7 Runway Favorites from Copenhagen Fashion Week AW23
Copenhagen Fashion Week just wrapped up its autumn-winter 2023 edition, and this season, we saw designers strike a multitude of attitudes, offering guests unique experiences and whimsical, earth-friendly collections. Here are all the unmissable highlights.
Photography by James Cochrane.
As the airplane accelerated into the dome of the gray sky, I looked out the window and mouthed a wistful “Goodbye” to Copenhagen. It was an incredible trip — my second season attending Copenhagen Fashion Week. Over the years, the city has emerged as the fifth fashion week after the big four we all know about. People seem to have an inextinguishable interest in the Scandinavian way of living and dressing — that effortless, enviable flair that they seem to achieve better than anyone else. And for the longest time, that je ne sais quoi could be vaguely described as polished, pared-back minimalism. But as we noticed last year, this is very much changing.
This season, we saw designers strike a multitude of attitudes: futuristic, gritty, grungy, romantic, functional, and artsy, even. No longer are they defined to a specific, narrowly defined aesthetic. But there was another shift I noticed. This year, more than before, designers focused on creating experiences rather than just presentations.
Many challenged traditional show formats; Ervin Latimer, for instance, broke the proverbial fourth wall and addressed the crowd directly, narrating the whole show. Saks Potts put on a family-friendly spectacle with a musical performance by a youth ensemble, and featured pregnant models, mums, dads, and their tots. Other designers strived for that viral moment, à la Coperni’s spray-painted dress. A. Roege Hove dressed a naked model onstage in the brand’s signature gauze knitwear, and (Di)vision’s stunt made the social media rounds when a model got up from the dinner table and dragged the tablecloth as part of her dress.
As it always is, sustainability was central to all collections. This season, Copenhagen Fashion Week implemented its sustainability action plan, and every brand sought to make good on that promise by meeting the 18 minimum standards for participation. Looks were dreamed up with upcycled, recycled, deadstock, and leftover materials, as brands searched for innovative and creative ways to show their affection toward the environment. Yes, there was just so much to dissect this season. And now, as I recover from the post-travel daze and dizzying jet lag, I’m finally able to jot down my thoughts, observations and opinions about fashion week’s autumn-winter edition. So, let’s get to it; here are my runway highlights.
1. Stamm: ‘Inner G’ in Outer Space
As I mentioned in my review of Elisabet Stamm’s first showcase at Copenhagen Fashion Week, her collection, dubbed “Inner G,” was a fierce debut. Tucked inside the Lokomotivværkstedet – a century-old train repair shop turned event venue — the metallic-silver runway gave way to an otherworldly collection that made good use of recycled ripstop, upcycled leather patches, handspun cotton, and leftover production scraps. Her thoughtfulness toward environmentally friendly practices and keen sense of craftsmanship won her the coveted Zalando Sustainability Award — no easy feat. Throughout the collection, we were treated to so many voluminous, hyperbolized pieces. Big, plush, sumptuous down coats that felt both stylish and practical dominated the runway, but patchwork leather pieces and long, trailing organza skirts were also major standouts. Read full review.
What I loved the most: Elisabet’s unique penchant for balance. I loved how she was able to marry widely opposed fabrics — leather, lace and organza — and pull their different forces to create unexpected looks. The way she gave materials new life is also worthy of applause.
2. Latimmier: A Thoughtful ‘Interlude’
Ervin Latimer has been on everyone’s radar for a while — ever since he staged a highly talked-about show at Pitti Uomo, inspired by American drag ball culture. True to form, the Finnish designer opted to create another memorable experience at Copenhagen Fashion Week. With a relatively barebones and intimate runway space inside the Finnish Cultural Institute, Ervin focused on storytelling instead. At the beginning of the show, he picked up the microphone and addressed the audience, sharing the process of making the clothes, his inspiration, and how the show almost never happened. (Burnout, he confessed.) Next, he introduced each garment that made up the 11-look collection. Thoughtful pieces abound: soft crochet tops, oversized, structured suits, slouchy pants, and knitwear. One of the biggest highlights included prints created in collaboration with Swiss-Haitian artist Sasha Huber. Read full review.
What I loved most: The honesty, the intimacy, the storytelling. I loved being pulled into the designer’s thought process and learning about the details that I could’ve missed without context. I also appreciated Ervin’s decision to introduce each model by name.
3. Saks Potts: A Show For The Whole Family
It’s difficult — if not impossible — to talk about this edition of Copenhagen Fashion Week without mentioning Saks Potts. If you haven’t seen pictures or videos of the show already, let me tell you why it was so buzzed about. For starters, founders Cathrine Saks and Barbara Potts picked the most fantastical and sentimental location: the Tivoli Gardens. As the third-oldest operating amusement park in the world (and a known inspiration behind Disneyland), it carries meaning as a memory-filled gathering place for both the kiddos and those young at heart. “Family” was the key ingredient in the presentation, which kicked off with a musical performance by the Tivoli Youth Guard before transitioning into the fashion show. The collection itself struck that balance between practical and fashion-forward. We saw some bulky shearling coats, ankle-grazing maxi skirts, plush knits, and leather bombers. Some beautiful pops of red were pulled from the youth ensemble’s uniform, and elsewhere vibrant greens and purples livened up an otherwise dark color palette. Read full review.
