“Scandi” design is often shorthand for a minimal and tasteful aesthetic. But at Paris fashion week this season, designers are showing there is more to the region than understated separates.
Cecilie Bahnsen is becoming known for her ethereal, ultra-feminine designs. The Danish designer’s show on Wednesday continued the theme – with cloud-like dresses in white, black, red and pink. These were mixed with raw denim and knitwear.
Hitting the sweet spot between effortless and party dresses, the combination hits the bullseye of what swathes of young women want to wear.
Backstage, Bahnsen – wearing one of her designs – said the collection was about “all these old traditional techniques we’re bringing back to life like the smocking, the quilting, the embroideries, but then also really having this easy [feeling] so it is something you want to put on on a Monday”.
Her Scandinavian heritage was explored through the knitted pieces – partly thanks to her experience in Copenhagen. “We always style the collection with [knitwear] in the studio so it’s nice to link that to actual real life.”
Bahnsen has been showing her collection at Paris fashion week since 2020 but her brand dates to 2015. Her light-as-a-feather volume and cake-shop colour palette have led her to be likened to the Irish designer Simone Rocha and British designer Molly Goddard.
Her creations have been worn by Anya Taylor-Joy and Sarah Paulson. A collaboration with the sportswear brand Asics increased her visibility. The designs, featuring delicate 3D flowers, became highly sought after. This season, the collaboration has continued with black sequinned trainers.
Beyond Bahnsen, other designers from the region are expanding the definition of Scandi in Paris. Acne, whose arty take on minimalism has helped it become an established brand in the city, also showed on Wednesday.
Heliot Emil, founded by the Danish brothers Julius and Victor Juul, showed on Tuesday night. The label has a gothic look in the tradition of Rick Owens. Hodakova, meanwhile, takes a creative approach to upcycling, using old belts, bras and leather. Designed by Ellen Hodakova Larsson, the final model at her Paris show wore a dress made from clingfilm.
Hodakova, along with Rave Review, was one of the young Swedish designers represented at a showroom organised by the Swedish Fashion Council in collaboration with Fashion East, the style incubator based in London run by Lulu Kennedy. It is a space where stylists and buyers are invited to see collections, and this connection is likely to bring more attention to the brands involved.
Ida Petersson, the buying director of Browns Fashion, says the variety is what makes this Scandi wave exciting. “It’s great to see the Scandi brands joining the international circuit as it allows the fashion community to understand the many nuances of Scandinavian design,” she says. “For a long time, it’s been synonymous with neutral dressing. However, the reality is it’s so much more.”
Nevertheless, classic Scandi minimalism is still admired globally, even more so in an era where Succession’s Shiv Roy-approved quiet luxury dominates as fashion’s favourite look. The Row, the brand designed by the Olsen twins, Mary-Kate and Ashley, and arguably influenced by the minimalism of Scandinavian design, showed on Wednesday afternoon. The collection continued on a theme – it was full of oversized tailoring and tasteful colours.
Scandinavian brands are also popular with fashion editors attending the shows. Petersson points to Toteme and By Marlene Birger as favourites. Unlike a lot of other labels favoured by fashion editors, these are relatively affordable, so they are also worn beyond the front row.
This showcases another quality associated with the Scandinavian region – a sense of fairness to all. Petersson says: “Whatever the look you’re after, the beauty of Scandi design is that there is something for everyone’s taste. The designers continue to deliver sharp designs retailing at an accessible price point that allows a wider audience to enjoy it. Ultimately, that feels more inclusive.”