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Dainty and delicate in the details, maybe, but make no mistake – the Cecilie Bahnsen woman has edge. The young Danish designer has long occupied a head-seat at the table of Copenhagen’s coolest it-girls, and in a time where femininity is ripe for the reshaping, Cecilie’s malleable and customisable mould is one to which women worldwide are drawn.
Launching her career at John Galliano, Cecilie’s rise has been nothing short of astronomical and shows no signs of tailing off. Like a stormy cloud – the shape of which resembles the puffed sleeves and billowy skirt of her signature babydoll dress – Cecilie’s aesthetic carries something wild rumbling beneath its soft exterior. Designed for all and made for life, a Cecilie Bahnsen piece is intended to share, to lend, to pass on.
Unabashed femininity is the sun of the Cecilie Bahnsen universe, casting its many shapes and silhouettes through beams of yellow, floral motifs and chunky dad-sandals marching down the runway. Broody, unpredictable and subtle in its power, the Cecilie Bahnsen brand is a teenage girl rendered in hand-embroidered quilted silk and tulle.
Brand: Cecilie Bahnsen
Designer: Cecilie Bahnsen
You previously worked for Anja Vang Krag, Christian Dior, John Galliano and Erdem; how has your experience has shaped you as a designer?
I started out in London and Paris so the romance and detail of my designs are inspired by these two cities, with Scandinavian minimalism. It needs to feel effortless. All my collections focus on clothing made by hand. It’s important for me to combine the intricate details of a couture house and my Scandinavian heritage of inherent beauty with openness, simplicity and pragmatism.
A word that always comes up when others describe your aesthetic is “feminine” or “girlish”. What does femininity mean to you?
There is power and strength in romance and femininity. I make clothes for women to feel comfortable, strong and independent.
Who is the Cecilie Bahnsen woman?
Each Cecilie Bahnsen woman has her own uniqueness, her posture, her stance, her feelings and her interpretation of how to wear the clothing. It means a lot to me to see how a woman wears the label according to her own style, how she puts together the pieces in unexpected ways. I get as much out of seeing the clothes in everyday life as I do in a show.
The silhouettes of your pieces have become especially recognisable (the full skirts and sculptural dresses), where do you find inspiration?
Each season we curate the universe of the brand, building on signatures, sculptural dresses, architectural silhouettes, puffed sleeves and bow details. We build on this with each collection to ensure the brand grows by feeling and instinct, with meaning and care.
What was the inspiration behind your most recent AW19 collection?
Fall/Winter 2019 is about me letting a little darkness in. I was thinking a lot about [American photographer] William Eggleston and that sense of something bubbling beneath the surface. The collection is mostly black and white, but I wanted some Eggleston colour, so we used yellow in the tulle dresses embroidered with flowers. They are my homage to his photo of his wife Rosa asleep on a flowery yellow bedspread. He never gives his pictures a title or an explanation; it’s up to the viewer to decide what they think. That’s how I’d like my collections to be thought of – the dresses give every woman that wears them a different experience.
The look this season is less clean and controlled than I’ve done before. It’s the feeling of unravelling or coming unstitched. I had an image in my mind of a girl who’s experimenting with putting together an identity, finding her adult self. So there’s a lot of patchworking, mixing together craft techniques, textures and materials.
Tell us about your earliest fashion memory.
Embroidering and knitting with my grandmother in our summer house – she inspired me to work with my hands, and created the most beautiful embroideries of her flowers in the garden.
Your look is closely linked to a Scandi minimalism; do you ever see yourself taking the label out of Denmark?
I think my base and studio will always be in Copenhagen but maybe in the future we might look to show the collection in other cities.
Your choice in fabrics and how you manipulate them is something that makes you stand out. Where do you source such interesting materials?
Merging tradition with innovation, we work with manufacturers in Como, Italy, to design new textiles for each collection that offer a unique combination of style, sustainability and quality. Quilt reimagining, one of the oldest couture techniques, is a constant inspiration to me. Our double-faced embroidered quilted silk is created by hand for each garment; we stitch beautiful floral motives into the garments following our hand drawn design.
Are there any particular references that have shaped you?
I have always been drawn to femininity and a romantic way of dressing. I think this may have been inspired by my love of Sofia Coppola movies, especially Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation.
How does a Cecilie Bahnsen creation translate from idea to execution?
The collections are always a study of fabric, texture, line and volume. We refine and evolve the silhouettes, details and fabric to fit with the mood of the season. Often you can’t see the progression when you are in the middle of the design process, but when everything falls into place you get this overwhelming feeling of how beautiful it all has become.
Other than Denmark, to which country is the Cecilie Bahnsen aesthetic tied?
Perhaps Japan; it has always been such a big inspiration – it has the same tradition of craftsmanship you see in Danish design: a focus on simplicity, functionalism and details. Growing up I watched [Yasujirō] Ozu and [Kenji] Mizoguchi movies, and lately Osamu Yokonami’s photography has been a real influence. I love Tokyo; I can wander the backstreets for hours, revelling in the sense of everything being so hectic yet so calm.
How did your time studying in London impact who you are as a designer?
I loved living in Hackney and sometimes miss the energy and inspiration this part of the city gave to me. Studying at the Royal College of Art was some of the very best years; the people and the creativity were fantastic and so inspiring.
If you could be anywhere in the world right now where would it be?
Right now, I am so excited to be in my studio working on the new collection. After the show in August, I’d love to take a holiday in Sicily, driving along the coast, listening to music and enjoying the beautiful beaches and food.
Your go-to places in Copenhagen for inspiration is…
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