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Copenhagen Fashion Week S/S 10

Ana Finel Honigman concentrates on the exceptions that stray from the Danish pragmatic style.

A common theme that my fellow journalists and I heard from our hosts and the designers we met during Copenhagen Fashion Week was that fashion in Denmark is strongly retail focused and that Danes are pragmatic about style. There was ample evidence to support this analysis on the catwalks, where most of the forty-two shows offered wearable, but not especially inspired looks that would have been well represented well on showroom hangers.

However, there were a few notable exceptions. These included Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair's loopy extravaganzas of girls in a smattering of cancan dresses and an elegant stream of little black dresses, jumpsuits and belted coats, all accessorized with masses of fake flowers or Chiquita Banana headdresses, affixed to their heads by cling-wrap, bows and fabric bird-cage constructions. Vilsbøl de Arce presented powerful-looking models, one of whom had an Amazonian body evoking Raquel Welch, in white body-suits, crimson jumpsuits, and tan leather shorts, most of them sporting their signature enormously oversized shoulder-pads to produce an effect that was angular and interesting. The highlight of their shoes were sculptural and somewhat vagina-like ankle-high wedges over-flowing with an excess of tan leather.

A sleeker and saucier unconventional show in decadent Eyes-Wide-Shut eroticism was on view when girls in leather shorts, draped dresses and their faces wrapped in black and white chiffon recalling Margiela's S/S 09 catwalk stepped noisily through smoke to the sound of a live cellist at Noir.

But press-draw Moonspoon Saloon, the Copenhagen-based collaboration between designer Sara Sachs, artist Tal R, photographer Noam Griegs and stylist Melanie Buchhave, could only be found in their studio, where the group's clothes are cleverly arranged around Tal R's half-painted wood sculptures and massive child-like colorful canvases

Moonspoon Salon's concept is to create ninety-nine styles, which will each be produced in an edition of ninety-nine. Every year, MSS creates two themed collections of 10-15 designs, working with local artisans such as a crafts group at a senior home outside Copenhagen who knitted sweaters (Björk recently bought one). The craftspeople are given sketches to interpret and the results are whimsical unisex clothes and accessories, including laptop cases with demonic faces in puffy plastic and massive knitted key rings with a Harlequin theme. Once Moonspoon Saloon's pre-determined numerical possibilities are exhausted, its members will separate and return to their own disciplines and the group will be disbanded. In the mean time, their publicist Frederik Jacobi told me, "We want to start an army. We want to present a new sexuality."

I could not help but compare the costume-like clothes to the theatrical component of Henrik Vibskov's show the previous night. That show was staged at the Sibirien-Søndermarken, across the street from Copenhagen Zoo. The setting was quintessentially Nordic and the experience of descending into the deep overgrown park was exhilarating. Two creatures entirely covered in yellow second-skin suits with black polka-dots and cages on their heads, characters from Vibskov's "The Fringe" project, stood and chatted casually to each other at the park's entrance. Beyond them, the path down to the presentation was lit only by teardrop-shaped nets ablaze with light-bulbs. Approximately 800 viewers gathered in dense high grass around a massive gnarled fallen tree to witness models wearing the Danish designer's beautifully constructed loose knit dresses with colourful geometric prints, men's sweaters with smiling alien faces and fluid mini-shirtdresses worn by male and female models whose faces, and often genders, were obscured by blond wigs.

Peevish live donkeys accompanied three of the models. One donkey had clearly gotten the wrong message when hearing the collection was titled "a donkey show" and felt free to bite his companion model's behind. But even these animal antics did not upstage the strong fresh colours and easy grace of the clothes. The heavy Nordic setting, the theatrical presentation and sober clothes demonstrated the best attributes of Danish fashion. "I've been looking at retail all week," proclaimed style scribe Kristopher Houser as we exited the eerie woodland setting. "But that was fashion."

The radical creatures that Vibskov had crafted emanated an uncanny beauty and summoned up strong emotional empathy. By presenting an array of otherworldly creatures from Hieronymus Bosch alongside real-world garments, Vibskov successfully eliminated any divide between fashion and art. In contrast, MoonSpoon Saloon's Jacobi insisted that the divide had merit.  "This is not art. It is fashion," he said in describing MSS's clothes. "Fashion is something and art is something else. But the inspiration can be the same. What inspires a painting can inspire a dress. But this is a fashion product."