Fashion

Scandinavian Fashion’s Forward-Thinking Creativity

With growing Instagram followings, creative new takes on outerwear, and a socially conscious mindset, Copenhagen Fashion Week’s rising designers are about so much more than minimalism.
Reading time 10 minutes

Photography by Christina Fragkou

Production by Yael Quint

Anyone who thinks fashion is a four-city circuit is missing a lot. Last week, Scandinavian designers were showcasing innovative new collections in Copenhagen, providing a lively perspective on cold-weather style that’s becoming increasingly more promising on the international market. These designers are just as in touch with social media crazes and ethical debates as their peers in the bigger cities, and their innovation is getting noticed: Cecilie Bahnsen has a growing Instagram following, Saks Potts counts Cardi B and Rihanna among their fans, and Soeren Le Schmidt once designed a gown for Crown Princess Mary. With all this attention, it seems Copenhagen could one day officially join fashion month.

But perhaps more important than the fame is how Scandinavian brands are as forward-thinking as their cultures in general. Most designers noted sustainability as a trend they’d like to see more of in fashion, and many are engaging with changing the nature of gender in clothing. And while aesthetically pleasing minimalism is exactly what brought Copenhagen’s style to the public consciousness, in the industry’s true nature, rising creatives are already thinking about ways to expand and reinvent this reputation. Below, get to know the creatives behind six of Scandinavia’s most exciting brands.

Cecilie Bahnsen

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Cecilie Bahnsen is bringing romance back to fashion. She started her namesake brand after working for John Galliano and Erdem, and her approach is refreshingly classic, with her niche being dreamy, voluminous dresses. Bahnsen’s work creatively reclaims femininity during a nostalgia-filled moment, and wearers can travel city streets in an ensemble fit for roaming picturesque fields and it somehow works perfectly.

Bahnsen created a simple, captivating aesthetic for Fall 2019, reminding the world why she was a 2017 LVMH finalist. Most looks are black and white, and high necks and empire waists pair with sneakers to create modern magic. The designer looks set to rise further alongside Copenhagen, so she took a moment to discuss her love of fashion and staying true to her signature aesthetic.

 

What sparked your interest in fashion design?

Since I can remember, I have always been drawn to tactility, textiles and the way clothes can make you feel feminine, effortless and empowered.

Can you discuss the concept behind your latest collection?

I was thinking about William Eggleston. He never explains or titles his pictures; it’s up to the viewer to decide what they think. This season is less clean and controlled, so there’s patchworked techniques, textures, and materials. I love Eggleston’s photo of his cousin Lesa Aldridge with a friend on a sofa. She looks young but wise, like she knows all the secrets – innocence and experience.

What do you want people to know about the Scandinavian fashion scene?

So many things are happening in Copenhagen's art and fashion scene right now. It is a good environment for smaller brands, because people are supportive.

Where would you like to see the fashion industry go?

It wouldn’t harm anyone to slow down and consider how much we produce and be aware of our process. For me, it has been important to hold on to the design DNA and create beautiful, timeless pieces that wearers hopefully will cherish for a lifetime.

What's your fashion guilty pleasure?

Instagram.

Saks Potts

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If you don’t know about Saks Potts, you’ve probably seen them on Instagram. The niche outerwear brand, launched in 2014 by Cathrine Saks and Barbara Potts, has become a force in Danish fashion with designs stemming from a desire to capitalize on Copenhagen’s chilly weather, making outerwear the focus of many outfits. They’ve imagined coats that embrace unusual aesthetics and transcend seasons, and their timely logomania and colored fur has shown up on stars including Cardi B, Lady Gaga, and Rihanna. Saks Potts is at once chic and street-ready, a strategy that’s brought success in both the business and publicity spheres.

 

What sparked your interest in fashion design?

During our childhood, we loved dressing up in fun, colorful clothes. As we grew up, our interest turned into fashion design as we tried to reinvent designer looks.

Can you discuss the concept behind your latest collection?

We were inspired by the Winter Olympics and athletes’ strict discipline and aesthetics. Figure skating references and a range of athletic pieces are in the collection. Besides that, we are always inspired by our life in Copenhagen and the girls we know.

Where would you like to see the fashion industry go?

Something we love about the fashion industry is we never know where it will take us. If everyone did the same things, there would be no surprises, no creativity, and no fun. We would rather see fashion go in many directions, as we find it important for creativity to have no rules.

Holzweiler

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Since 2006, Andreas and Susanne Holzweiler have united Norway with Copenhagen’s fashion scene. The siblings started as marketing entrepreneurs, but Andreas eventually wanted to create physical products. Their first piece was a standout scarf, which they since further developed through digital printing and artist collaborations. In 2014, Holzweiler entered ready-to-wear, hiring Andreas’ wife Maria as creative director.

