Time after time Scandinavia has been heralded as the home of Europe’s best emerging menswear designers and the coolest cutting-edge fashion, with fierce debate over which city can claim the title of capital of contemporary Scandi style. Many believe it’s Stockholm, home to world-renowned labels such H&M and Acne, or Gothenburg, with its distinctly fresh, hip edge. However, when it comes to innovative, stand-out-cool menswear, it’s clear that the Danes have it nailed.
Copenhagen has produced some of Europe’s finest menswear designers, from high-end talents such as the avant-garde Henrik Vibskov, whose pieces are much coveted, to rising stars such as recent graduate Nicklas Kunz. Kunz’s first full collection, his autumn/winter 2013/14 range inspired by sportswear and hip hop, has already earned fans across the globe, including the designer’s favourite rapper, Kendrick Lamar.
Style with soul
One designer brand that has seen a meteoric rise to streetwear stardom is Soulland. Started in 2002 by designer Silas Adler, the brand began with a concept – T-shirts inspired by skateboarding culture, first made by Adler for his friends. T-shirts soon expanded into entire collections, but the label still keeps its streetwear roots intact, with a strong focus on mixing classic and contemporary styles, using the best-quality materials to create clothes that exemplify the Copenhagen’s design aesthetic – as Adler describes it, ‘simple, intelligent and wearable.’
The label’s latest offering is the spring/summer 2014 Bauhaus-inspired Katastrophe collection. As Adler explains, ‘The Bauhaus was probably the most important school to influence modern architecture and design. Its abstract forms and geometric shapes obviously played a central inspirational role for the design of the spring/summer 2014 collection.’ While Adler himself is not Danish, he was raised in Denmark and lives in the country, and acknowedges the effect of this on his design process. ‘I am very aware of Denmark and Copenhagen. And in many ways I’m inspired by this town and the life I have in it,’ he says. The collection is largely focused on signature all-over and collage prints, all made by hand, featuring masks, geometric and fragmented architectural pieces, building on the Danish design foundations of attention to detail and honest craftsmanship.
Craftsmanship and simplicity have always been key to the Scandinavian style ethos. These characteristics apply to fashion design and to lifestyle as a whole. Danish brand Wood Wood, founded in the same year as Soulland, is another great example of Danish functionality in fashion, with collections focused on refining Scandinavian style to create comfortable, wearable fashion – put simply, real clothes for real men. It’s the overarching lifestyle focus that has seen many Danish brands branch out from design into successful retail. Wood Wood has seven stores, expanding the Danish design-led lifestyle across Denmark, Germany, Austria and Russia. Menswear stores such as Goods are also staples of the Copenhagen-based Scandinavian menswear movement, offering carefully edited pieces from collections by contemporary, simple, streetwear-inspired labels such as Dana Lee, House of Billiam, Norse Projects and YMC.
Leading the pack
The evolution of the Danish menswear aesthetic hasn’t gone unnoticed, with designers and fashion followers alike beginning to take note of Copenhagen’s style kudos. Mads Kornerup, Copenhagen native and founder of jewellery label Shamballa, has been creating bracelets, necklaces, cufflinks and rings with his brother Mikkel since 2001, finding success worldwide and amassing fans all over the world. Both brothers are in agreement that the men of Copenhagen are not only defining Scandinavian style, but leading the way. ‘The men in the city are just as focused on fashion as women, if not more,’ they explain. ‘It’s an amazing place for contemporary menswear and guys put a lot of effort into what they wear – not in a try-hard way, but in a very effortless way. It’s a very laid-back but polished way of dressing.’
Looking north for the best European menswear design and inspiration is undoubtedly the way forward – it’s clear that Denmark has carved itself a niche as the Scandinavian capital of cool, contemporary menswear.