The Young Designers Turning Copenhagen Into an Unexpected Fashion Hub
Meet the great young Danes, here.
A group of up-and-coming talents is turning Copenhagen, Denmark into a must-watch fashion city. Meet the great young Danes, here.
Winters in Copenhagen are long and gray, so friends Barbara Potts and Cathrine Saks decided to make the dreariness work in their favor. “We needed clothes that would bring some color to the streets,” Potts explains. In 2015, armed with a bright idea but no formal background in fashion design, the women, who today are in their mid-twenties, came up with the Febbe, a shearling coat in vibrant colorways—a tobacco version featured a turquoise collar and lime green sleeves. Its success allowed Saks Potts to expand into equally eye-catching ready-to-wear and accessories—think polka-dot jumpsuits and blue mink purses—and as a result, the brand has drawn a loyal fan base that includes Selena Gomez, Cardi B, and Kendall Jenner. Social media, the designers acknowledge, has been essential to their growth. “Without Instagram, I don’t think we’d be here right now,” says Saks, recalling the time Kim Kardashian West’s team reached out to place a custom kid’s order. Mentors, like the Ganni cofounder Nicolaj Reffstrup, have also proved a boon. “In Copenhagen, we all know each other and help each other out. Denmark is small, so we really stand together.”
Ask Ditte Reffstrup who the Ganni girl is and she will tell you it’s not one girl but a movement. And if the brand’s army of chic devotees (dubbed #gannigirls on Instagram) is any indication, she’s right. When Ditte, 41, and her husband, Nicolaj, 44, took over the small knitwear brand, in 2009, she was a buyer at a concept store and Nicolaj was working at a tech start-up. Thanks to the tongue-in-cheek runway show they staged in 2014 on a Copenhagen hotel rooftop’s tennis court, their revamp of the label, full of eccentric prints and stylish separates, caught the attention of retailers like Mytheresa, Selfridges, and Net-a-Porter. Since then, Ganni has become known for its whimsical edge—a pink top comes adorned with a sewn-in shoelace detail, and a billowing maxi dress is embellished with mismatched patterns on the sleeves, skirt, and bodice. This year, the couple is opening its first London store. “From the very beginning,” Nicolaj says, “Ditte wanted to show the world her version of Scandinavian cool.”
The designer Cecilie Bahnsen was 12 when a summer internship assisting costumers at the Royal Danish Theatre helped her find her calling. “Seeing the kind of time, love, and detail that went into each dress totally wowed me,” Bahnsen, now 35, says of that formative experience. In between earning her B.A. in fashion design at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and a master’s in women’s wear from the Royal College of Art, in London, Bahnsen landed a job with the designer John Galliano. In 2011, she became a design assistant at Erdem, where she specialized in embroidery, and four years later launched her namesake company. Not surprisingly, hand-embroidered separates, along with ballooning baby-doll dresses, figured prominently in her inaugural runway show, which made her a finalist for the 2017 LVMH fashion prize. Inspired by classic Danish design, Bahnsen has continued to refine her minimalist aesthetic. And while her black and white poplin blouses and paneled dresses rendered in cotton and satin are made by hand in her atelier in Copenhagen and sold at blue-chip retailers, Bahnsen insists they are meant to be lived in rather than fussed over. “I love how my clothes look when they get caught by the wind while you’re riding a bike.”