Creativity and Collaborations: Road Trip Part 2.
Hej Copenhagen! Visiting Wood Wood on their home turf.
Join us for the ride as we visit Copenhagen and check here to see how the journey began.
After stops in Berlin and Hamburg our search brought us to Copenhagen to meet Wood Wood, a fashion label who have made collaboration a virtue by taking their witty and characteristically Danish design aesthetic and applying it to products from like-minded brands including Adidas, Nike, Barbour, Happy Socks and many others, while also becoming a success story in wonderful Copenhagen.
Around 6 pm, Wood Wood’s Karl-Oskar Olsen, one of its three founders, is waiting for us at their base in Nørrebro, which spans four storeys of a brick tenement building with large windows framed in dark green paint. Since their start in 2002 by Karl, Brian SS Jensen and Magnus Carstensen (who left the label in 2008), Wood Wood has always been a clever synergy of street and chic. “There was a lot of hype around us back then, because we were the only ones in Copenhagen to sell a mix of street and high fashion,” Olsen tells us. But collaborating harmoniously is their real forte. Olsen, his girlfriend Lotte and Jensen work together intensively on a daily basis.
“We’ve worked together for 20 years, so that gives us mutual understanding – we don’t need to discuss much because we know how we think.” They regularly go on “inspiration trips”: “”e don’t have enough time to be creative, so once we get back from the trip it’s very – intense to finish the collection,” Olsen says, “but the trips bring our ideas together. The ideas suddenly make sense as we are able to push the everyday stuff out of our minds. Collaborating is also a strategic approach to business, which has plenty of benefits.
Our first collaboration with Adidas gave us a lot of -attention and opened doors, which helped us launch our own collection … If we like the brand and feel that they will allow us to do stuff we can’t do within our own brand, then we go for it.”
More danish delights: Stine Goya’s Showroom.
Copenhagen also has its fair share of stridently individual fashion pioneers, forging an aesthetic of their own far from the powerbases Milan, Paris and London, and so the next morning sees us heading over to Stine Goya’s studio, a designer who has created an expressive, distinctive fashion language made of self-created prints, sculptural silhouettes and bold colours that tell a different story with each collection. Goya fuses business savvy with the effortless ease Danes are known for. With her long strawberry blonde hair, freckles and warm smile, she matches the aesthetic of her fairy-tale showroom, a golden, sparkling treasure trove of circus-inspired clothes highlighted by beautiful oversized lightbulbs.
The connecting rooms are full of busy interns sketching, draping and cutting, yet the feeling is one of relaxed but focused industry. “I love to work with other people,” Goya trills while gazing at her office, “especially from other nationalities – it broadens your mind and gives you new ideas.” Goya founded her label in 2006 after graduating at London’s Central Saint Martins, and while she is the heart and brains of the operation, she doesn’t believe the myth of the solo genius applies to her project. “The essence of being human is to seek connection, only then can a great idea become reality.
You need a competent team for support and luckily I’ve got a dedicated team behind me who invest their skills and time into the brand as if it were their own.”
In fact, her approach to making goes even beyond that: she does two collections a year for the brand Weekday, has worked with Adax, a Danish accessory brand, and chooses to work with an artist each season for her own collection. “Collaborations get me out my comfort zone, they challenge me to get new results with different work methods.”
Last stop: Anne Sofie Madsen’s royal studio.
If designers such as Stine Goya, Henrik Vibskov and Barbara í Gongini are one side of the current vanguard of Copenhagen fashion design, Anne Sofie Madsen is the other. A current darling of the “black crow” critics of the front row, her pieces are directional and extreme, inspired by horror films, robots or sci-fi. Her trademark bodycon dresses are simultaneously feminine and smooth yet tough and animalistic. Could these creations really have come from one mind alone?
“This used to be the King’s residence when he hunted swans,” explains Madsen as she greets us in her new studio in a cobbled courtyard in Kastrup. The place suggests something of the breadth of Madsen’s imagination. Wall upon wall is covered with printouts of robots, eyes, sculptures, jewellery, insects, medical illustrations and close-ups of grand stucco – almost a Tumblr in physical form. “I gather things that visualise my thoughts,” she says. “I have a feeling, a memory, a couple of words when I prepare a collection and then I collect images in one big pile. It’s important to invite people in when you work with others. This way a new universe starts to develop.” Madsen’s first universe – her Big Bang – came into being when she showed her first collection at London’s Fashion Week 2010 after having worked at Alexander McQueen.
“During my time there I realised I had to do my own thing. I think everybody has a limited portion of creative energy and I didn’t want to use mine up if my own name wasn’t going to be in the back of the garment.”
So now Madsen recreates her own universe each season. “We take deconstructed forms from, let’s say, a robot and put them together in another way so they eventually reappear in the form of a jacket or a dress. You can’t do something like this (the label) alone – each collection is always in a collaboration with friends who are doing prints, accessories or knitwear.” In that sense there are as many universes as there are friends. Contrary to the cliché, no artist works in isolation, and success has many mothers (and fathers, brothers and sisters too).
On the way to catch the ferry back to Germany in the CLS 500, we stop to eat an ice cream at a harbour on the outskirts of Copenhagen, when something Stine Goya said comes back to us: collaboration is combining different strengths and skills through trust, respect and listening.
“I’m sure the idea of a solo genius is a reality, but you always need a team to make things happen, to make something a reality.” Over the course of three cities and six studio visits, we found that collaboration is itself a multifaceted thing: everyone does it differently. Dirk Bonn has been able to build and re-tell his story through an ever-growing network, Uwe Jens Bermeitinger’s vision of arty sexuality is like a lightning rod for the tastes of others, while the Hui-Hui’s members know that the first requirement for working together is plenty of time apart.
“Strength in numbers” as the motto for this endlessly creative age? It looks that way. “You need a tribe, a gang,” Dirk Bonn said back in Berlin. “The more people you work with, the easier it is to find a new language to express the project’s ideas with.”
In the spirit of this journey, this feature was created in collaboration with SLEEK Magazine.
Fuel consumption combined: 9.0 l/100 km;
combined CO₂ emissions: 209 g/km.*