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The Danish brands reinventing the fisherman’s jacket


For decades the fisherman’s jacket was a vital piece of Nordic workwear, but more recently it’s become a key piece of the contemporary wardrobe

Ruairidh Pritchard Ruairidh Pritchard ,

Few countries can rival Denmark’s maritime heritage. Copenhagen, with its position as the urban gateway between the Baltic and North seas, has seafaring in its DNA and this maritime influence is evident in the city’s style.

Long tradition
For generations, the fisherman’s jacket has been a Danish wardrobe staple. They were originally made by hand from heavy cloth which was treated with oil to provide a very hardwearing garment, and later on, bonded rubberised cotton was used. In recent years, some of Copenhagen’s coolest labels and designers have reinterpreted this once-vital item for women as well as for men.

Reinventing a classic
One designer who has pioneered the jacket’s transition from workwear essential to a fashion must-have is Ilse Jacobsen whose Danish lifestyle brand encompasses beauty, homeware and food as well as clothing. ‘My very first raincoat design, which I launched in 2004, was inspired by the classic look of the traditional fisherman’s rubberised raincoat,’ she says. According to the designer, raincoats are currently very popular, mainly because they are designed to look like ‘normal’ coats but are robust and functional. ‘I work on creating fashionable everyday items without compromising on practicality or function. This enables women to look smart and to be protected against the elements at the same time,’ she explains.

Ilse Jacobsen’s latest collection of raincoats, True Rain, is part of her Hornbæk line. The collection, which has been inspired by the designer’s hometown on the Danish Riviera, presents contemporary-looking raincoats in a new  waterproof material in 10 colourways.

Fashion meets functionality
Danish company Elka has been creating outwear for the manufacturing, construction and fishing industries since 1958. After successful collaborations with Japanese avant-garde fashion house Comme des Garçons and with Copenhagen-based Norse Projects, in 2012 Elka started its own fashion line, Elka Regntøj, combining its technical expertise with contemporary fashion. ‘Raincoats have always been a necessary part of any wardrobe, however the fit has not always been that great,’ says Daniel Schou, creative director of Elka Regntøj. The company has addressed this through excellent design and for autumn/winter 2016/17 Elka Regntøj has once again joined forces with Norse Projects, which is known for its minimalistic aesthetic. The result is the Anker Classic jacket – a hooded two-pocket jacket reminiscent of the classic fisherman’s coat.

And while contemporary design and fit are key to the modernisation of the raincoat, Schou still looks to the past when designing: ‘From the beginning, I wanted to develop contemporary raincoats which traditional fishermen, those who worked on the west coast of Jutland, would approve of,’ he explains. Shou’s approach is to consider the wearer’s ‘way of life’: he’s inspired by the fishermen from earlier decades and bears in mind his new customers, from ‘the creative professional to the conservative businessman.’

A splash of colour
Also founded in 2012, following an earlier initiative to interpret the traditional rubber raincoat in a novel way, Rains is now a popular label. This season it has introduced new colourways and fits, further adapting the classic raincoat.

While a number of Danish brands now offer contemporary designs, Schou and Jacobsen agree that the functionality of the fisherman’s coat will continue to be the key to future success. ‘I think the reason raincoats have become popular is due to the selection of modern and fashionable designs. Further developments will be made through the use of innovative and sustainable textiles and modern production methods – and of course really great functional design,’ says Schou. ‘Nowadays you can look elegant and stylish even if the weather is grey.’

With a history steeped in fishing and seafaring, it’s clear that even today Copenhagen’s nautical nuances still infiltrate Danish style – and with some of the country’s best brands and designers reimagining the fisherman’s coat, the city’s style can only benefit.

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