After building steam at Oslo Runway, Holzweiler is on their second Copenhagen show. The new collection fits their signature blend of comfort and sophistication, choosing to avoid buzzworthy pieces in favor of highlighting their scarves and tailoring. From Scandinavia’s chilly climate to polar vortexes far beyond, Holzweiler is the definitive new way to look sharp while bundling up.

 

Can you discuss the concept behind your latest collection?

Our Fall 2019 collection is called Log On Log Off. We took our team to the woods outside of Oslo, and put our phones in flight mode. We were all present and enjoyed the nature around us. We really need more logged off time, but at the same time, modern technology is amazing and important. The collection embraces the balance between the two.

Where would you like to see the fashion industry go?

Fashion is the second-most polluting industry in the world, and brands and consumers need to look into how we can change this. I hope the industry moves towards more sustainability and quality over fast fashion, and I believe we will find significant untapped inspiration in that area.

J.Lindeberg

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Jens Werner truly understands modern sportswear. After growing up around skate culture, the self-taught German designer started out in Adidas’ style department, working with brands including Yohji Yamamoto, Raf Simons, Rick Owens, and Yeezy. He helped to launch Tory Sport before moving to J.Lindeberg, becoming the creative director in December 2017.

J.Lindeberg allows Werner to explore his roots, and his Fall 2019 collection, titled Abandoned Archive, displays that. It explores the brand’s story since 1996, featuring archival silhouettes along with ‘60s inspiration, slim tailoring, and rock-and-roll. The designer’s mom knitted socks for the collection, and his punk photographer friend, Susie J. Hogan, contributed photos. But the most exciting part is J.Lindeberg’s modern perspective: their aesthetics fit any gender, and basics like knitwear and t-shirts are unisex. The wearer can adapt pieces to their own style and identity, something Werner’s new collection celebrates.

 

What sparked your interest in fashion design?

In my village in Germany, there wasn’t exciting fashion. Other cultures where I traveled inspired me, and I wanted more than what my town offered. I ripped apart my favorite shorts to examine the pattern, and from there, I taught myself [design].

Where would you like to see the fashion industry go?

I want brands to not have to follow trends and price competition. It shouldn’t matter how many collections and products you have on the market, but instead what you stand for as a brand.

What’s your fashion guilty pleasure?

I’m a freak for sneakers, especially collaborations that have a story to tell. I’m collecting them.

Soeren Le Schmidt

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Soeren Le Schmidt is a classic glamour prodigy. At 30, the designer has already established a timeless vision, forgoing seasonal buzz and instead using architecture and music as inspirations for looks that can work in a wardrobe for years to come. Because of this, he’s made a gown for Crown Princess Mary and become a major red carpet designer for Danish celebrities like Trine Dyrholm and Sarah Grünewald. With a Fall 2019 collection highlighting culture and gender fluidity, Le Schmidt looks ready to take on a new generation of stars.

 

What sparked your interest in fashion design?

My grandmother, who made dresses and curtains, had the most amazing atelier, which I used to develop clothes for myself and my friends and family. At six years old, I tailored my own blazer.

In your latest collection, what were your biggest sources of inspiration?

I traveled a lot and looked into different cultures around me. The collection is black and white, with a hint of mustard yellow and Christmas tree green. The show is old-fashioned rockabilly tailoring meets Tokyo Underground.

Where would you like to see the fashion industry go?

We need to think more sustainably, which I think we will see this fashion week.  I also don’t think gender should decide what we should wear, which is why I use the same shoes and makeup for all of my models.

What are your favorite collaborations?

I just did a beauty collaboration with Ecooking, a 100% eco brand. I’m also proud of the friendship necklace I created with Jane Kønig. You use a needle to tap your best friend’s blood into the ampoule and wear it close to your heart.

 

Stand

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Nellie Kamras wants every fashion enthusiast to enjoy her work. When founding Stand in 2014, her goal was offering high-quality leather pieces for an accessible price. While the brand’s focus remains leather, its collections have expanded to include suede, fur, and wool, with everything referencing a combination of French chic and Scandinavian simplicity.

Stand has become the coolest way to embrace minimalist staples, with fans including Bella Hadid and Leandra Medine. While Kamras previously showed in Stockholm, she headed to Copenhagen this season for a parade of faux-fur bags and outerwear, patchwork leather, and color play. The runway was winter street style come to life, and the collection’s cohesive diversity proves Kamras is just getting started.

 

What sparked your interest in fashion design?

My father owns a leather company, so fashion and outerwear were always part of my life. I have always dreamt of being a designer and been crazy for coats & jackets, so starting the brand was an obvious choice.

What do you want people to know about the Scandinavian fashion scene?

Scandinavian fashion is known for its simple, minimalist designs, but that has changed over time to be more playful in color and design.

Do you have any dream collaborations?

It would be a dream come true to collaborate with Louis Vuitton.

What's your fashion guilty pleasure?

Sweatpants!

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