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Arriving in Copenhagen from New York is like waking up in a dream. The Tivoli amusement park, it's surrounding peacock-filled gardens, and the ornate government buildings at the center of the week's events are a surreal fantasy, an unexpected contrast to the minimalism usually associated with the culture. Day one of Copenhagen Fashion Week is full of both the unexpected and, for balance, plenty of the expected. In a press conference that officially started the week, Eva Kruse, CEO of Danish Fashion Institute & Copenhagen Fashion Week, spoke of the "typical, minimal cardigans and shirts" Copenhagen is proud to be known for, but she also spoke (and let an expert, Dansk Erhverv speak) of the surprisingly lucrative impact their niche designers have established for this small country. Denmark's wounds from the financial crisis have found some relief in the growing popularity of Danish design, which is uniquely conceptual, yet practical--minimal, yet complex. More young people today, especially men, have taken an interest in underground fashion labels that are wearable and affordable, and Copenhagen is the perfect place to search for the established and the emerging.
After the conference announced their new contract with hair team Toni & Guy, a room full of journalists found themselves ushered downstairs to the opening show: the menswear label, Asger Juel Larsen. The lines are clean, the colors hyper, and the prints street-ready. I heard the names Telfar and Rick Owens whispered around me, as quilted and hooded garments emerged, respectively. The highlight, a double-duffle bag worn as a a backpack, gleamed in a rosy bronze. Basics labels WHIITE and Est. 1995 Benedikte Utzon Wardrobe showed on the same runway, finding enthusiastic applause from loyal fans, despite a few fumbles (literally). The fashion crowd in Copenhagen is of course much smaller than those seen in Milan or Paris or New York, but they are a keen group, looking, as we all are, for the next new wave. There is a similar sense of patriotism in the army of bloggers posing in stacked sneakers and monochrome layers outside of City Hall between shows, as seen in our local NYC show-goers, but I detect, also, a refreshingly observant eye behind each matte black blinder.
Between the two basics collections, Mark Kenly Domino Tan gave us a crescendo of a first show in the city, starting with variations on the quilted two-piece trend (most notably a structured long koolot paired with a crop top) and raising the bar from there with similar styles in silk. The symbol crash came when plastic featherlike points were added to a skirt, a top, and, the takeaway (so to speak), a clutch. "Very Jil, but also Dior," said impressed guests, implying a strong Raf influence. The shapes, however, have a McCartney- or Yamamoto- like obstinance, and one that has become a touchstone of Danish design. Walking down the runway, each collection asks: is it chic, but more importantly, wearable? The answer: I wouldn't be surprised to see Mark Kenly Domino Tan collaborate with Adidas.
The biggest turnout of the day was for Henrik Vibskov, whose inspired runway (I heard "chicken coop," "dream catcher," and "drain full of some whore's hair" to describe the set) was in a far more remote location than the preceding City Hall and Nimb Hotel shows. The old warehouse was necessary for the sizable audience of mostly locals, who murmured over their Heinekens before the show started over half and hour late. The shoes worn by both male and female models were the standout inventions from the typically atypical collection. They were broken down and built up in three directions with raw plywood—minimal, yet complex—and probably a bitch to learn to walk in.
images courtesy copenhagen fashion week