How the Copenhagen girl replaced la Parisienne

Once fashion became more interested in street wear rather than rigorous trends and the overall feeling was that anyone could be now a creator of style, the focus shifted from the traditional playground — Paris, London and Milan, to some exotic, underestimated areas such as the Scandinavian land. The minimalistic aesthetics preferred by many brands in the last few seasons are now upgraded by the cheerful design of the Copenhagen vision, one that aims to become Denmark’s next big export.

In a country in which more that half of the urban population chooses the bicycle as means of transportation, it is only fair to assume that clothes should match their lifestyle. The cobbled roads and tiny venues are imposing a relaxed way of dressing: confortable shoes, sandals or sneakers, printed dresses over T-shirts, pleated skirts and striped shirts. Identified now as the “Copenhagen girls”, they invented the combination of playful and laid-back layering with a love of trends.

Distancing itself from the clean, minimalistic style made famous by Sweden, Denmark first inspired the world with whimsical furniture and cuisine. Then the “hygge” hysteria emerged, the Danish art of comfort and coziness, which turned everyone’s home in a sanctuary full of candles and puffy blankets. But what makes these people entitled to revolutionize the whole fashion industry?

On one hand, due to the government’s support for creative industries, Danish fashion became the country’s fourth largest export. Designers are more focused on craft than mass production and gather in a close-knit community. Brands such as Ganni, Saks Potts, Astrid Andersen and some street style personalities including Maria Palm, Caroline Brasch and Frederikke Sofie are determined to draw attention upon the Danish way of doing things.

“We are separating ourselves from this minimalism that people think we are about; it’s about colour and taking risks.” – Catherine Saks, co-designer of Saks Potts.[1]

While the Swedes are known for mostly black, minimalistic wardrobes, Danish girls like bright colours and eye-catching prints. At Copenhagen Fashion Week, which has not even been taken seriously until two seasons ago, Ganni, a brand that began as a niche cashmere line, dominates the stage. It makes now more that $60 million and is run with the “cultural mind-set” of a tech company. However, the real delights are the smaller labels waiting to be discovered, such as Cecile Bahnsen, who studied at the Royal College of Art in London and was selected as a finalist for the LVMH Prize earlier this year. Her designs are sold in premium boutiques, but still keep the effortless Danish sensibility.

The Copenhagen girl is healthy, cheerful and likes confortable clothes, a real competitor to the Parisian girl and the myth surrounding her for ages. However, she stands in contrast to the androgynous aesthetic of Stockholm. Ulrika Lundgren, owner of Rika ready-to-wear line and magazine, explains: “Stockholm is good at clean and structured lines, but Denmark is more romantic and wild. Swedes come south and see it as more bohemian and carefree, whereas in Stockholm it’s all more conceptual. People look exactly the same there. In Copenhagen, people like to make things with their hands and it’s natural, but always sophisticated.”

[1] Business of Fashion: Is the ‘Copenhagen Girl’ Denmark’s Next Big Export?