Two women who came from opposite ends of the globe – Manhattan and Sydney – met in Denmark just by chance. They went on to launch their own separate clothing concepts, but have supported each other all along with their “we’re all in this together” spirit.
Shouka Pelaseyed and Alexandra Brett-Jensen married Danes, moved to Denmark and, through mutual friends and workplaces, met and formed a long-lasting friendship. While navigating the challenges of a new country, culture and surroundings, they bonded as only true expats can. This is the story of two design-minded women in Copenhagen who aren’t just surviving – they’re thriving.
Brett-Jensen is the founder of Antler Avenue Copenhagen (AAC), a hip, Danish-designed line of women’s and children’s clothing with a contemporary take on the exclusive Liberty of London fabric. AAC has a gorgeous range of leggings, slim-line trousers and shirts, all with touches of Liberty fabric. Think Scandinavian chic meets London cool.
After moving to Copenhagen and marrying a Dane, followed by a short stint back in her native Sydney and then relocating the family back here some two years ago, the master’s-educated Brett-Jensen started asking herself: “Is this really what I want to be doing in ten years’ time?”
Brett-Jensen comes from a long line of women with a great sense of style all involved in fashion and highly regarded in the industry, so there was little doubt that she was born to be in this business. With support from friends around the world and her inner voice whispering: “This is right for you,” AAC was born.
“I had samples made up,” remembers Brett-Jensen. “My girlfriends, who represent the target demographics, just fell in love with my creations and really encouraged me to pursue this dream, along with my husband, who has been incredibly supportive. It’s important to have good, honest support and feedback. It’s crucial for any start-up. Our first wholesale consignment has gone into Harrods, so as a newcomer to the industry, it gives us enormous confidence that we are on the right track.” AAC’s range targets chic women and the yummy-mummies wanting a fresh and flattering alternative to jeans, as well as a cool look for their kids.
Pelaseyed, meanwhile, the founder/owner of Shoukie, is a native New Yorker who dreamt of becoming a designer when she attended classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) before getting her master’s from New York University (NYU). She then put those dreams on hold for 15 years while working in Manhattan and then Denmark. But inspired by her love for her son, who is now aged seven, Pelaseyed embarked on creating Shoukie − an organic line of clothing you can co-create with your kids.
“Key to my concept is giving children the opportunity to be creative,” says Pelaseyed. “As a mom, I’ve seen how my son thrives on being creative. Kids want to be part of this process, so why not give them the chance to co-create the clothes they wear together with their parents. That way, it becomes an experience you share with them and a source of pride when they wear the outfit they helped design. I’ve always been very conscious of the environment and wanted it to play an integral part in my passion for designing. That’s why I chose organic fabrics with GOTS certification, in terrific colours and patterns from Italy.”
Pelaseyed’s decision to establish a web shop was an obvious one. “Firstly, because it lends itself to personalising your preferences – the customisation aspect,” says Pelaseyed. “It’s the only way for customers to get what they really want at their own pace and in the comfort of their own home. Of course, online you can reach a wider audience. And with Shoukie, you don’t have to wait for season-specific clothes to become available.”
Starting up their own businesses hasn’t been without challenges. “Luckily I’m not alone,” admits Shouka. “Alex and I both embarked on this journey together. We met here in Denmark, and ten years on, we’ve been there for each other day in and day out, through all the ups and downs. “We are both really driven and dedicated. When you’re passionate about something, you never stop working. The wheels are constantly turning, thinking of new ideas, new designs, and new ways to reach customers − often alone, without any interaction or instant feedback! That’s why we’re so lucky to have each other. If we had never come to Denmark, we probably never would have met. I am also fortunate to have found a great team working with me to make Shoukie a reality!”
“If you find yourself moving to another country, remember that it’s an opportunity for all kinds of possibilities − and for change,” adds Brett-Jensen. “Many women don’t necessarily see moving with their partner to another country as a positive experience for themselves as individuals. They often feel lost and without a role to play except ‘mum’ (and don’t underestimate the importance of the mum part). But moving also gives you an opportunity to have a clean start and to do something new. Something you’ve always wanted to do or pursue. Our advice? Go for it and surround yourself with great people, just like we’ve done.”