An Interview with Copenhagen's Martin Asbjørn
The Danish favorite discusses turning challenges into creativity for his latest collection.
The Danish favorite discusses turning challenges into creativity for his latest collection.
Martin Asbjørn has already emerged as one of Copenhagen’s most exciting talents. His particular blend of the much-beloved Scandinavian “clean” tailoring mixed with almost Surrealist, genderless, fantastical nuances pack a smart yet creative punch. It’s somehow fun and serious all at once.
A few days before his show, which you can read more about here, we spoke to Asbjørn about his path toward becoming a designer, as well as what’s to come.
V: So were you born and raised in Copenhagen?
Martin Asbjørn: Yes, I am. Yeah.
V: Copenhagen fashion week has become such a big deal in the past few years. How has Danish style changed since you were a kid ther?
Martin Asbjørn: Well, actually this collection is kind of a little bit about that because for the first time this season, I didn't do a really directional mood board for the collection. It was more about the reason why I got into fashion and why I love fashion. And that was that I believe that you are able to empower people, or clothes are able to empower the wearer. And that's kind of my own story growing up. I felt like I would escape through my clothes if that makes sense. I was dreaming a little bit and escaping my own reality through what I was wearing.
So that was kind of the starting point for me, involving fashion. And in terms of the whole Scandinavian thing, I often get asked, “Do you think of yourself as a Danish brand or Scandinavian brand?” And in a way I do, because I have a simplicity and I think Scandinavian fashion is kind of, I wouldn't say simple, but it's minimal, and I think I've been apart from that since I started. Because I always had this kind of queer edge to my design, because I maybe thought a little bit more about sexiness in my menswear.
When I started my brand, I felt like you could never say ‘sexy’ to an editor. You can never mention the word sexy, in press, because you're doing menswear. That sounds tacky. And nobody would want to buy into that. Whereas now I feel like it's completely okay to talk about sexiness and being attractive in a menswear line. And I feel like that's maybe some kind of an evolution that is happening all over the world, but especially here in Copenhagen.
V: On the subject of things changing, is this the first time you’ll ever be presenting womenswear?
Martin Asbjørn: It is. I've been a menswear brand since I started and I always call it menswear, but I've had so many women buying my clothes for a really long time. And then I've been looking at the new generation and I've been thinking about what I was wearing when I was younger and how I was totally criticized for that. And not at all celebrated. And I'm looking at this new generation where it's all about individuality and everybody's getting celebrated for just being who they are and it got me thinking about what type of person I would've been today, if I didn't have those experiences back in the day. And then I was like, it's a natural step for me. I'm not calling it "womenswear." I feel like this collection is for everybody. It can be worn by whoever, however.
V: This isn’t quite “new” at this point but putting more typically feminine garments on males doesn’t feel as shocking as it did even five years ago.
Martin Asbjørn: It's completely changed and I love that. I think that's wonderful. And yeah, it just gives me as a designer a lot more freedom to just play around. And I've always been using maybe some textiles that you would normally use in women's but for men, and now I'm just free to do whatever. But it is the first time that I've done a look book with a girl in it.
V: The look book is really very promising!
Martin Asbjørn: I actually really appreciate it because I keep being like, “Oh yeah, I really love it. I think this is great.” And then the next day I'm like, “I hate it. It's the worst. It's not good enough.” So thank you so much.
V: Of course. So if you’re thinking of yourself as an artist, which you are, and a world that you create with your art, how would you describe this world of Martin Asbjorn?
Martin Asbjørn: It is definitely about big cities. It's maybe a fancier life than what I grew up in. And it's also, for me, talking about escapism, it's not that I don't have self-worth, but I think I've been struggling with self-confidence always. And I feel like that's also kind of a way for me to escape through my clothes, and about empowering the person who buys my clothes to feel a little bit more confident and to feel like they can take on the world and go to that fancy club and jump the queue and all of these things. A collection that I made that I was really in love with was my Spring '20, where the whole collection was about the towns of Italy, and kind of escaping to Italy and living this life–this expensive life.
V: A lot of New York shows are already not happening because of COVID. How has it affected getting this collection and show together?
