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TAKE IT FROM A DANE...
...Copenhagen Fashion Week pulls in an international audience
To Danes, it’s the cogwheel of the internationalisation and global acknowledgement of our country as a fashion focal point, for which Denmark so yearns. Copenhagen’s petite frame and unassuming charm is an ironic contrast to the great aspirations of its fashion week. Nonetheless, CFW seems to lend itself excellently to visit from abroad. International labels such as Preen Line, Jens Laugesen, and Louise Amstrup have successfully shown on schedule at CFW, proving that this fashion week is far from comparable to the amateurish, provincial fashion week messes of certain other smaller fashion nations.
Some four or five years ago, the Danish Fashion Institute (DAFI) announced their ambition for Copenhagen to become the world’s fifth fashion capital. As a Dane only too familiar with the notorious Danish self-esteem, the high objective certainly didn’t surprise me. Do I think it’s still possible? Yes. But Paris Fashion Week wasn’t built in a day, and while CFW may be light years ahead of its competing fashion weeks, there are still a few bricks to be laid.
So let’s go back to aforementioned hospitability: CFW welcomes everyone with open arms. For international and national press and buyers, CFW’s accommodating attitude is possibly its best feature. But in its eagerness to make everything inclusive and festive, Denmark has developed an unfortunate willingness to popularise anything that may seem just slightly elitist and promptly bring it down to Earth. Enter the phenomenon that is Copenhagen Fashion Festival (CoFF): ‘Fashion week for the people.’ CoFF is an array of open-to-the-public events run simultaneously with CFW, which aim to include Mr. and Mrs. Smith in every aspect of fashion week - from shows and fairs to industry events.
Now, maybe I’ve just misunderstood the concept of fashion week, but isn’t it meant to show clothes to members of the industry in advance of said clothes hitting the shops so we might have some time to prepare promoting it to the public? Don’t get me wrong. It’s great that fashion is celebrated on an all-inclusive level, but when it comes to our world, too much inclusiveness tends to eliminate the purpose. And that’s not a very international look. That being said, CoFF is just about the only spot on the well-ironed jacket of the ‘Copenhagen Fashion Week’ trademark itself. Whichever other factors are dragging CFW down are on the hands of the labels showing.
In certain cases, the fault also lies with PRs. Last CFW, an agency reportedly didn’t seat Colin McDowell OBE at one of the shows because - wait for it - they didn’t know who he was. Ouch. Of course, they’re the same PRs who worship so-called ‘celebrity bloggers’ and this hype takes away focus from the main attraction: the clothes. It’s embarrassing for the Danish fashion industry that so much attention is given to such an insignificant link in the fashion system.
The ‘Copenhagen Fashion Week’ corporation, however, is managed pretty much to perfection, not least in thanks to one Anne Christine Persson, the Manager at CFW. What Persson gets, which many other divisions of Copenhagen Fashion Week don’t get, is quite simply the concept of good PR. I’m sad to say that’s its not uncommon to be shown around at a Danish fashion fair by a 20-year-old intern-turned-assistant-turned-Junior-something, who seems to have little clue as to what she’s talking about, let alone the professions of the people she’s talking to. If more companies and designers at CFW picked up on the Persson way of doing things - i.e. tending relentlessly to the international press, following the international fashion industry and how it works, and generally looking outside the comfort zone of Danish fashion - CFW would be at an entirely different international level in no time.
The international potential of the CFW resident labels is key to achieving global acknowledgement. Internationally, Denmark’s association with high fashion usually doesn’t go much further than Helena, Freja and Matthias. If not for anything else, at least my country is famous for producing extremely good-looking people. But we’re more than just a pretty face, you know. In recent years, designers such as Peter Jensen, Jens Laugesen, Camilla Stærk, Camilla Skovgaard, Louise Amstrup and Henrik Vibskov have flown the Danish fashion flag internationally - and to great acclaim. Yet on a global level, few people are familiar with the designers showing at CFW permanently, which is a shame.
Admirable 1960s designers such as Ivan Grundahl and Margit Brandt are still going strong, while major money-makers such as By Malene Birger and Bruuns Bazaar, and new talent including Vilsbøl de Arce, Spon Diogo and MoonSpoon Saloon, all do their part to add dynamics to CFW and at times even a bit of boundary-pushing. These are the resident labels, which make CFW worth a visit.
But the gatecrashers who ruin the party are the sort of ‘beige’ brands, who show high-street-looking collections for either middle-aged women or tacky teenagers. These brands do not belong on a catwalk and certainly not on one that international press and buyers are invited to view. Before CFW gets rid of these high fashion pretenders, the attention-worthy labels won’t get the international recognition they deserve.
The thing about CFW is that it’s founded on such a balance between great potential versus close-to embarrassing elements. This creates a sort of one-step-forward-and-one-step-back symbiosis, which appears confusing to an international fashion world, which only ever looks ahead and seeks to improve itself. Still though, it’s important that CFW receives an increasing amount of international attention. And as far as fashion weeks go, it’s hardly a time-waster for international editors and buyers.
I for one won’t miss this season’s Peter Jensen show, the Gallery fashion fair, or the incomparable summer fashion week atmosphere, which no other fashion week delivers quite as immaculately as Copenhagen Fashion Week.