Cover Photo courtesy of Cecilie Bahnsen

The Danish designer shares her thoughts on Scandi style and navigating an increasingly digitalised landscape

Since launching her label in 2015, the fashion world has been clamouring over Cecilie Bahnsen's gorgeous, flouncy dresses that somehow manage to fuse extreme, romantic silhouettes with Scandi pragmatism. Bahnsen became a finalist for the 2017 LVMH Prize and has since gone from strength to strength, presenting her last two collections at Paris Fashion Week. Her latest, a line-up of incredible, quilted silk coats layered with knit bralets over her signature frothy confections, might be her best collection yet. We chat with the rising Danish star on her past, present and future.

How did you get your start in fashion?

My grandmother was my first introduction to style and crafts. She was such a beautiful and stylish lady. She taught me to hand embroider, crochet and knit. After graduating from the Royal College of Art in London in 2010, I knew I wanted to create my own brand. I loved designing not just the fabric and garments in the collection but also the whole universe and story that surrounded it. I also knew that it takes a lot more than creativity and good ideas to build a successful brand so I worked in Paris for the incredible John Galliano. It allowed me to define my love for fashion, perfect intricate couture techniques and appreciate the use of fabric and texture which I now incorporate within my designs each season. Design for me is about the poetry and emotional appeal of handmade clothing.

What kind of message did you want to send through your clothes?

I make clothes for women to feel comfortable, strong and independent. The Cecilie Bahnsen woman wears clothes she treasures but not to be precious about; clothes for high days, low days and the everyday, to share, or lend, or pass on. There is less of a sense of saving something for a special occasion now and more a sense of showing how you can wear the same thing in different ways.

What does Scandi style mean to you?

The Cecilie Bahnsen look is unashamedly feminine, a unique meeting of romance with the minimalistic Scandinavian aesthetic I grew up with. With our designs, you can wear the dresses to a party but also throw it on when Monday comes around. It is the simplicity and utilitarianism of Scandinavian design mixed with romance and femininity from my time spent in London and Paris.

How has this past year of pandemic changed you personally and professionally, if any?

Even before the pandemic, we were rethinking our business. We've reduced our collections from four seasons (mainline and pre), to two mainline seasons a year, with the introduction of Encore which was the middle point between working more sustainably and digitally, and also the launch of the Edition collection to allow people to invest in classic pieces. Looking back, the pandemic didn't necessarily push us to do anything we weren't already thinking about, but maybe it helped us to act on it faster than we might have otherwise- rethinking our online presence and how we carry our voice and the feeling both in a literal and emotional way onto our platforms in a genuine way. 

What is the story or spark behind your latest collection?

After the first lockdown in Copenhagen last year, when we got back into the studio, I drew a line through the calendar. With my team we spent a month with the fabrics, making everything by hand, experimenting and playing – not even thinking about the final pieces. It became super important to me to see how the fabrics felt against the skin. Our lives are so digital and distant in this moment, I wanted the fabrics to be a contrast. When you put on a piece from the collection, I want you to feel the beauty of the fabric, to be comforted by it. This sense of comfort is my idea of luxury. I was also drawn to the beauty of an empty city with an imposing and industrial feel. In a very natural way, the mood and the storyboards for the film became the inspiration for the colours and mood of the designs. I collaborated with my close friends at Moon to help bring this vision of connection, linking arms and being together on a journey, to life. 

What advice do you have for young designers coming out of college now who are terrified of entering the workforce?

Believe in your own ideas and be open to learn. If you keep believing in your dreams and work hard they will eventually come true.

Cecilie Bahnsen can be found on Net-A-Porter and Dover Street Market

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