Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 27 October 2020

Small shows and shorter schedules: What the four major fashion capitals could learn from Copenhagen Fashion Week

With the main fashion weeks not far away, things we can learn from the Danes on how to host a succesful event

Stine Goya at Copenhagen Fashion Week spring / summer 2021. Courtesy Copenhagen Fashion Week
Stine Goya at Copenhagen Fashion Week spring / summer 2021. Courtesy Copenhagen Fashion Week

With the main fashion weeks of New York, London, Milan and Paris just around the corner, uncertainty still abounds on how exactly things will unfold amid the pandemic.

However, with Copenhagen having just staged its spring / summer 2021 fashion week, this savvy Danish city has shown there is a path we can navigate in a socially distanced world.

The show must go on

Despite the difficulties of staging a major event at this time, Copenhagen pulled out all the stops.

Not only does the Danish fashion week offer crucial support for regional names that are reliant on the event, but it stakes the city's claim as a fashion big-hitter.

Having appointed itself the hub of Scandinavian fashion, and built a reputation as a beacon of sustainability, Copenhagen Fashion Week shouldered that responsibility admirably, despite many overseas attendees staying away. Instead, it doubled down on those that did attend, allowing for more space at each event, with audiences of 70 rather than 700.

Ganni exhibtion at Copenhagen fashion week spring summer 2021. Courtesy Copenhagen fashion week
The Ganni exhibition at Copenhagen Fashion Week spring / summer 2021. Courtesy Copenhagen Fashion Week

London, Milan and Paris seem to be learning, as Copenhagen has done, using last month's menswear events to test ideas. They now seem well placed to offer a mix of physical and digital events as part of their schedules.

Yet, despite being the first of the four and slated to begin on September 11, big question marks still hang over New York fashion week. With big name designers such as Tom Ford, Michael Kors and Jeremy Scott having already announced they will not be taking part, New York is left in limbo, as smaller, niche brands are left wondering if the event will have enough traction to justify the huge financial outlay.

With just weeks to go and still no concrete schedule in place, there is now even talk of whether New York should cancel completely.

Short and sweet

Street style at Copenhagen fashion week spring summer 2021. Courtesy Copenhagen fashion week
Street style at Copenhagen Fashion Week spring / summer 2021. Courtesy Copenhagen Fashion Week

Truncated into just 72 hours, Copenhagen came up with a jam-packed schedule. Hosting an array of talks, physical shows and digital presentations, crammed into a breathless three days, it was exciting and efficient, and a world away from the traditional fashion "week", which can drag on for nine flabby days.

Of course, Copenhagen has fewer brands to champion than, say, Paris, which has hundreds vying for attention. However, as the Danes have shown, better use can be made of time.

With the new mix of physical and digital presentations seemingly here to stay, it should prove easier to fill gaps in the calendar, making for shorter events that cover just as much ground. And as fashion weeks rely more and more on digital means to draw in younger crowds, tight, dynamic scheduling is going to be key moving forward.

Physical or digital?

A look from henrik Vibskov at Copenhagen fashion week spring summer 2021. Courtesy openhagen fashion week
A look from Henrik Vibskov at Copenhagen Fashion Week spring / summer 2021. Courtesy Copenhagen Fashion Week

Much has been made of having to choose between a physical or digital fashion week, but as Copenhagen has proved, it can be both.

Early forays into digital-only events (think Shanghai and London) felt flat and impersonal, but as time passes and we learn from the mistakes of others, Copenhagen was able to cherry-pick a vibrant mix of the two. Those preferring to remain socially distanced had a wealth of digital shows, talks and events to explore, while those searching for that front-row fix were able to attend in-the-flesh runway shows.

Showing a savvy way to combine both, Ganni opted for a physical appointment-only exhibition, but by offering sneak peeks online, secured 156,000 digital engagements. Likewise, with the number of press and buyers in physical attendance down across all fashion events post-Covid-19, it seems as if digital can help provide a solution.

Online giants such as Moda Operandi and Mytheresa instead turned to private online conferences with Copenhagen labels to place their orders. While the industry will certainly turn out in force to Paris and Milan, this model may prove a lifeline for smaller, more niche events.

Interestingly, despite the absence of press, buyers and influencers, Copenhagen still pulled in respectable engagement figures online. Although down on last year, according to data from Captiv8, the label Stine Goya still secured 199 million digital engagements during the three-day event.

The importance of street style

Street style at Copenhagen fashion week spring summer 2021. Courtesy Copenhagen fashion week
Street style at Copenhagen fashion week spring summer 2021. Courtesy Copenhagen fashion week

By definition, fashion is a phenomena that is meant to be seen by others, and in this new era of social distancing, a delicate balance exists between staying safe and the age-old joy of crowd watching.

After all, half the fun of fashion events is the outfits you find being paraded outside.

With a purely digital event, this key element is missing, and things are poorer for it. Think back to Chanel’s cruise offering in June. While the clothes were beautiful and the studio setting was creative, without the throng of well-dressed well-wishers hanging around, it lacked atmosphere.

Again, Copenhagen managed to bridge this difficult divide, offering enough runway shows for the crowd to show up to. With many overseas visitors missing, it gave space to a more individual way of dressing.

Gone were the gifted-from-the-label wardrobes, replaced instead with a more personal slant that mixed new with vintage in fresh and unexpected ways.

These outfits not only set the tone for the shows we were about to see, but most importantly celebrated the sheer, unapologetic joy of what the industry is about in the first place.

And with all the disruption and uncertainty still hovering in 2020, we could definitely do with more joy in our lives.

Updated: August 17, 2020 05:10 PM

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