Copenhagen Fashion Week: the greenest of them all?

Copenhagen Fashion Week is a pioneer in sustainable fashion. The marks must be as clean as possible to earn the precious sesame. SHE was in the front row of Baum und Pferdgarten, one of the favorites of the public, and was able to attend the first steps of the Swedish Jade Cropper. Does a blue find it easier to be green today?

Copenhagen, February 3, 2022. We are at the headquarters of Garden of trees and horses, the Danish fashion brand that “wants to make women beautiful and happy”. Helle Hestehave and Rikke Baumgarten presented their latest autumn-winter collection called Pursuing Polaris last night: woolen jumpers, silk pajamas, midi dresses with abstract prints and padded pants, skirts and jackets. Unsurprisingly, the bright red is a big hit with international buyers who are gradually filling the room. The color forms a wonderful contrast to the majesty of the building, and it is precisely this opposition that the designers have been seeking since its launch in 1999. “Our characters and our styles are very different,” says Helle, the minimalist duo. “At school, Rikke was mainly inspired by Vivienne Westwood, me by Comme des Garçons. That says it all (laughs). But the other’s work intrigued us. Like a kind of curiosity about the unknown. I couldn’t do what she was doing, and vice versa. Even today, I focus more on tailoring and the more masculine pieces in the collection, while Rikke excels at the art of creating excitement with a clever combination of patterns and colours. »

A friendship and clothes.

After studying fashion at the Royal Danish Academy, Rikke and Helle became best friends and business partners. They launched Baum und Pferdgarten on the 1it is January 1999 in Helle’s room. Crazy when you think about it today. Especially because of the slowness and clumsiness with which things happened. However, they quickly agree on the name Baum und Pferdgarten, one of the most difficult to pronounce in fashion. Rikke remembers a brainstorming session with her girlfriends and a lot of alcohol. Helle has her own version of events: “We didn’t drink anything (laughs)! “As part of a project during our studies, we had to come up with a brand for our press release. So we play with German words, which are common in Denmark. Rikke: “My last name is Baumgarten and Helle Hestehave, which becomes Pferdgarten in German. Together we are a tree and a horse garden. Perfectly logical, right? »

“If Baum only produced in Denmark, our collections would be limited to socks and underwear.” hello hestehave

The project they were working on was about recycling. At that time, it was already a hot topic. “But we didn’t think in terms of sustainability like we do today,” explains Rikke. “The quality of our clothing has always been one of our priorities. The idea is to wear a Baum piece for many years, even after 40 washes. And maybe even pass it down from generation to generation. Transmission is also a sustainable concept. I mention the difficulty for an established brand like Baum und Pferdgarten to green every aspect, every corner of their business, whereas for a young brand these days it is almost automatic. Helle: “If we had to start over today, we would focus squarely on the environment. Things were different 23 years ago. Back then, we could just be creative. And Rikke adds: “Righting a big boat like ours is a real challenge. Some measures are obvious, such as replacing cotton with organic cotton and polyester with recycled polyester. But others are more difficult to implement. Improving our products is not a linear process, we are making faster progress in some areas than in others. But we persist on this path and stay the course. »

Copenhagen Fashion Week
Garden of trees and horses OI22 © Press

dirty socks

The Danish fashion brand publishes a voluminous CSR report every year that highlights its efforts in terms of ecology and presents its sustainable development plan for the future. By 2024, this will mean 100% organic cotton, 100% recycled nylon, 100% sustainable wool, 100% reusable plastic packaging… Rikke and Helle’s ambitions are not the slightest, as are the conditions required to be chosen for Copenhagen Fashion. Week. The 2023 Sustainability Requirements include no fewer than 17 criteria that any brand will need to meet soon to secure a place on the official timeline. From the promise to use at least 50% certified textiles and not destroy unsold items to the zero-waste set design for the show itself. According to Cecilie Thorsmark, CEO of Danish Fashion Week, the system is strict but fair. I meet her between two fashion shows and ask her if she accepts this battery of strict requirements: “The fashion industry has never been so open to change. If we had implemented such a system five years ago, for example, I’m not sure it would have had such a wide reach”, emphasizes Cecilie Thorsmark. “Most of the brands were already taking sustainable steps, so they were able to get on board without too much effort. »

