NEW YORK – The effortless, sustainable flair of Copenhagen drifted into New York Fashion Week on Thursday morning.
The Copenhagen International Fashion Fair and the Council of Fashion Designers of America kicked off a collaborative showcase of sustainability-focused American and Danish designers with a breakfast at their SoHo showroom.
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Designers covered a mix of Danish and American brands, including Helmstedt, Berner Kühl, Han Kjøbenhavn, A. Roege Hove, Isnurh, M. Patmos, Harbison Studio, Melissa Joy Manning, Hope for Flowers by Tracy Reese, Julia Jentzsch, Jahnkoy, Nynne, Rudolph Care, Birgitte Herskind, Storm & Marie and Vinny’s.
“This is the first time that we’ve done something like this, and usually everyone comes to Copenhagen for the experience and the sustainability aspects,” said Maria-Angela Gonzales, commercial director at A. Roege Hove. “It’s nice for us to do the opposite and come to the U.S. instead. We are very proud to share the showroom with the American brands that the CFDA handpicked as well as our fellow Scandinavian and Danish brands.”
The sentiment among these designers is to slow it down, show don’t tell, and be resourceful.
Kasper Todbjerg, the designer behind the Kering-backed Scandi label Isnurh, showcased the biodegradable process for his waterless-dyed, floral print collared shirt. In an Instagram demo, Todbjerg is seen burying the shirt scrap in a backyard garden. He said it took about 35 days to biodegrade entirely.
Upcycled, deadstock and certified fabrics were key to the designers, from Jahnkoy to Harbison Studio.
At Los Angeles-based Harbison Studio, even the embellishments are upcycled, though the untrained eye would be fooled. Designer Charles Harbison reworked the various metal fastenings with gold plating. The finished look — as seen in a resort 2024 gold metallic plissé dress — is made cohesive without sacrificing the factory artifacts scavenged in Los Angeles’ garment hub. That’s where Harbison does most of his sourcing.
“We’re doing it our way where it’s not only ecological sustainability, it’s cultural sustainability and personal sustainability,” said Harbison. “For me, with this brand — I want materials that are lessening the impact on the Earth but I want it to sustain her in a personal way and make her feel better in the world. Whether him, her, they, our — I want them to feel better in the world. And from a cultural perspective, I want their identities to be emphasized.”
Another American in the mix, Tracy Reese, is maintaining the momentum after recently opening her new studio in Detroit. Always busy, she told WWD she joined the board at Remake and is in the process of grant-seeking for her ongoing production work at Hope for Flowers.
But it’s not a sustainable fashion event without some chatter on policy. “Without the rules and regulation, everybody can just do marketing,” said chief operating officer of Denmark-based Summery Kim Vedel Hansen. “Yes, I can do a lot with fabric and have good intentions but this will not make the change. Change has to come from above — politicians.”
Scanning the room in one final panorama revealed a strong show of updated minimalism, comfort kitsch and wilderness lore that has come to define sustainable style across the world.
“It’s been a long time in the making but we’ve been overwhelmed by the positive feedback already,” said Sofie Dolva, director of Copenhagen International Fashion Fair, summarizing the shared sentiment with the CFDA. “We really think it’s an incredible opportunity for the designers. It’s in our core values to support sustainable and circular designers.”
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