I've never been to a fashion show before so the fact that I was able to attend seven shows at this winter's Copenhagen Fashion Week was astounding for me. Being generally quite separated from the fashion world, I was genuinely fascinated by the experience. There was a great energy in the environment - press with spontaneous flashes of their cameras, fashion gurus in the most extravagant outfits, and curious people like me, to witness it all.
With a naïveté in my wide eyes, I attended my first show at the Thorvaldsens Museum, for Fashion Hong Kong. The show was organized by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, in collaboration with the Hong Kong Institute of Textiles and Apparel. Their initiative is to promote local designers and fashion labels and bring them to global fashion events and to Copenhagen Fashion Week, they brought four.
The first designer, Vickie Au, presented her sensuous collection for House of V., bringing very geometric and symmetrical designs, with only a hot red and navy blue as stand out colours amongst a mostly monochromatic series.
Following, Kay Li's designs in The Great Expectation collection seemed to have a "school-girl" feel to it, with red tartan, waistcoats and kilt-like hems.
Maison Vermillion's Dora Chu's Eternal Empress collection incorporated a lot of sparkles and pops of varying rich colours, with extravagant ruffles, laces and velvets, relying heavily on a regal influence.
Kenax Leung's waste isn't just waste collection had a 90's grunge feel to it, with plenty of flannels and oversized jackets and featured both women and men clothes. Vaguely reminding me of an episode of My So-Called Life.
This exhibition showcased by Fashion Hong Kong was their first initiative to GO GREEN, allowing all collections to be motivated with the morals behind eco-fashion.
Afterwards, I went to Hotel D'Angleterre for the Berggren Studio show. It was my first time inside this ritzy hotel in the centre of the city and I immediately could recognize why it made an ideal location for a fashion show. I could have been inside the palace of the Queen and I honestly wouldn't have known any better.
The work of Tove Berggren seemed at home in such a luxurious location. Lightly reminiscent of Pollock paintings, each outfit worn was an artist's canvas on its own. And it was beautiful - this artwork that was exhibited. Tove's history with art was captivating and evident throughout the show. The materials floated gracefully and gave each model an effortless silhouette. Mostly greys and blacks and whites were in the collection, apart from the few artistic prints in light pastel pinks and greens. I also was grateful to the hair diversity amongst models, varying from fantastic afros to electric green buzz cuts.
The next day began at the WeAreTheFaces show. It was a very simple and humble spectacle in the lovely but chilled greenhouse of Væksthuset on Grønnegårdsvej. The sustainably driven brand of Amanda Karijord (Norwegian) and Hannah Gutkauf (Austrian) focuses on their collaboration with varying artists. Together, they analyze all perspective relationships between art and fashion, losing sense of gender styles and mainstream trends, and, this time settling on the creation of a simplistic and monochromatic set, navy blue being the only colour.
I hung around in the back to give myself the freedom to stand and sit as I pleased and was next to a very lovely woman, glowing with pride as the show progressed. Aterwards, I learned that she was the mother of one of the designers, though I never found out who. Nevertheless, it was no surprise that she was so proud of the work of her daughter.
Next, I cycled over to Trine Lindegaard's Made in Ishøj show at Søpavillonen. I really loved this show - the collection had every single colour that I liked (I'm talking about you, watermelon pink and apricot orange). There were many cross-stitched designs, intricate handwork, and patches of the Danish flag, chunky knits, jumpsuits and a very awesome bright orange raincoat. Trine Lindegaard collaborated and was inspired by the production school in Møllen and aimed to target the stereotypes and stigmas following certain neighbourhoods in Denmark.
There was a lighthearted air to the show - it was funky, perhaps not so serious, but surely enjoyable. The enthusiastic round of applause was well deserved.
Upon entering the showroom at CIFF for Han Kjøbenhavn's show, I gasped as I turned my head. The display awaiting the crowds of people entering was an eerie row of four men within a gallow each, awaiting their execution. At the start of the show, anthropomorphic rats in monk-like cloaks walked their dogs around the runway, hence the very literal name of the show Rats With Dogs Killing Men. The rats positioned themselves next to the gallows and the models began to walk out.