Helle Hestehave and Rikke Baumgarten first partnered in 2019 with Closed Loop, a Danish consultancy that also looks at the green growth of other Scandinavian brands like By Malene Birger and Wood Wood. A necessary step according to the two directors of creation, who admit to having difficulties in defining their ecological objectives for the coming years. “We try to keep our ambitions as realistic as possible, but of course as a fashion company we also want to make a significant difference,” explains Helle. “It’s a constant balancing act between what we’re trying to accomplish and what’s really within our reach. If they do not achieve certain objectives, they do not hide it, either in their CSR report, on their website, through social networks… By 2022, for example, they failed to use at least 50% recycled polyamide. And yet it is clear that Baum und Pferdgarten is a good student. Closed Loop already reached this conclusion in 2019, after an initial analysis. “While we haven’t always been strategic about sustainability, we’ve always made our clothes with love,” says Rikke. “For years, we have trusted the same producers who believe in fair working conditions and aren’t afraid to question our design and material choices. Fifteen years ago, I absolutely wanted a neon pink sock in the collection. Our Chinese manufacturer convinced me that it would be too polluting, so together we looked for an alternative. »

Copenhagen Fashion Week
Jade cutter © Imaxtree

Cuir vegan, shit

The word “sustainable” is rarely spoken at Baum und Pferdgarten, which prefers to talk about corporate responsibility. Because fashion is never truly green. “Wanting to sell as much as possible while being sustainable is a paradox,” explains Helle. “Unless you limit production and sale to the local level, with high-quality fabrics made from organic yarns. But it comes at a price, and the consumer must be prepared to pay it. I don’t think local is synonymous with better. Silk from China is of unmatched quality, with which we cannot compete. If Baum only produced in Denmark, our collections would be limited to socks and underwear (laughs). Rikke continues: “Many brands display a headline on their website or a green tag on their clothing. But doing business responsibly means going further, communicating clearly and transparently, deploying environmentally friendly alternatives… And I’m not talking about synthetic products. Vegan leather, shit! It’s just a green wash. »

Cecilie Thorsmark agrees: “There is no such thing as an inherently sustainable brand. Those who value sustainability take a holistic approach, considering social and economic aspects in the same way. The potential to challenge the current market dynamics is huge and Copenhagen Fashion Week wants to stimulate it. For now, collaborations with the Copenhagen International Fashion Fair (CIFF), the Norwegian Fashion Hub, the Oslo Catwalk and the Icelandic Fashion Council are planned, but Cecilie Thorsmark hopes more fashion weeks will take the train. on going. “To have an impact on a global level, our creative community in Copenhagen is not enough…”

Copenhagen Fashion Week
ISO.POETISM AW22 © Imaxtree

Powered by Zalando

Copenhagen Fashion Week will be marked with a white stone for the Danish Tobias Birk Nielsen: his young brand ISO.POETISM won the Zalando Sustainability Award 2022. The jury praised its urban looks that combine recycled fabrics with innovative dyeing techniques. The loot ? 20,000 euros and a collaboration with zalando in order to develop an exclusive and sustainable collection.

Jade Cropper mini-interview

He launched his fashion brand in the midst of Covid, without measuring the magnitude of the pandemic. Kim Kardashian bought almost every piece of her prom collection, but that didn’t seem to bother her either. Swedish jade cutter is one of the faces of the new scandinavian style: everything but normcore, but very punk, marginal and green.

It only uses dead and recycled material. A limiting or liberating approach?

The scraps of cloth I receive or dig up seldom form a beautiful whole. They differ in color, size, texture, but that’s what makes them fascinating. I believe that imperfection and asymmetry are aesthetic. It is precisely these limitations that guide me in my creations. Production can also be a challenge. Available fabrics are limited, requiring a different approach than traditional production lines.

Is it realistic to continue to focus on sustainability as you grow?

I am aware that it will be more difficult as the label grows. But ethics must remain the goal. Not only is this crucial to the vision and development of my own brand, but it’s also essential to making the fashion industry as a whole a little cleaner. Until now, most of my production took place in my studio, where I did everything by hand. But I welcome potential partnerships to produce more without sacrificing quality and durability.

What is your source of inspiration?

My grandmother ! She was an extraordinary person who led her life as she saw fit. A free soul, an independent and emancipated woman. She dared to be a little too much. I’m the opposite, very introverted. The clothes I create show a different version of myself. A brave alter ego (laughs).

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