On January 28th, at the press conference held before the official opening of Copenhagen Fashion Week, CEO Cecilie Thorsmark unveiled the new Sustainability Action Plan 2020-2022 that envisions a reinvention of CPHFW through reducing negative impacts, innovating an existing business model and accelerating industry change.
The plan focuses on implementing sustainability requirements and setting new standards for participants to push the industry toward change. From January 2023, all brands applying for Copenhagen Fashion Week will be asked to meet minimum sustainability requirements to participate in the official show schedule such as pledging not to destroy unsold clothes, using at least fifty per cent certified, organic, upcycled or recycled textiles in all collections, using only sustainable packaging and having zero-waste set designs for their shows.

According to Cecile Thorsmark, “Copenhagen Fashion Week is the cultural and commercial meeting place of the Scandinavian fashion industry. This gives us an enormous responsibility and the potential to create impactful change in the industry at large. By taking this direction, we go from being a traditional event to being a platform for industry change.” Following the lead, participants of the CPHFW Fall/Winter 2020 presented collections largely made of sustainable, recyclable and ecological materials.

Carcel officially opened Copenhagen Fashion Week by presenting a runway without any models or clothes. The guests were surrounded by an immersive video installation with a large empty runway created by Kristian Kirk and Carcel founder, Veronica D’Souza. The video showing natural disasters was followed by the statement: “Welcome to the new decade, welcome to the walk. What season is this? How many seasons are there? How many seasons do we have left? We do not have the answer but any answer is the response.”

By raising questions about climate change and questioning overproduction and overconsumption practices in the fashion industry, the installation continued by the video interviews with imprisoned women in Peru and Thailand where all Carcel garments are made. According to D’Souza, “Status quo is unacceptable and the current business model of fashion is broken. The climate crisis has arrived on our doorstep, and being spectators is not how any of us want to be remembered. None of us can do this alone, we need to unite all creative minds to shape how fashion can be part of solving problems in society rather than causing them.” As a vivid example of how the status quo can be changed by standing together, right then and there, the guests were invited to take the stage by stepping up on the empty catwalk to change the walk.
Josephine Bergqvist and Livia Schück, Swedish designers and pioneers in creating a high-end brand by redesigning and upcycling existing garments, showcased Rave Review’s Fall/Winter 2020 collection on Copenhagen Fashion Week for the first time – “We’re excited!”, they told us backstage; “it’s bigger than Stockholm and it’s more international. Also, not many people know about us, so it’s nice to be here and reach out to these many people. We are happy.”

This time, the collection was inspired by “duvet covers and this vintage style from Sweden in the ‘70s”, they explained. For them, “the ideas come with the fabrics and the materials we find because everything is upcycled”, and this time, “it felt very natural and fantastic to use materials like duvets for making puffer jackets and other stuff.” When asked about their favourite piece, they say: “We are really proud of the blanket coat, for example. We’ve done it for a couple of seasons, and with this collection, we wanted to make it more detailed and more designed, trying with different cuts and combinations of blankets”, they say happily.

Apart from the models wearing clothing made from vintage blankets, bed covers and large checkered scarfs, girls took the sustainability idea even further. With the efforts of Sara Sjöbäck, they introduced the set design through an art piece, House on Fire, made out of scrapped car fronts. The ground was decorated with water and plant-filled lightened plastic-like transparent rice paper bags, while the audience was invited into the venue full of red light, haze and heating fans. Even the jewellery was made out of vintage china plates and second-hand metal chains in collaboration with Ulrika Runius. The show was a great success with long applause and happy faces.
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Instead of throwing a regular runway show, Gestuz showcased the collection at gallery Christoffer Egelund. By combining fashion and art, the viewers were offered an experiential factor and a unique experience to embrace the collection. As the brand’s founder, Sanne Sehested, told us, they made this change “so that people could see, feel and touch the mindset of Gestuz.” In collaboration with various artists, the brand created an immersive world where the audience could explore and feel the pieces through their senses.

The music created by Simon Dokkedal from Den Sorte Skole gave a cool vibe to the show, while Alberte Skronski juxtaposed multiple sculptures across the gallery. The models dressed in classic, refined, feminine but at the same time edgy ‘vetements’ posed for the cameras – Sehested says that they’re “all about creating clothes with sexy edginess” – while the walls decorated by Tex Bishop’s still life images caught the eyes of the viewers. In all, the Gestuz experience was very similar to going to the museum where fashion, art, and sculpture mingle harmoniously.

Also focusing on sustainability, Sanne Sehested explains that Gestuz uses “a lot with organic cotton, recycled polyester and ethical leather”, among others. “More than sixty per cent of our collection is sustainable and we put a huge effort into it”, she continues, and affirms that, in the future, the goal is to make it a hundred per cent and that, in the meantime, “we do work hard to create as much sustainable clothing as possible.” And what else can we expect from them in the future? “People have been asking me for years whether or not I will be making the show”, Sanne explains. “We are now more clear about our DNA, so the next thing might as well be a show or something even more exciting”, she says.
There’s a lot of debate around the lack of diversity in Copenhagen Fashion Week, but the Swedish-Eritrean designer Selam Fessahaye proved everyone wrong through her eclectic collection and selection of models with diverse looks, heights, body types and backgrounds. Patterns, textures, ball dresses, long-sleeved jackets, shiny suits, huge golden jewellery pieces along with the play between different materials such as tapestry fabric, organza, sequins and lamé chanelled the spirit of east African culture, giving the collection a special twist.

