Copenhagen Fashion Week attracts more eyes despite economic crisis

With 45 shows, four fairs, 2,600 clothing brands and 60,000 guests, CFW 2013 was the biggest yet

The twice-a-year Copenhagen Fashion Week (CFW) held here from Wednesday to Sunday attracted more designers, experts, businessmen and visitors in spite of the lingering global economic recession and a small decline in the competitive Danish fashion industry in 2012.


The CFW has been growing bigger every year since the global financial crunches in 2008. The CFW events that presented the autumn and winter collections for 2013 over the past week, saw 45 shows, four fairs, 2,600 clothing brands and 60,000 guests, which make it the biggest ever.


However, the Danish fashion industry has lately experienced a decline mainly because of the debt crisis raging in the southern European countries. Yet optimism on fashion business remains intact as the business turns the focus on to new markets.


“What you find in this industry is kind of a very innovative optimism and sort of no nonsense business attitude, and I think they are coping beautifully with the crisis compared to a number of much challenged industries,” Margrethe Vestager (Radikale), the minister for interior and economic affairs, told Xinhua after watching one of the shows at the opening event.


Copenhagen Fashion Week is the largest fashion festival in north Europe, underlining the fashion industry's position as one of Denmark's largest export industries. The industry employs approximately 10,000 full-time specialists in Denmark and has a turnover of over 30 billion kroner annually. More than 80 percent of revenue comes from sales outside Denmark.


Like Margrethe Vestager, the deputy mayor for culture in the municipality of Copenhagen, Pia Allerslev is a great fan of fashion. “It means a lot for Copenhagen that we have the Copenhagen Fashion Week. It is a possibility for all our wonderful designers to show the whole world how fantastic they are. And it is also a good chance for us as a city to invite a lot of journalists, buyers and people from the fashion industry to come to make business in Copenhagen,” she said.


Copenhagen Fashion Highlights


Copenhagen Fashion Week opened Wednesday with a grand show from Copenhagen Fur. Opposite most shows there were only male models on the catwalk with a theme Men in Fur.


“This is because they want to show that the men also look great. Just like we have super women — they will also have supermen looking sharp, looking good,” said Thorsten Bjerg Christensen, CEO of the French fashion magazine Runway France.


Another absolute highlight of the fashion week was British designer Vivienne Westwood, called “Godmother of Punk,” who attracted a huge audience at her show. But of course eyes also focused on Danish designers and brands like ECCO, Marlene By Birger, Stine Goya, Henrik Vibskov and Bestseller, just to mention a few of the hundreds of brands presented over the five days events.


Danish fashion is known for its simplicity, elegance and functionality and this style was maintained at CFW 2013. However there could be seen some changes in the colours the designers chose for their clothing. A kind of returning to the Danish and Scandinavian roots came with mostly different shapes of blue, green and black and white.


“It is more subtle than what we have seen in the seasons before. We have seen vivid colours and also neon colours et cetera, but now we are toning down,” said Dorrit Boeilerehauge, fashion expert and CEO of the Danish Designers Federation. “Of course it is the winter and autumn collections we are looking at, but still it seems as the designers are closer to nature, closer to the Scandinavian climate and to the colours we have in our surroundings here.”


Thorsten Bjerg Christensen from Runway Magazine France liked what he saw and expressed his enthusiasm like this: “The Copenhagen Fashion Week is on the rise. A lot of the designers here in Copenhagen are very much ready to show their haute couture collections in Paris.”


The Designers Nest fashion show on February 1 was won by Camilla Jæger from Denmark (Photo: Torkil Adsersen / Scanpix)Young Designers Learn About Business


At the CFW 2013 there were several young designers represented. A whole new generation of Danish designers who strive to make a name and a business for themselves and their creations. Something like that can be rather difficult in times of crisis, where many buyers and consumers choose what they already know.


The Danish Designer Federation supports the upcoming designers by officering them courses in how to navigate in the fashion industry in a way so it becomes possible to actually earn money on their creativity.


“What we can do is to try to help them get stronger on their business capacities. They need to be more professional and become acquainted with business life and all its different aspects,” said Boeilerehauge.


Some of what the young designers actually are capable of is shown at the competition “Designers Nest” that is part of Copenhagen Fashion Week. The competitors comes from art schools in Denmark and around Scandinavia and gives the future designers a possibility to express their creativity and inner visions, which will form the future of fashion industry.


“Often it is difficult for creative persons also to be business persons, so we offer them courses and possibilities, also for partnerships with business people and with people mastering these skills that they don’t have themselves,” stressed Boeilerehauge.


Moving Towards New Markets


Current figures for the whole 2012 show that Danish fashion exports have had a decline of 3.3 percent compared to the record of 2011. This is caused in particular by a setback in sales to southern Europe and France, and the Benelux countries have been also affected. On the other hand there has seen growth on markets like Norway and Sweden, with rates of approximately eight percent, while the important German market has remained status quo compared to 2011.


To meet the challenges from the ongoing economic crisis in Europe and to try to expand the fashion industry, the Danish Export Council under the foreign ministry has been working on creating a position on the huge and rising Asian markets.


“Our strategy is actually to maintain our growth pockets within Europe and then focus on the growth markets like the US which is important, but primarily the Asian countries like China as a key player,” said Klaus Hell, Global Sector Manager for the fashion area in the Export Council.


Practically the Danish fashion industry with support from the Foreign Ministry is building good relations with Asian and Chinese companies and is taking active part in fashion events in these countries.


“By doing activities in China and also inviting Chinese people up here, we build relations. We are at the moment building relations with the fashion week in both Beijing and Shanghai. For this season we actually have the first Chinese brand here at the Gallery fair,” Hell added.


“We think that by improving business like this we will have opportunities both for our Chinese buyers and brands, but also for the Danish brands exporting to China,” he said.  

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