In March 2022, celebrity fashion counterculturalist Julia Fox arrived at the Vanity Fair Oscar After-Party dressed in a head-turning black leather gown with a halter-neck-turned-hand wrapped around her neck.
The “grip dress” made headlines across the fashion press. Fox’s look had “won the blue carpet,” wrote Vanity Fair, while Grazia called it “a contender for most controversial look ever.” When quizzed about the designer, Fox faltered. “Hans,” she told Vanity Fair that night, “the last name is German and I can’t pronounce.”
It was in fact a Danish last name: Kjøbenhavn as in Han Kjøbenhavn, a label founded by Danish designer Jannik Wikkelsø Davidsen. The look was part of the brand’s Spring-Summer 2022 collection, with a made-to-measure version fashioned for Fox at the request of her stylist Briana Andalore around eight months before Oscars night – though Davidsen had no idea what it would be worn for.
“It was not like we knew the occasion,” he told CNN over a video call before his latest presentation at Copenhagen Fashion Week. “Because of the time difference, I woke up in the morning, checked my emails and saw my notifications going crazy. I think the combination of Julia Fox and her having the courage to wear the dress – which is such a specific aesthetic – at such a classic event made it blow up the way it did.”
Davidsen certainly makes clothes for fearless people (Beyoncé wore one of Han Kjøbenhavn’s surrealist gold body coils on her most recent British Vogue cover), but also for those who want to instill a little fear in others. Many elements of the fashion industry inspire cold-sweat trepidation (re-watch “The Devil Wears Prada” if you need convincing), but Davidsen’s work is undeniably haunting: At his showroom presentation in Copenhagen’s city center, a smoke machine pumped atmospheric fog into the white-walled studio while flickering lights and static interrupted projected campaign imagery. Display mannequins dressed in boxy, Frankenstein-style coats peaked through dry ice. The jackets (made from either leather, denim or what looked like wet feathers) were all cut into Davidsen’s signature monstrous silhouette – giant, cartoonish shoulders that quickly taper down the body.
Rising star power
Elsewhere at Copenhagen Fashion Week – which ran from Tuesday 9 August to Friday 12 August – another label seemingly favored by Fox presented a new collection.
Swedish designer Jade Cropper, whose barely-there satin slip dress was spotted on Fox in a now-viral street style snap this past April, showcased a Spring-Summer collection made largely from circulose, a recycled cotton-waste material.
Skirts and dresses dominated Cropper’s runway, though the clothes were anything but girlish. Her use of printed mesh, raw-hemmed denim and dynamic cut-outs gave way to a darker version of femininity. “I’m working with femininity but it has to have this edge, this power,” she told CNN after the show. Cropper felt vindicated when one of her runway models told her, “I only wear masculine things, only trousers – but if I’m going to wear feminine clothes, this is what I would wear.”
During her debut last season, Cropper won the Copenhagen Fashion Week New Talent award and was named Elle Sweden’s Newcomer of the Year 2022. She’s already in with the Kardashian clan, and has had pieces picked for performances and appearances from singers SZA to Jorja Smith. “It’s amazing,” Cropper said of her new celebrity client roster. “That’s something I want to explore more, maybe through a collaboration or something like that.”
A shift in the Scandi set
Both designers are emblematic of an aesthetic splintering in the Nordic fashion scene. Once dominated by the colorful, quirky patterns and souffle silhouettes from brands like Stine Goya and Ganni, a more industrial, brooding visual language is now starting to emerge. That’s not to say Copenhagen Fashion Week was all dour and dystopian – homegrown party-brand Rotate closed its Thursday show with a red, PVC-themed finale scored by Megan Thee Stallion’s “Thot Shit,” while Saks Potts debuted hot pink sequined dresses, skirts and serotonin-boosting metallic trench coats. But with an undeniable amount of starpower at their fingertips, Cropper and Kjøbenhavn may go on to redefine what it means to dress Scandic-chic.