“It’s always hard for me to talk about the inspiration because it comes from all over. I am very complex, so it’s about trying to feel as free as possible in the process of designing and creating”, she told us backstage after the presentation. Feeling comfortable as she was surrounded by family members and friends, Selam seems confident at what she does and is for sure a force to be reckoned with. Watch out for her upcoming shows!
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It’s always thrilling to see what the emerging talents have to showcase. The Designer’s Nest celebrated the broad imagination of young Scandinavian designers and their bold visions. After a careful selection between ten Nordic design school finalists having presented their graduate collections, the finalists were, among others, Amina Saada and her ‘wearable sculptures’, Courtney Makins and her ‘absent bodies’, Frederik Möller with an office-inspired collection bordering the surrealist, and Ishara Jayathilake, whose collection merged her Sri Lankan roots with Western ideals. However, the jury chose Milka Seppänen from Aalto University as the winner, who received a study trip to UEDA College of Fashion in Osaka (Japan) and the Designers’ Nest Award of DKK 50.000.

Milka showed originality, creativity and craftsmanship through her collection, which was also highlighted in the jury statement: “You’ve created the flea market of our dreams. This complete and sophisticated expression of your menswear brigade demonstrates an impressive level of craftsmanship. You have an ability to construct intricate details and, at the same time, express your impressive breadth of skills such as excellent fabric manipulation, sweaters that you’ve made to look vintage but in fact, you knitted them yourself, dyed crochet and patchwork that organically repurposes existing recycled and leftover materials. Your DIY collection, crafted together with friends from your community, tackles essential issues in the fashion industry and demonstrates a mastery of clothes making.” Congratulations, Milka!
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Previously inspired by scenes in the kitchen and bedroom, this season, Henrik Vibskov’s inspiration revolved around the bathroom and the rituals associated with bathing. The collection reflected mental and physical preparation ahead of the day. Influenced by vintage bathrooms, colours, combs, mirrors, soap bubbles, toilet papers and toothbrushes, the installation took viewers to the surreal bathhouse of organically-shaped bathtubs with performers lying inside looking in the mirrors and reading the newspapers. The sound of water, tranquillity, freshness, cleanness and the process of physical and mental purification were the themes of the show.

When models walked down the runway, the music was suddenly cut by the fire alarm. The guests took it as a part of the performance, but soon enough, they were asked to leave the building immediately. Some instantly left the venue while others waited outside to see if the show would continue. When the firemen arrived, the alarm appeared to be false, so we were invited back in the building. The show continued and, as expected, the collection was astonishing. With his experimental, artistic and playful approach towards fashion, Henrik proved once again that his imagination has no boundaries.
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By Malene Birger’s show took place at the fabric of art and design – a huge, open space with a very tall light blue ceiling, concrete floor, and bright, wide windows. The impressive place was paired with the works of Sweden-based Ukrainian artist Alexandra Karpilovski, who celebrated womanhood through her large-scale black ink paintings on white fabric panels, hanging like clouds all over the ceiling. The theme of the collection was an Ode to a Modern Woman inspired by art collector, socialite, style icon, and fiercely independent woman Peggy Guggenheim.

Her sense of aesthetics became the visual basis of this season’s collection. Its foundation was formed by luxe fabrics, modern silhouettes, and painterly prints emphasizing the strength and confidence of women. By diving into Guggenheim’s world, By Malene Birger showcased a collection that asserts itself in a confident, refined and playful way. The models were led by fashion icon and Alexander McQueen’s muse, Erin O’Connor, whose presence on the runway made the show even more thrilling.
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Mykke Hofman’s show started with a one-minute countdown and there were some banners hanging on the wall with time-related messages and facts like: ‘5.5 years you will own the next garment that you buy’, ‘7 times you will probably wear it’ or ‘200 years that non-bio-degradable fabrics need to decompose in a landfill’. After the one-minute countdown, a message appeared: ‘This was one minute, it takes 208,799 more to create a collection. We will now have about 10 minutes to present the result of that process. Thank you for your time.’

Merging masculine and feminine codes – a military trench coat with unbuttoned sleeves or a boiler suit with a foulard around the neck, for example –, the collection featured lots of deconstruction on skirts, blazers, shirts, suits and dresses. And the colour palette was exquisite: from tangerine to lavender, to khaki green, white and black (mostly leather), the combination of more traditionally feminine hues with others inspired by the army uniforms created a beautiful narrative.
Mfpen sent down the runway a collection of menswear with relaxed silhouettes and shapes for the modern man who looks to be elegant but highly comfortable at the same time while a drummer played live on the background – the contrast of the percussion instrument with the more laid-back air of the collection actually worked pretty well. Double-breasted blazers and suits, trench coats, oversized knitted jumpers and shirts in neutral colours – light blue, beige, black, navy and grey – become wardrobe staples for everyday life – be it in an office or more casual events.
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