Fashion: Copenhagen pulls off biggest fashion week yet despite brands’ financial worries

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August 14, 2023

By guest author Lucy Maguire from Vogue Business

Vogue Business gen 1 AAAA   Photo: Acielle/Styledumonde

After four days of unseasonal drizzle, the Spring/Summer 2024 edition of Copenhagen Fashion Week (CPHFW) drew to a close on Friday 11 August with a glimpse of sunshine and a Ganni show featuring talking trees. It was the Danish event’s biggest season yet in terms of international press and buyer attendance, with 50 people invited on the international guest programme, up from around 30 last season. There were 31 shows, including heavyweights like Ganni and Rotate, plus medium-size labels such as Stine Goya and Saks Potts.

“We are proud to welcome so many incredibly supportive press and buyers each season, but this August felt that there was an influx of industry figures and key opinion leaders present as well,” says CPHFW CEO Cecilie Thorsmark. There were still fewer mega-influencers and celebrities on the front row than you might see in New York, London, Milan and Paris, however. “Growing influencer participation is crucial as they play a vital role in industry promotion, supporting designers and amplifying our mission,” Thorsmark says.

Vogue Business 2 AAAA    Karl Lagerfeld innovation prize winner A Roege Hove opened CPHFW. Photo: Andrea Adriani /

Notably, there was strong attendance from US press and buyers this season. “We love how wearable and accessible the collections have been in Copenhagen,” says Rickie De Sole, women’s fashion and editorial director for American department store Nordstrom. “There is a lot for us here in the contemporary space, and the broad appeal of these collections to a wide demographic certainly resonates with our customer.”

Copenhagen has become an important stop on the season’s fashion circuit, echoes Bruce Pask, men’s fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus. “It features inventive, thoughtfully produced collections and emerging brands that have overcome the minimal Scandi-style label often associated with the region’s fashion,” he says.

The increased presence of US buyers was by design. “We are focusing on the American market as we have seen huge awareness and growth of this territory with our brands,” Thorsmark says. CPHFW is also targeting Asia. It’s a smart move: London Fashion Week — frequently compared to Copenhagen as a platform for buzzy emerging designers — often loses its young brands to Milan or Paris once they start to scale, where they can reach more Asian buyers.

The presence of overseas buyers in Copenhagen was boosted by the merging of its two biggest fashion trade shows, CIFF and Revolver, into one event timed alongside fashion week — helping to make the most of attendance.

“There’s a huge synergy between the events,” says CIFF CEO Sofie Dolva, who took over in January this year. “We have a lot of the on-schedule brands here. Buyers have less time as the fashion week grows, so rather than go to individual showrooms they can come here.” The trade shows provide “great scouting grounds and new discoveries in womenswear and menswear categories”, says Bergdorf Goodman’s Pask, highlighting new talents like Berner Kühl and Mark Kenly Domino Tan.

New talents, same challenges

A Roege Hove, which won the Karl Lagerfeld prize for innovation at this year’s Woolmark Prize, opened CPHFW on Monday with a drizzly outdoor show, presenting new silhouettes of her sculptural and barely there knitwear, which the brands says is produced with no waste. Elsewhere, exciting debuts came from streetwear designer Rolf Ekroth and womenswear designer Nicklas Skovgaard, whose performance-based show was a bold first outing. Paolina Russo, another newcomer to CPHFW and winner of the first Zalando Visionary Award — which was presented during the event — presented a wearable collection of printed T-shirts, layering and tie-dyed jeans.

Paolina Russo impressed the jury with its collaborative manufacturing network, treating those in the supply chain as creative partners, says Lena-Sophie Röper, Zalando director for designer and luxury. “Through visiting manufacturers and working face to face on the factory floor, the founders constantly learn from their supply chain processes and expertise to create garments that change the perception of what traditional knitwear can be.”

Alongside the new talents, mid-size and maturing labels Saks Potts and Stine Goya both held outside shows against the elements. The latter has had a big year, with sales up 40 per cent and a new flagship store in London. The show, held on the street where Goya lives, featured supermodel Helena Christensen and the brand’s usual vibrant colour palettes. “After so much growth and international exploration, this show was a chance to re-centre ourselves and honour our roots,” Goya said post-show.

Some notable names were missing from the schedule, from booming Norwegian brand Holzweiler to young brands like Division and Jade Cropper. Division is one of the city’s buzziest homegrown brands, particularly after its viral tablecloth stunt last season. However, the brand closed its local store this year and decided not to show this season, as part of a “bigger plan”, says founder Simon Wick.

“We are just slowing down this season. We are focusing on the structure of the company and developing a better infrastructure. We will for sure be back on the schedule in the future.” The brand held a dinner and party instead for press, buyers and friends. Cropper, after a high-budget show last season, sat this season out for financial reasons.

“This has of course been a difficult season in light of the recession,” says CPHFW’s Thorsmark. “But we wanted to instil confidence through the August edition to remind all that we must band together in tough times to ensure collectively we can move towards prosperous futures.” Throughout the week, various funds and prizes were awarded to support young talents.

Vogue Business 3 AAAA    Ganni’s show, featuring AI-powered talking trees, closed CPHFW. Photo: Andrea Adriani /

Ervin Latimer, founder of Latimmier, showed for the third time this season, as part of the New Talent programme. He’s struggled to secure many stockists in previous seasons but received positive feedback from buyers this time and has a couple of orders on the table. “The biggest challenge has been and still is good old money. The fashion business isn’t that familiar for investors and banks in Finland nor are there too many success stories to use as reference, so it takes a lot of convincing to prove that the ready-to-wear model can work,” he says. “Even with the kind support of CPHFW New Talent, staging shows is always a strain on resources, so one major challenge is also where to focus.”

Fashion’s fifth city

Thorsmark isn’t keen on comparisons to other fashion weeks, but admits she was “proud” that The New York Times labelled Copenhagen as the “fifth fashion week” last summer.

“We are not chasing titles of the best but rather focusing on building relationships with all fashion organisations globally on how we can learn from each other and collaborate for effective and positive change for our industry,” she says. To that end, Caroline Rush, CEO of the British Fashion Council, and Serge Carreira, director of emerging talents for the Federation de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, were both in Copenhagen this season. Carreira has worked with Scandi brands including Cecilie Bahnsen in the past, when she joined the Paris schedule.

“Copenhagen Fashion Week is definitely getting much bigger and more diverse, we are also seeing more menswear brands emerging from there which really strengthens the offer and the importance of [the event],” says Tiffany Hsu, buying director at Mytheresa. “It brings a lot of fresh energy into European fashion. The brands showing there are mostly attractive to younger clients that are very fashion focused.“

Vogue Business partnered with CPHFW on its talk series this season.