Streetwear is having a moment. From the Instagram feeds of style bloggers to the catwalk at Chanel, sneakers and logo sweaters are everywhere. It’s clear that laid-back, functional fashion is being embraced by the industry at large. For a fashion genre linked to subculture, this attention presents exciting opportunities and fresh challenges. However, Danish designers are staying true to their roots, ensuring mainstream status doesn’t dilute the sartorial edge that sets them apart from the crowd.
A defining force in fashion
Emerging from the skating subculture of the 1990s, Copenhagen’s streetwear labels have enjoyed a steady rise in popularity thanks to their strong brand identities, high quality and fit. ‘Streetwear has been a defining force in Danish fashion for the last 10 years,’ says Anne Christine Persson, vice president and development director of Copenhagen Fashion Week. ‘Danish brands such as Wood Wood, Norse Projects and Soulland have been defining a generation of Danish fashion and attracting a lot of international attention.’ It is, she says, a style that is ‘wearable, cool and always offers a certain Danish twist that gives it that extra something to stand out.’
Streetwear labels are known for creating collections with a distinctive look that references underground trends while also being practical and, most importantly, wearable. ‘In Copenhagen we have a great skate scene that goes way back,’ explains local stylist Kristine Wold. ‘Many brands were started by skaters so their pieces are designed to look cool but also be functional for a skate session. And as the founders have grown up they have started to focus more on trend and quality.’
Wood Wood co-founder and creative director Karl Oskar Olsen agrees that Danish streetwear design is both creative and high quality. ‘In Denmark we make clothes for real people – democratic designs that also offer value for money,’ he says. ‘We want our customers to value our products for their creative impact and also be able to use them for a long time.’
This combination of creativity and quality has attracted respect and loyalty from streetwear fans around the world. Kim Carlsen opened his multi-brand streetwear boutique Flavour in 1993 and has observed the growth of Copenhagen’s streetwear scene first hand, subsequently launching his own streetwear-inspired line. ‘It’s very organic. It’s a lot about who knows who, and who can hook you up,’ Carlsen explains. ‘It makes it really interesting because it’s something that you can’t just buy, you have to be a part of it.’
A whole lot of cool factor
Collaboration has been central to Danish streetwear’s success; Wood Wood, Norse Projects and Henrik Vibskov all stock a selection of other labels in their flagship boutiques. ‘Norse Projects and Wood Wood are popular because they were really good at collaborating with the right people at the right time,’ says Carlsen. ‘At the same time they became part of an unofficial group of stores, located in cities around the world, that gave them a whole lot of cool factor.’
Wood Wood, with its all-wood store interior and collection of T-shirts, sweatshirts, caps and sneakers, certainly has the cool factor. Collaborations with Nike, a creative foothold in Berlin and an upcoming project with American sportswear label Champion have also helped cement the brand’s popularity among skaters and style experts alike.
In contrast, Norse Projects is known for embracing more artistic influences. The brand has a background in skating but creative director Mikkel Grønnebaek is also a curator at Copenhagen’s V1 Gallery. The label’s New Artist T-shirt series, featuring illustrations by London-based artist Daniel Frost, is a collection highlight, while capsule collections with Japanese multi-brand boutique Beauty & Youth United Arrows and with London’s Goodhood store have also helped to strengthen the brand’s reputation.
The next generation of streetwear designers coming out of Copenhagen looks set to ensure the industry will continue to impress. Libertine Libertine is cited as one to watch. ‘They come from a surf and skate background but they also do streetwear. It has a bit of boldness and a good finish; it looks exclusive and has good craftsmanship. I think it’ll be an important brand,’ Carlsen observes. ‘Also Apocs, Brand8 and Oh Dawn are very cool, especially in their communication. It’s an interesting group of up-and-coming brands and it will be very exciting to see where they end up.’
As creativity continues to grow and quality is maintained, one thing is for sure; Copenhagen’s streetwear labels will soon be conquering cities around the world.