Vain Proves Creativity Thrives In The Dark at Copenhagen Fashion Week SS24
For its Copenhagen Fashion Week debut, Finnish brand Vain tapped into a state of melancholy at the world’s affairs, sending a dark-but-inspiring spring-summer 2024 collection about finding light through chaos.
Photography by James Cochrane.
As soon as we step inside the B&W Hallerne — an industrial behemoth on the island of Refshaleøen that was once a shipyard in the ‘60s and later rebirthed as an events venue – a massive space opens up like some sort of an industrial, post-apocalyptic cathedral. It’s an artificial-turf paintball field, illuminated by a skylight that’s a towering height away from the ground. Voices carry. Chatter echoes. All around, there’s scaffolding and giant shipping containers; the strobe lights and rows of chairs are perhaps the only indications of today’s runway show.
Looking around, I can’t help but think of the chaos that must break out here when the guns come out and paint goes Splat! And maybe, in that regard, it’s perfect for the Finnish brand, helmed by Creative Director Jimi Vain and CEO Roope Reinola. Dubbed “Social Avoidance,” the spring-summer 2024 collection visualizes the internal turbulence that’s been rattling Jimi’s psyche over the past few years. “When I started designing the Vain SS24 collection, I was in a knot with my thoughts, it felt like everything was chaos,” he says in the brand’s press release. “A pandemic, war, inflation, energy crisis and depression raged outside. The safe world the naïve child was born into had changed.”
This is the setting for that changed world – grim, tired, and sad amid a steady thrum of chaos. You might think this paints too bleak a picture, but this mindset within itself is a reflection of the Finnish’s current melancholy-prone worldview. In this place of anxiety and foreboding, however, something emerged. A way of grinding down these dark, tumultuous ideas and transforming them into something else.
A Digital Fairytale.
Vain’s story began with a shoe – a pair of Air Jordan 1’s that Jimi had reimagined and posted on social media. The shoes traversed the internet, swiftly picked up by a popular streetwear moodboard account. Next thing he knew, he was getting requests from the likes of Playboi Carti. The power of social media, made palpably clear by his own “digital fairytale,” is what sparked his next collection – McDonald’s workwear reinvented for the modern consumer. The duo behind the brand showcased the looks at a McDonald’s right outside of Helsinki. And again, it lit up the internet.
Back in January, Vain showcased its debut collection, solidifying a distinctly dark-goth aesthetic that’ll come to define it. Today, this darker palette continues to dominate. Up first: a head-to-toe black coat with an elevated neck, dropped shoulders, and snap-button closures left a quarter of the way undone. Then, more black; another model steps out in an exquisitely tailored coat, speeding through the divided runway as though running away from some invisible danger.
Next? You guessed it – black. This time, the model’s clad in all-black denim, save for a pair of blue leather gloves, which, from afar, bear an uncanny resemblance to surgical gloves. Leather makes an appearance next in a fitted jacket with zippers that diverge in various directions. Throughout, we see the color rendered through a myriad of fabrics and even more silhouettes and functions – from a utility jacket to a hoodie to a sweater emblazoned with the Star of Life. Even more medical references include neck and arm accessories that take their cues from hospital wristbands.
When Hands Are Tied.
For as much as the collection is the inner turmoil in Jimi’s mind, a big focus is placed on hands. In one look, a denim jacket boasts sleeves that zip into one another like a straitjacket. In another, a model wears a pair of interconnected gloves, hands outstretched as though cuffed in front of him. A leather jacket is complete with bands that fasten the elbows to the body.
One of the biggest statement pieces to emerge: a billowing, ankle-grazing shirt-dress with sleeves that stiffens the model’s arms in place like a sling. It could be a manifestation of grief, perhaps – a literal interpretation of hands tied in helplessness at the news of the world. It’s a little dark and dystopian but invites contemplation nevertheless. Is there beauty in sitting with this kind of disquietude? In walking through the sludge of chaos without being able to fix it? And in embracing it instead?
A Change of Heart.
Toward the end of the show, the last model to emerge carries a (what seems to be) clay mold of a heart balloon, its outline a little misshapen, as though drawn with a non-dominant hand. His black hoodie is stained with chalky white dust, and a thick, metal chain drags between his feet. In his final lap on the runway to close the show with the other models, he smashes the heart into the ground. The sound reverberates across the hall, delivering a heart-stopping jolt. Dozens of eyeballs swivel and necks crane. What just happened?
When the show ends, I get up to inspect the scene. Shards of the now-broken prop (which looks less like a heart now than before) now have their own audience. Attendees – including myself – peer over the shattered pieces, whipping out their cell phones. When I look closer, I see a bright glimmer of something else – a sliver of aluminum foil peeking through the hard cement-like shell. Whether intentional or not, I can’t help but feel like there’s meaning to be found somewhere in there.
“When the whole world goes into overdrive, I go with it,” Jimi says in the show’s press release. “Because everything else felt like chaos, I started to live more and more in my own world and forget everything else. To be able to live with it, I had to adapt to it and find those beautiful things in the heart of chaos.”