Copenhagen is just about the perfect summer city. When the plane comes in for landing at Kastrup, Denmark's biggest airport, it circles the city centre and continues out over the sea. Here it makes a sharp turn to the right, allowing the passengers to view the capital from a beautiful panorama perspective. The sun plays its games with the glittering water and the plane's shadow is clearly visible in the waves as we come in for landing. It's a scenic introduction to Copenhagen Fashion Week's Spring Summer 2014 season. Danish fashion, though, isn't known for its glittering, larger-than-life aesthetic. Like its Scandinavian neighbour Sweden (who's got it own fashion week coming up), Danish brands have long been synonymous with monochrome and minimal fashion, as opposed to shimmering extravagance. Comparing Copenhagen and Stockholm is inevitable; visitors can expect a similar climate, view, nature, attitude and fashion spectrum. Traditionally the two countries share the same fundamental aesthetic and core design values.
As such many of the Scandi brands are pure products of the 90s, and for quite a few of them very little has changed in terms of their sensible approach to life in general and fashion in particular. The likes of Swedish Filippa K, Whyred, J.Lindeberg and Hope and Denmark's Samsøe Samsøe, Sand and DAY Birger et Mikkelsen all share common grounds in their sartorial trajectory. But most of this success was heralded in the field of womenswear, and it required a new and fresh generation of Danish menswear designers in the 00s to put Scandi men's fashion on the map. Henrik Vibskov and Peter Jensen took on Paris, and then the world, with their quirky designs, injecting their humorous and continental approach to life in their clothes. At the same time, Swedish Acne rose to prominence - but considering their international fame and critical acclaim of late I no longer consider them a 'Scandinavian' brand per se; Acne has, over the last few years, shown in Paris, London and New York - just about everywhere but in Stockholm!
It would be unfair to label what they do as 'fashion' though; these collections would not necessarily sit comfortably on a Parisian catwalk.
Instead, another new generation of menswear designers has emerged in Scandinavia. The likes of Sweden's Common, Our Legacy and Uniforms For The Dedicated are transforming the outdated idea of what Scandinavian menswear is all about. In Denmark that creative wave was felt during Copenhagen Fashion Week trough Wood Wood, Soulland and, in a non-inclusive way, Norse Projects. Although Norse doesn't present a catwalk collection, the brand's presence was still felt during last week's fashion bonanza through a party at their HQ. Their clean streetwear style is conclusive of contemporary Danish menswear. Wood Wood and Soulland are both 10 years old on the domestic market, but it's only in the last few years they've matured in to brands worthy of worldwide attention.
It would be unfair to label what they do as 'fashion' though; these collections would not necessarily sit comfortably on a Parisian catwalk. What Karl Oskar Olsen and Brian SS Jensen from Wood Wood and Soulland's Silas Adler show is a fashion-ised version of contemporary and urban streetwear. Think button-down shirts with all-over prints, loosely cut khakis and M65-inspired jackets. These brands are defined by prints - marble in the case of Wood Wood's SS14 collection - and shirts with embroidered words or symbols for Soulland. And that's why the clothes work: these are the kind of pieces that young guys actually want, these are the kind of clothes they buy. The quality is good, the design solid - this is the street fashion of today.
Danish brands have long been synonymous with monochrome and minimal fashion, as opposed to shimmering extravagance.
Heavily influenced by sportswear, especially in Wood Wood's case, these clothes boast high tech details and sartorial solutions worthy of professional outdoors brands. Besides such stand out pieces, both Wood Wood and Soulland mix in standard wardrobe garments; mac coats, varsity jackets and tracksuit bottoms. Wood Wood also showed bucket hats as a sportswear alternative to baseball caps. Soulland took a more tailored approach, presenting tailoring and formally cut jackets mixed with its signature graphic sweatshirts, lots of stripes in green and brown and a coat in a subtle camouflage pattern.
How these shows were presented is also interesting to highlight. Wood Wood went for a traditional catwalk show format, albeit in the amazingly odd environment of Glyptoteket, an art museum in central Copenhagen. Among palm trees and neo-classical marble colons, the collection looked exotic and out of place, exactly the kind of 'opposites attracts' feeling that made it a memorable show. Silas Adler, on the other hand, chose not to conform to standardised fashion norms and existing show formats. Instead, selected press and buyers were invited to a seven-course meal at an one-off bespoke restaurant. In a very relaxed atmosphere of comradeship selected guests were treated to chef Adam Aamann's smörrebröd menu, plus a few other bits and bobs of culinary delight, such as vodka-infused cabbage soup, crab bisque on rye bread and trout served with onion powder. In a break from eating, Adler showed a pre-filmed catwalk show staged a few days prior in midst of the Danish countryside.
The mentioned menswear brands are defined by a wearable creativity. The designs go hand in hand with the age-old Scandinavian demand for versatility, functionality and common sense - but they manage to keep themselves, and their customers, interested by examining new themes and visual messages from season to season, cue Soulland's Bauhaus-inspired modern wardrobe staples and Wood Wood's sporty and urban vision, influenced by Parisian architectural history á la Le Corbusier. Following on from Vibskov and Jensen's quirky designs, these Danish designers represent a more accurate vision of not only what men actually wear but what Scandinavian menswear should look like in 2013.