What I loved most: The convivial atmosphere, the accessibility of it all. The Tivoli Concert Hall was a great location, and the ‘90s playlist added a familiar and nostalgic appeal to the whole affair. Loved the inclusion of families, and the menswear looks were a welcome addition.
4. OpéraSPORT: Art in Motion
Set inside the Den Frie Udstilling — a historic art center that’s home to the 1891-founded Danish artists’ association — OpéraSPORT’s show was an ode to the art world. Specifically, to Tom Anholt, who’s known for painting poignant, two-dimensional scenery in dark and moody palettes. Fascinated by his use of color and form, founders Stephanie Gundelach and Awa Malina Stelter collaborated with the British artist on seven styles. His paintings were printed onto the garments; on a shirt-and-pants ensemble, we saw a swimmer take off in a vertical jump against a bright, pockmarked moon. On a jacket and skirt, we saw a jockey riding into a violet, inky night. Elsewhere, Stephanie and Awa doubled down on some of the signature design elements I love so much about their brand: tie details, bows, and fantastic ruching on PU leather. Also noteworthy: an unexpected Western theme that popped up in the form of cowboy hats — a trend we’ve been seeing both on and off runways lately.
What I loved most: Location, fabric, and silhouettes came together full circle. Everything revolved around art; even the background of the runway — which was split across various exhibition halls — was a tall white canvas. Moreover, I loved how wearable and easy some of these pieces were; the brand’s truly sticking to its core DNA of balancing opposites: opera and sport.
5. Lovechild 1979: Romance at City Hall
“Breathtaking” sums up the impact of Frederiksberg Town Hall, which stunned me with its soaring ceilings, paneled walls, and an enormous, vibrant mural. But that was just the beginning. Sound took over next: a live singer’s ethereal vocals hovered above a hefty beat interrupted occasionally by her saxophonist’s slurred tangle of notes. The scene was set, rolling the proverbial red carpet for the main act: the fashion. Lots expected there from creative director Mia Kaapelgaard, who took the reins from founder Anne-Dorthe Larsen last year. Just like Anne-Dorthe before her, she remained loyal to the minimalist cause, sending an intensely refined collection that took cues from Severin Hansen, a mid-century modern furniture designer Mia admires. Textures and proportions, then, were thoroughly expressed. Think: both delicate lace and chunky knits, shearling fur, sturdy wool and corduroy. This, along with a largely neutral color palette made up most of the looks — all served up a touch of wit and a large dose of elegance.
What I loved most: The thoughtfulness of Mia’s designs. They’re rooted in simplicity with a masculine-feminine sensibility that’s every bit as timeless as it is practical. I loved the chunky knit infinity scarf worn over a structured blazer, and the eggshell-colored lace-knitted dress was another standout piece.
6. ALPHA: Talents Rising
If you’re ever wondering about the next designer destined to steal the scene, all you need to do is look at ALPHA — a nonprofit talent incubator that shepherds emerging Nordic designers. Mind you, these are not designers who just craft attractive clothes. These are the few whose output is so dramatic and so full of thoughtful storytelling they demand to be noticed. This season, we saw 10 finalists’ works showcased at the Bella Center, and each one of them wowed me to my core. Sasha Heinsaar tapped into Slavic folk fairy tales for her handwoven twisted bodices and knitted bodysuits, made out of discarded yarns. One of the garments, a crocheted pair of “chicken claw” pants, reminded me of Baba Yaga’s hut — a witch whose home sat on birds’ legs. It was so whimsical; I couldn’t help but be transported to my childhood. And former alpine skier Tuuli-Tytti Koivula, who snagged the Alpha top award, reimagined the traditional Bregenzerwald dress through the lens of ski wear. This bizarre blend yielded a dreamy collection full of floral-printed, billowy and voluminous silhouettes. Other designers expressed strong points of view — on body image, faith, social norms, menswear stereotypes, and even commuting culture.
What I loved most: Everything — and that’s no exaggeration. Each designer brought something new to the table, and I enjoyed being fully immersed into their storytelling. It was also exciting to see how they incorporated sustainable practices into their craft. Hanna Hanhela, for example, dreamed up her sculptural looks using baby garments, which tend to fall out of conversations about upcycling. One word: genius.
7. Stine Goya: Long Live the (Snow) Queen!
“Freeze” was the title of the show, and fittingly, it was a set in a frosted landscape punctuated by ice crystal columns and framed by an illusion of a dark sky. Drawing inspiration from the Snow Queen, Stine took the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale as its starting point, exploring snow-stubbled landscapes and the art of dressing for the icy whims of winter. “This season, our love language is ice. Pure celebration of an endless winter,” the designer said in a press release. The frost mostly came through in the shades of silvers, blues and pinks used liberally throughout. Fabric choices (Shimmer! Metallics! Glittering paillettes!) also reinforced the theme, and silhouettes oscillated between structured boxy blazers and exaggerated hourglass puffers. A silver number with a whittled waist and an extra-large hood is worn as a dress of sorts, and another boasted a high-impact, oversized faux fur coat that sparkled with snowflake-like embellishments. Very — dare I say it? — cool.
What I loved most: Stine’s versatility. Although there were welcome injections of color, Stine slid slightly away from prints, which were always at the heart of her work. The prints that she did include, however, packed a major punch. One of my favorite looks: a floral puffer jacket paired with matching gloves and tights partially covered up by leg warmers. What a statement.
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