Inside OpéraSPORT’s Art-Inspired Show at Copenhagen Fashion Week AW23
The art world was the focus of OpéraSPORT’s autumn-winter 2023 collection, which the brand unveiled inside the Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art at Copenhagen Fashion Week. Read about the show that took place inside the museum’s light-filled halls.
Photography by James Cochrane.
We gathered in front of a golden relief of Pegasus — its wings spread, four hooves in the air mid-gallop. The street vibrated with the tension of carrying such a sizable crowd, all huddled together against the wind, waiting to enter the Den Frie Udstilling. Everyone was dressed for the occasion, and that is, brilliantly. But despite the style, all the incredible fashion worth a photographer’s flashbulb, my attention was pulled right back to this building. Home to the 1891-born Danish artists’ association, the museum is a haven for contemporary art and historically, a refuge for some of the country’s most prolific artists. Translated, it means “The Free Exhibition.” A fitting location for a show centered around the art world.
But first, some background: OpéraSPORT’s story began in 2019, when friends Awa Malina Stelter and Stephanie Gundelach set out to create a brand that messaged a joint effort: eliminating waste in fashion. The two already had experience working in the industry — Awa in design and production, and Stephanie in styling — and they saw first-hand the environmental and social impact of the fashion industry. Focusing on small, limited runs was a no-brainer for the duo, who began crafting garments with recycled or organic fabrics, and produced just enough of them to satisfy demand. Quality over quantity — always.
The partnership worked, despite them living in separate cities: Stephanie in Paris and Awa in Copenhagen. In fact, what is the brand if not a fusion between two opposites? Parisian and Nordic. Timeless and modern. Responsible and sexy. Trendy and wearable. Opera and sport. These contradictions came into clear focus last season; for their first-ever runway show, OpéraSPORT dreamed up a thoughtful, versatile, and powerful line-up, even collaborating with British model Alva Claire on several athleisure-inspired, size-inclusive pieces.
Coming back for a second show, OpéraSPORT’s AW23 collection highlighted that very same ethos, with a few twists. As the first few models glided on the runway, which was split across several exhibition halls, culminating into a white strip that flowed from a towering canvas, I could hear my own excited thoughts over the powerful drench of music. There they were, illuminated by hesitant sunlight peeking through the ceiling’s glass panes. Asymmetrical tie details. Bows. Luscious silk. Gathered ruching — sculptural almost, like crinkled fabric carved out of marble. All the elements I love so much about OpéraSPORT taken up a notch.
But let me share the “art” tie-in. For this season’s collection, Stephanie and Awa collaborated with their muse: Tom Anholt, a British painter whose dark and moody landscapes are impossible to ignore once they cross your field of vision. “The paintings by Tom Anholt immediately inspired us.” Stephanie and Awa stated in the show notes. “The colours, the silhouettes, the prints that we have used for this edition are all inspired from the universe of these paintings.”
This universe manifested itself in the form of prints dreamed up from Tom’s paintings. We saw his painting, titled “Jockey,” on three separate pieces: a wrap skirt, a utility jacket, a short-sleeved button down. The print evoked an immediate reaction. In it, a figure rides a starkly white horse into the depth of the night, as a speckled, purple sky hangs overhead. It was something about those colors, I guess. That unearthly glow. Rendered in another look — a shirt-and-pants ensemble — there’s another painting, “The Dive,” which depicts a swimmer taking off in a vertical jump against the glowing disk of a full moon.
Taken together, these looks pulled the weight of the color palette into a dark dimension — darker, at least, than what we’ve previously seen from OpéraSPORT. Add to this a lineup of black faux-leather pieces, created using styles from the previous collection and upcycled into new garments. A supple leather jacket was embellished with gems, mimicking the glittering stars in Tom’s work. Same with another corset-style strapless top.
Elsewhere, we saw a smattering of dark-blue denim pieces — easy wide-legged pants, a-line skirts, and a workwear jacket. All uncomplicated, fail-proof pieces. I could already picture them hanging in my imaginary closet. Accessories featured the brand’s ruched handbags crafted from black recycled silk, as well as cowboy hats and headbands. (We’ve been seeing a Western theme peeking its head in various collections now, most notably, Ganni’s, in the form of rodeo-ready cowboy boots).
Everything came full circle. Yes, even the cowboy hat — which pinged back to Tom’s equestrian painting featuring throughout the collection. Truth is, there is and has always been a kind of reciprocity between fashion and art. Both communicate a visual language, and oftentimes, borrow from one another. In this case, Awa and Stephanie proved that art doesn’t have to be revered from afar. It can be as close to you as your skin. In establishing a tactile relationship to the medium, they immersed us in the beauty of Tom’s landscapes and created pieces we’d wear again and again. That, of course, is OpéraSPORT’s superpower.