The colours of the collection were relatively earthy, showing deep oranges, emerald and dark greens, and all shades of browns, very reminiscent of the 70's era. The clothes were very textured, with substantial fabrics like tweed, wool and velvet, with many elements of embroidery and stitch-work. Rats and dogs made small appearances symbolically on the clothes, as either a patch or a pattern. I particularly liked the "grandma-esque" dog patterned coats. Han Kjøbenhavn also released a series of clothes for women, unlike previous collections.
To conclude the presentation, the models did their final lap, then gathered in groups to stare at the rats on the platforms. Choreographed to the very last note of the music, the rats each lowered their handles, executing the men. As the men, suffocated by their nooses, hung, the models then turned to face the audience, stared and stayed still. The audience, uncomfortable and uncertain, then began to stir. One man across from me, was the first to break the silence and jump on the runway to take pictures of the models. Later on, my friend and I questioned the meaning of Han Kjøbenhavn's dark presentation, wondering if perhaps the rats were meant to be some sort of metaphor for the fashion industry or us as consumers.
At Papirhallen was the Ivan Grundahl show, presenting Roy Krejberg's debut in his takeover of the brand following Ivan Grundahl's death. The collection was dramatic, dark and very avant-garde. The beginning of the show was strictly shades of blacks, greys and whites, the models each wearing some animal/natural reference - antlers, pelts, leathers. But as the show progressed, elements of hot red and a lovely mulberry came out.
The clothes themselves were generally very unclean and raw in terms of the cuts and finishes of the garments. There were uneven layers, oversized fits, drooping shoulders and exaggerated lengths of sleeves. There was one particular long black vest with an oversized neck that reminded me of myself in the winter, covering half my face with my thick woolly scarf against the cold Copenhagen winds.
Henrik Vibskov's Five O'Clock Leg Alignment was definitely a performance in itself. At the Østre Gasværk Teater, the centre of the stage was filled with two aligned rows of performers dressed in tight orange suits with massive arm extensions. They were each placed on a black rectangle that looked like yoga mats. The troop transitioned into varying positions and exercises throughout the fashion show, in what seemed like a very eerie, futuristic and interpretive yoga class.
In a circular runway around the performance, the models came out wearing a very thrilling collection. An array of colours, like fiery oranges, radioactive blues, soft pinks, army greens and varying browns, came onto stage. Vibskov mentioned his favourite piece being the blue, white and red pinstripe suits and also referenced the tiny emblematic detail of a kite broach on some outfits. The models also wore very interesting spiral ear pieces. The fabrics were thick and chunky and the silhouettes as well, were very boxy, fitting to the very futuristic style of the entire show.
I liked this collection especially because while watching, I felt the desire to acquire some of the pieces for my own wardrobe. And along with the fantastic orange spectacle, Henrik Vibskov left me on a "fashion high" as the final show of my fashion week experience.
Overall, I had quite a few personal opinions as I lost my fashion week virginity:
Being used to seeing models in photographs, it was a nice change to have them in live action. Models in a photo look perfect because it's a single shot of them, edited to perfection. I like to see them in movement, the light making their faces shiny, the way the clothes sit on their body and work with them as they walk. This makes them seem more human and authentic, as well a part of the piece of the art being showcased. And of course, seeing clothing in real life is the most accurate way to view the reality of the textures and colours.
What came the most as a surprise to me was how quickly the shows were over. When I think of a "show", the only thing I can really compare it to is a ballet performance, which is generally a two hour production. So to have all this build-up for a show that lasts only 15 minutes is a little anti-climactic, I suppose. But for the most part, I felt that the spectacles I had seen did a good job at having a condensed, yet effective, exhibit of artwork.
The thing that I valued most about fashion week was that each show was an artist's exhibition. Their ideas, designs, and fabrication, coming to life, tied together with a theme that made it uniquely their own. With each show that I watched, I would confidently label each designer as an artist, and it was truly wonderful to witness the product of all their hard work.
To find out more about Copenhagen Fashion Week 2017, past and present fashion weeks, and for more information about the designers, you can click here.
*** All photographs belong to Copenhagen Fashion Week