Fashion Week Diary: 48 hours in Copenhagen 

Writer Caelan McMichael takes S/ on a whirlwind tour of Copenhagen Fashion Week, exploring Scandinavian designer shows and offering a front-row look at emerging brands at the Copenhagen International Fashion Fair (CIFF).

Wednesday, January 31, 2024 

11:00 AM

Upon arrival in Copenhagen, I was greeted by the sun. It was a rarity in Toronto, and I immediately felt warm inside. After collecting my luggage from the quaint airport, I headed to Coco Hotel for check-in and a much-needed nap after getting little sleep on my red-eye flight. 

After settling into my room and receiving macaroons by the front desk with a handwritten welcome note, I felt interestingly at home (despite this being my first time in the city) and rested before my first show. 

6:00 PM 

I walked to Øksnehallen, a CIFF venue in the city center, for the Henrik Vibskov show. Although jet-lagged, excitement still fuelled my steps into the packed venue. I was ushered to my seat where people beside me were chantilly drinking a Danish delicacy, Mikkeller beer. The show was titled “Daily Chewing Gum Therapy,” so naturally, a pink bubblegum-esque setup made up the runway design, along with characters in inflated outfits dramatizing cartoonish dance moves. 

The show began with these characters floating through the runway with distorted silhouettes to a melo-futuristic beat. Once their repertoire was complete, the models revealed oversized tailoring, patterned knits, and flannel pyjama pants. Contrast-stitched pieces and exaggerated faux-tattoos painted onto the models exuded the brand’s signature dismissal of normalcy. 

Thursday, February 1, 2024 

8:00 AM

Across from Coco Hotel was Delphine, a Mediterranean restaurant exploring dishes from Southern Italy and the Greek islands. Here, the CIFF team gathered for breakfast before a day of back-to-back shows. A toast from the Director of CIFF, Sofie Dolva, detailed the 62nd anniversary and a commitment to nurturing businesses and talents within the Nordic regions and beyond. Positioned as one of Europe’s most inspirational trade platforms, CIFF’s bi-annual event is credited as Northern Europe’s longest-running fair showcasing incredible talent and diverse creativity. A full immersion into Nordic culture is present on the grounds through curated food, art, and installations — with visitor numbers tripling from previous editions. 

10:00 AM 

Upon arrival at CIFF’s main venue at the Bella Center, we were taken through a maze of brand displays and installations. Blissfully whisked through the setup, the first show was set in the Main Hall, a top floor overlooking the colourful arrangements below. TG Botanical, a sustainable fashion brand founded in 2021 by Ukrainian designer Tryana Chumak, was the first on the agenda.

The TG Botanical Autumn-Winter 2024 collection referenced nature by mimicking various earth surfaces and textures. Consisting of easy-to-wear pieces, the materials included dimensionally textured knits made of natural plant-based yarn and framing bustier pieces. Each garment was natural in tone, with earthy hues varying from ash-like greys to splashes of green. Built to make each garment interactive with the wearer’s senses, Chumak used distinctive trimming methods, such as quilting, distressing, and stitching with elastic threads for optimal tactility. 

11:00 AM 

The second show of the day was Munthe, a collection inspired by the founder Naja Munthe’s childhood memories with horseback riding. Growing up, the stables were considered Munthe’s sanctuary and dreamscape. Merging the fantasy of ranch life with contemporary fashion resulted in denim pieces adorned with reflexive crystals, timeless wool and cashmere sweaters, sequined dresses, and leopard print. The pieces structurally demonstrated the contrast of delicate material with ranch-like durability and patterns to offer versatile silhouettes.

11:30 AM 

After an eventful morning of shows, a tour of the CIFF space was hosted. Across the 20,000 square meter venue, over 500 brands offered dimensional showrooms ranging from fashion, children’s wear,  beauty, jewellery and footwear setups. Innovative labels of all sizes and calibres were showcased to provide insight into emerging slow, luxury, and established brands, such as Nadia Wire, Gestuz, Swedish Stockings, and Han Kjobenhvn

Brands that stood out had stories of sustainability fused into their DNA, a normalized and common trope in Scandinavian fashion. ISNURH is a brand founded by two childhood friends who design garments beyond the micro-trend cycle and create biodegradable pieces which break down within 30-60 days of submersion in soil. 

2:30 PM

Following the morning at CIFF, I travelled to the National Gallery of Denmark to speak with the creative director of Marimekko, Rebekka Bay. We discussed the motivation behind the Fall/Winter collection and the signature Unikko floral print. “The inspiration behind the show is the anniversary of Unikko. Unikko, our most iconic print, is turning 60 this year. We have explored, stretched and pushed Unikko in various directions with this collection and wanted to celebrate this idea of dressing up and down.” she says. 

Illuminating the joyous essence of the brand, the collection was modelled by a group of mainly street-cast folks backdropped against the beats of female hip-hop anthems performed live by Copenhagen-based DJ Kaddi Sawaneh. Tunes by Lauryn Hill and Missy Elliott had the crowd singing along and playfully bumping their heads. 

5:00 PM 

I returned to CIFF’s Bella Center for my last show of the day and, frankly, my most exciting one – Helmstedt. As the show began, Emilie Helmstedt’s signature motifs of nature and aliens strung onto the runway. 

The pieces were dreamy, with cloud designs floating along the runway backdropped against rain sounds and birds chirping, while a poem was read by Helmstedt herself. Knits, quilted dresses, and embroidered jackets with symbols of mushrooms and strawberries nod to Helmdtedt’s intersection of fashion and art through the lens of environmental inspiration. 

6:30 PM 

To wrap up the evening, CIFF, in collaboration with Office Magazine, hosted a commemoration dinner to celebrate the 62nd anniversary at Øksnehallen. Appetizers and main courses were served in true Nordic fashion — beautifully presented with florals and paired with wine. 

After the seated dinner, the venue turned into one big dance floor where over 2000 people celebrated Fashion Week with tunes by Nordic DJs and a gleaming disco ball centring the room. Attendees danced the night away to celebrate CIFF and bid farewell to Copenhagen before likely moving on to New York or London Fashion Week.