How Copenhagen International Fashion Fair Bridges Markets, Niches, And Futures

Yes. It’s futures, plural. The fashion industry tirelessly moves between the alternative universes of what could be and what could have been. The 80’s are back, so is the Metaverse, maybe. There’s always the next season. Historically, trade fairs emerged as platforms not only for the exchange of goods, but of ideas, too. Copenhagen International Fashion Fair has been the longest running event of its kind in Northern Europe. With the acquisition of “competitor” Revolver and change of leadership earlier this year, it has become the biggest and most impactful promoter of “sustainability, cooperation, and optimism.” In August, the much-anticipated joint venture made its debut in a new format: CIFF x Revolver. The theme of One Copenhagen is both a reflection of a growing appreciation for interdependence of communities and their environments as well as a call to action across the diverse industry segments.

“It was a very dynamic process to bring together two corporate cultures, data sets, and operational systems in such a short amount of time,” notes Sofie Dolva, Director of CIFF x Revolver.

“I’m proud of the team’s hard work. This show represents a pivotal moment in our history. At the heart of everything we’ve done in preparation for the show has been a fierce proudness for the Danish industry and our responsibility acting as a gateway between Copenhagen and the world allowing us to show the international market what we stand for and the incredible talent we have here across the wider Nordic region.” This season visitor numbers tripled to over 17,000 buyers, media, and other industry professionals. That’s how one knows they are on the right path.

Over 800 brands participated in the inaugural edition creating a vibrant mosaic of Scandinavian and international design. The quality and variety of talent on display was remarkable. Among the personal highlights were several emerging and established labels now “stuck on me like a tattoo” to quote Eurovision’s reigning pop-queen Loreen. The dark oeuvre of Han Kobenhavn, the enfant terrible of Nordic fashion. The very sensible outerwear and denim for the very sensitive style-savvy spirits from Won Hundred. Sustainable knitwear weaving traditional wool-working with the latest tech knowhow by Gudrun & Gudrun. Beautifully cut and layered ensembles from Soulland which relies only on GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified suppliers. The opening of a new state of the art J.LINDEBERG flagship store became a timely celebration of a “local” success story on the Big Picture stage. Another wildly successful export from the region, GANNI mounted a show powered by Artificial Intelligence in collab with the machine learning artist Cecilie Waagner Falkenstrøm. The understated pearls by Sorelle are tapping into the massive Pearl Renaissance sweeping the jewelry world. “We know that people are at their best with no restrictions.” While debatable, the motto works well for ARV as they champion the grunge and unisex ethos in the post-punk era. Another brand challenging the minimalist status quo is Drykorn known for its commitment to dressing “the beautiful people” who boldly (re)define inner and outer beauty for themselves. How very zeitgeist. Perhaps, the edition’s most breaking-news collection was presented by Mark Kenly Domino Tan as an homage to the planet’s oceans and marine ecosystems which have just experienced the warmest summer in recorded history. Climate change is teaching us that all of us are “the weathered seafarers and costal dwellers” one way or another. One Copenhagen, one Earth, one fate.

Fashion diplomacy is a practice as ancient as the Silk Road caravans and Viking trade missions. CIFF x Revolver continues a tradition of business hospitality rooted in an expansive worldview. This season the fair partnered with MAD Brussels, an innovative hub for design entrepreneurs based in Belgium. Four residents presented their collections. Upcycled wearable art by Kasbah Kosmic combine the designer’s North African and Western European heritage into “radical patchwork”. Extravagance is the safe word for the tour de force that is Fernando Miró’s vision for MIPINTA menswear. Fifth Element meets the Summer Olympics in the enticingly phygital activewear by Kartchev. Meanwhile, Skin Series makes therapeutic undergarments made with recycled yarn containing active antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ingredients such as seaweed, zinc, or vitamin E. Did someone say wow?! Belgium and Denmark have proud histories of being in the artistic vanguard when it comes to creative innovation. The future belongs to holistic partnerships forged by intercultural collective knowhow.

The nation of Peru was the guest of honor. The country with the second-best credit rating in South America is currently focused on promoting sustainable business initiatives and cultural tourism “beyond ayahuasca and Machu Picchu.” Peru produces over 80% of alpaca wool consumed annually around the world. Its textile and fashion industry supports 400,000 jobs domestically. Copenhagen hosted ten sustainable Peruvian brands for their European trade debuts: luxury woolwear by Tom Gutie, cool garments with botanical dies by Kinua Design, “ancestral biotechnologies” in the hands of Sake, delightful minimalism of Fringe, contemporary lifestyle essentials by Pampa, eco knitwear by Kero Design, the beautiful natural colors of Kuna, baby alpaca and organic native cotton from Wisqa, handmade bags and accessories by Amarena and the best of Latin American artistic prêt-à-porter by Fasce. The potential for such spotlighting is immense in terms of introducing brands to new audiences and educating eager consumers.

The year of transformation for CIFF x Revolver is defined by global positioning of the platform. Director Sofie Dolva refers to these opportunities as “exchange programs” invoking the peer learning nature of academic and creative growth. During New York Fashion Week, a partnership with CFDA granted a chance for cross-promotion at the highest level to Danish and US brands with a shared commitment to sustainability. Denmark was proudly represented by womenswear brands Helmstedt, Nynne, Herskind, Summery, A Roege Hove, and menswear labels Isnurh, Berner Kuhl and Han Kjobenhavn, as well as Vinny’s footwear and a beauty label Rudolph Care. The CFDA-curated list of Made-in-USA brands included M. Patmos, Harbison Studio, Melissa Joy Manning, Julia Jentzsch, Jahnkoy and Hope For Flowers.

“The most valuable takeaway from our CIFF x CFDA experience, both personally and for our brand, is the profound lesson that collaboration, creativity, and dedication can truly propel a brand to new heights. We’re humbled and excited by the overwhelming interest and feedback, and it reinforces our belief in the power of unity and innovation. This experience has shown us that when we come together with passion and purpose, remarkable things can happen, and we’re eager to carry this lesson forward on our brand’s journey,” reflect Kasper Todbjerg and Oliver Abrenica of ISNURH. For a few dynamic days, a showroom in the heart of the Sex & the City territory (corner of Mercer and Grand streets in Soho) brought together eco-style lovers to discover new names in the transatlantic catalog of emerging sustainability visionaries. And just like that, it was a win-win success story.

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