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Sia Arnika AW23 collection Berlin fashion week
Courtesy of Sia Arnika

Sia Arnika is the Berlin designer weaving a witchy fashion fable

Making her runway debut at Berlin Fashion Week’s AW23 edition, the Danish creative’s clothes tap into childhood memories, Danish folklore, and familial mysticism

“I was this spiritual girl playing witches with my friends,” Sia Arnika recalls of her childhood, which was spent growing up on an idyllic island in the North West of Jutland. When she wasn’t busy writing spells to make boys like her back, she was watching Christina Aguilera perform on MTV in her cut-up, barely-there 00s outfits – think slashed red velvet slips, twisted halter tops, and the iconic “Dirrty” leather chaps, which now form a key Halloween look for celebrities across the globe. Brought up by spiritual parents in a house full of crystals and singing bowls, the culture clash was hard to miss. “It almost felt like being in two different worlds,” says the Danish-born, Berlin-based fashion designer, “but I guess how you were brought up and who you are comes out in what you do.”

Trapped between these two worlds, Arnika did what countless other 18-year-olds have done before her. She moved to Copenhagen to study fashion, got Carpe Diem tattooed on her back, and ended up in Berlin when the Danish city started to feel too small to contain her. “I needed to find myself outside the Scandinavian bubble,” she explains, drawn to the city’s reputation as a place to figure it all out. “Berlin is a place where you can escape to, and find who you are,” she adds. After racking up experience working with Ottolinger, Arnika founded her eponymous label back in 2020.  “I realised if I want to break my back, why not do it for me and my own brand?”, she says. “In the beginning you know what you want to do, but it’s only after a certain amount of collections that you realise who it is that you really are and what direction it is you really want to take.”

Landing on schedule at January’s edition of Berlin Fashion Week was Arnika’s debut show, which took over the Ember archive space on the outskirts of the city. It was something of a full-circle moment for the designer, and played into the brand’s notion of new and old existing in symbiosis with each other. “The archive is something from the past, but when you look at the architecture it almost feels like some sort of spaceship,” she explains. In fact, the self-described ambivert doesn’t shy away from embracing contrast on her own terms, and served up a dose of hardcore futurism with models walking on the industrial grid floor next to old metal mobile shelving systems. 

When it came to the AW23 collection itself, Arnika drew inspiration from a very specific childhood memory: ice skating with her friends on a small lake next to her parent’s house. “With this memory in mind, I sat down, closed my eyes and created something with more of a witchy feeling to it,” she explains. “It’s got this Icelandic saga kind of vibe to it, with these folkloric twists.” This concept is reflected in heavy layering, full-length shearling, and shiny Matrix-style coats, which rub up against her signature slashed dresses – many of which got a sci-fi screen print treatment this season. 

It’s a maximalist meets minimalist kind of situation, featuring vibrant colours paired against stark black, deconstructed yet fitted textiles, and jersey pieces that almost ended up looking like delicate lace. “I like when you transform fabric from what it was born to be into something else,” she says. It’s her strong interest in manipulating various textures and textiles that makes Sia Arnika a layered universe of its own. “As a kid, I was always taking things apart,” she remembers. “I wanted to know how things work, so I used to open my dad’s old computer to look inside.” It’s one of many memories the fashion designer reflects on when creating as she transcends into a manufactured reality. 

It’s not only the past, but also the future Sia Arnika is weaving into her work, as she explores new avenues when it comes to sustainability. “As much as I can, I try to find suppliers that have the same sort of idea about keeping the planet in the front seat,” she says, adding that Circulose® is a staple within her collections. Blended from 100 per cent discarded textiles, the material is a dissolving pulp which can be used to create regenerative fabrics. “I find it interesting to use something that's already been used, ending up doing my very extreme textile manipulation and giving it another life,” she continues. Creating ‘valuable’ pieces, rather than items just for the sake of it, is another thought that’s rarely far from her mind. “It's also about conscious design rather than trying until something works out.” 

With her first Berlin Fashion Week appearance now behind her, Arnika is intent on exploring and building upon her growing universe, and giving life to a different reality. In her own words: “There's definitely some sort of mysticism about it. I'm writing a saga.”