out punk music in a
stifling hot room accompanied the gothic-grunge look in black
and neon green at Asger Juel Larsen's Interrupt Me show.
In July, the 32-year-old designer won the Woolmark Prize.
Former holders include the then-unknown Karl Lagerfeld and Yves
Saint Laurent. Larsen graduated in London in 2011 but moved back
to the calm of Denmark to create this collection.
"In Scandinavia, and especially in Denmark, we have this
inner bohemia, a certain relaxedness which is visible in the
clothes," Larsen told Reuters after his show on Thursday night.
"I too do absolutely have a lot of trademarks from
Scandinavia, such as sharpness and monophony, though I also feel
inspired by my five years in London, where everything is a bit
more alternative," said the smiling, long blond-haired designer.
(Editing by Sabina Zawadzki and Tom Pfeiffer)