Han Kjøbenhavn was founded in 2008 in Copenhagen by Jannik Wikkelsø Davidsen and remains the city’s most distinct alternative fashion voice. The roots of the brand are based in Danish design culture, after all the name Kjøbenhavn means Copenhagen. The brand is an attempt to break from the comfortably middle class on Denmark’s cultural discourse and to show sides of life in the nordic nation that are seldom seen. Creativity, storytelling and craftmanship are the basis of Han Kjøbenhavn as Jannik wants to make people travel with all of their senses, senses that are amplified with his pieces.
Kjøbenhavn is renowned for its arcane and avant-garde approach to clothing, with versatile garments across both menswear and womenswear. It is centred around stories, humans and emotions. The narrative that surrounds each collection often allows its audience to connect on a personal level, taking the focus away from the pieces themselves and guiding viewers on an alternate journey through storytelling. The brand's latest collection, SS22 womenswear showed at Copenhagen Fashion Week.
You started a sunglasses brand in 2008. Why did you decide to turn to menswear design, and later to womenswear? What gave you the confidence to make that leap?
The transition from eyewear to clothing was a natural development in terms of how I work in form and sculptures.
What is it like being one of the most avant-garde brands in Copenhagen? How do you feel about being based there?
For me the important thing is not that I am based in Copenhagen because Copenhagen or Denmark in general is not my only focus. I look worldwide while designing a collection. For me my collections are a feeling that I want people to be able to feel. No matter where they live.
Han Kjøbenhavn is centred around stories, humans and emotion; taking the focus away from the garments and guiding viewers on an alternate journey through storytelling. You want to develop a narrative that embraces, not excludes, and to be part of the culture you comment on. Can you talk more about that?
For me it is all about our audience having the same mindset as us. The person that wears Han Kjøbenhavn wears it because they have the same feeling as we do. When designing a collection, it’s all about creating a story that people want to put themselves in because we design collections that people relate to. We represent how society looks today and that includes everyone.
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Your childhood experiences growing up in the suburbs shaped you and still influences your every day. What is your major recurrent memory? Was fashion something you were interested in while growing up? What did you study?
As long as I can remember creativity has been a big part of me. Before creativity can grow it needs a solid base. For me that base was my supportive parents who always told me that I should do whatever I loved and that was enough for them. I have always been an admirer of art, design and abstraction, so it was very clear for me that I should go in that direction. But [the fact] it turned out to be in the fashion industry was not something I had planned.
You go far from mainstream expectations of what ‘Danish design’ should look like, but that doesn’t mean that you are less proud of your hometown. We can see it in your name as a nod to the capital’s old spelling. How did you come up with the name?
Very simple. I started the brand with my former partner, so we used “han” that is the danish pronoun for men. Kjøbenhavn is because we both were born in Copenhagen, and because we want to embrace the danish. The J is added in the name to catch attention and to play with the typography.
What can you say about Han Kjøbenhavn’s DNA?
Our DNA is a feeling, a way to think and a way to look at things. Our DNA can change in an organic way, but it can never be a specific colour, shape or a logo you can’t break out off.
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What can you say about the shift in your aesthetics? From Scandi-chic to the grungy mood you have today.
In the past years we have managed to gather a team that all have the same vision and understanding of the brand. We want to create an emotional response to our collections by creating contrasts.
I read in another interview that you approach the collections like a film script, moving from a story to reality. Could you explain it? Do you always think about the models as ‘characters’ who perform a specific mood?
For me it is important to create a connection between the clothes and how it should be presented. The clothes are enough itself, but every single piece need its own story. For me I want to make people feel connected to the clothes by using models that we all can relate to.
How did it feel for your to debut at Milan Fashion Week for Fall Winter 2020?
No matter which show I am do or where it is, the process is the same for me. But of course, it was a big thing getting invited to show my collection at Milan Fashion Week and I feel honoured that they wanted me there.
How was the experience of presenting The Shape of Existing, at Milan’s Digital Fashion Week? Are you planning to follow the fashion calendar?
The movie was an art installation for us, and it was something different. Looking forward we will continue following the fashion calendar, but our focus will mainly be on the womenswear.
On your latest collection, your Fall Winter 2021, and third time at Milan Fashion Week, you presented Sweet Melancholia, and you said about the collection that, “It’s the mental ‘sweet spot’ where the darkness takes over and you feel enlightened – where the darkness feels progressive.” I’m very curious about that, could you explain it a bit further? What message do you want to send to the world through this collection?
For me it is all about embracing the dark side that we all have. It’s about turning it into something positive and it is where my creativity grows.
What is next for Han Kjøbenhavn?
We would like to give the womenswear collection as much attention as the menswear collections has got the past years. We want Han Kjøbenhavn to stay on the journey we are on right now because we are far from done.
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