Martin Asbjørn: I feel like the start of this new year has been really insane, actually. I can't remember a time where I've held so much pressure, and that has everything to do with COVID because there are just some deadlines in this industry that you just have to make. And, you know, people are getting sick everywhere. I have many of my factories not working for two or three weeks and then starting up again and then closing down again. There was the spring/summer ‘22 deliveries. And then there were the samples for the new collection. I actually did the look book shoot for two days, and my photographer got COVID. So I had to get another photographer within a day. It's been really hectic. And at this time, I kind of feel like I'm starting all over again, like the nerves are just as bad as my very first show. But this time there were so many pieces that I was not able to make. And there's been so many times where I had to swap. I'll say, “Okay, I couldn't get this. Now I can get this. I have to make this work.” Then again, I would say, I feel like my process has always been like that because obviously when you are a smaller designer there are more limitations to what you can do. I can't just create 200 pieces and then just take out the 80 fits that I really love. I had to really narrow it down before I even started.
But I kind of like that. I feel like that's a challenge. And again, what you were saying before working within limitations can actually be quite fun. But obviously I would love to have bigger budgets in the future. There's no doubt about it.
V: Being a designer and starting your own brand is not a super easy career path. What gave you the courage to do it?
Martin Asbjørn: That's a good question. I feel like it has to do with me being a little bit naive in the beginning. I actually didn't know it was going to be this hard. I think I'm a really hard worker and that I'm really strong and I think that's what has taken me this far, because it has really been obstacles all the way. Obviously, there's been great times in my life while doing this, but it's also been really rough because you get a lot of no’s in this industry and you have to prove yourself.
But I've always been into fashion. I would go to all of the vintage stores when I was like maybe 14, and try to recreate something that I saw in the flesh. Like, a look I saw and I would do it myself. I knew that was always a part of me. And then I worked in retail. I was an assistant buyer for a really big store at the time in Copenhagen. I did visual merchandising, but I kept feeling like I wanted to do something more. And then I did traditional menswear tailoring for two and a half years.
And then I started doing menswear tailoring, and, I felt like that was super important because I knew I wanted to do menswear from the get go, and I felt like fits and silhouettes and just creating the right fit for guys is what makes menswear good. I just started out really naive and I thought, okay, I'm going to do a collection, I'm going to sell right away. And obviously that didn't happen, but then I just kept on going. So I think the processes made me stronger.
V: What has been the most rewarding part of it?
Martin Asbjørn: Obviously, one of the things that are really satisfying is just seeing people on the streets wear my clothes. That makes me super happy every time I see it. And also another thing that I've learned and that I'm really happy that I learned is just to go with my own gut-feeling and trusting my inner voice, because there's so many people telling you like, "Oh, you should do a white shirt, that would sell. You should have this and this and that in your collection." And you know, those thoughts get to you, and you kind of try to incorporate what everybody around you is saying, because you feel like, maybe they know better because this is the sales manager or blah, blah, blah.
But I feel like whenever I really nail something, it's just by listening to what I want to do. And I feel like that's what I've done with this collection. It's very me compared to some of my older collections and highlights. I mean, obviously I was super happy when Lil Nas X wore my jumpsuit not that long ago, that was a highlight for me. I almost didn’t work the entire day.
CREATIVE DIRECTOR @martinabjerre ART DIRECTION @studiokevinpfaff @amanagement.eu STYLING @hildasandstrom @amanagement.eu STYLING ASSISTANT @laylahermkens @philipsandau STYLING ASSISTANT @camillawydojnik CASTING DIRECTOR @julie-wl @amanagement.eu MUSIC Daniel Savi @dinvendniel HAIR Lead Sidsel Marie Bøg @untoldsecretz @sidselmarieboeg / Jesper Hallin @jesperhallin using @mrsmithhair @mrsmithsweden MAKE-UP @vildefeste @maccosmeticsnordics SHOES @annynordshoes @vagabondshoemakers @drmartensofficial JEWELRY @isabelbonner__studio SOCKS @falke DRINKS @drink.dansk @1664blancdk @grohe_global @purplepr @morchrohde @ronnimorgenstjerne