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Exclusive interview: Keld Mikkelsen

Keld Mikkelsen, founder of Day Birger et Mikkelsen, has drawn on inspiration from Italy to refresh this quintessentially Danish brand. He tells Fiona Harkin-Wood about his plans

Fiona Harkin-Wood,

Keld Mikkelsen personifies his fashion brand’s free-spirited, low-key style. His Caribbean tan, sparkling Mediterranean blue eyes and salt-and-pepper hair hint at his life as an international commuter. Mikkelsen commutes between Copenhagen, where he lives for three days a week, and his new home, a stately villa on the shores of Lake Como in Italy, which his partner in life and work, Marianne Brandi, is currently renovating.

Day Birger et Mikkelsen is known for its laid-back styling, which combines ethnic influences picked up on international travels with androgynous Scandi tailoring and vintage touches. The brand has forged a recognisably Danish fashion idiom since Mikkelsen founded it in 1997. He calls it ‘modern gypsy’ and ‘a mix of near and far’.

Having directed the brand’s successful Day Home line, Brandi will no doubt bring her signature Northern European cool mixed with a sense of Danish hygge (cosiness) to their Italian villa – just as she did with their other waterside abode in the Caribbean. Mikkelsen and Brandi live the globe-trotting lifestyle that is at the heart of Day – and it’s very much a family affair, with their daughter Amalie cited as the inspiration behind the label’s more youthful 2nd Day line.

This recent change to his lifestyle has, says Mikkelsen, triggered a refresh of the Day brand, redirecting it for a new era. After spending time in Italian cities and being exposed to classic Italian brands such as Etro, Gucci and Prada, and their uncompromisingly idiosyncratic personalities, Mikkelsen was inspired to return to the roots of his brand. He remembers coming back from Italy and saying, ‘We are going to have details, colours, we’re going to have handmade touches, print, embellished fabrics. And we’re not going to make it so it looks like yesterday but make it look like it’s tomorrow.’

Mikkelsen wanted to move away from the kind of boho-eclecticism he now equates with summer music festivals, towards a more contemporary look. He told his team: ‘We’re going to trim it up so it’s sexy and inspiring and stylish – but not bohemian-luxury’ – a look he says he associates with Denmark’s annual Roskilde music festival.

The success of the younger diffusion range 2nd Day, with its layering-friendly tees and loose jersey dresses, edgy urban prints and cropped skinny trousers, allowed the main Day womenswear range to refocus on what it does best. This includes beautifully beaded, easy-wearing dresses that are eternally flattering; printed casual trousers that work just as well in summer as in the transitional months; sleek leather jackets; staple cashmere knits in flattering earthy tones; and vintage-inspired tops in lace, cotton and silk.

‘As soon as 2nd Day became successful, it released something in the mainline – a tension – we went back to the roots. I’m so proud to say that we took a decision and immediately got rewarded for it,’ says Mikkelsen, who plans to expand the brand with more franchises in Norway and four new stores in South Africa. He also plans to launch a youthful men’s collection as part of the 2nd Day range.

The brand’s contemporary Home range is available in the flagship Copenhagen store on Pilestræde, where he has just decided to dedicate the entire second floor to its fast-expanding new accessories range, Et. Et includes jewellery, footwear and bags – and travel luggage, of course. The Gweneth shopper, which has proved a particular hit, is available in an expanding array of materials and colours and makes an ideal travel companion.

What does Mikkelsen miss about his homeland? ‘When I am in Denmark I tend to go for the really traditional stuff, like the open sandwiches, because I can’t get that in Italy.’ He points to Café Victor, one of his favourite haunts near Day HQ on the very swish Kongens Nytorv. ‘Copenhagen is becoming a very nice city, and partly because of fashion,’ he adds. ‘Because the Danish fashion week here has become a bigger Scandinavian fashion week, it has brought more fashion people to the city. With the fashion crowd, the restaurants become nicer, the food becomes nicer. This is a cool city.’



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