CIFF: Scandi sustainability weathering the pandemic with grace
CIFF, which debuted on Tuesday, was all about sustainability and weathering the pandemic with a certain Scandinavian sense of resilience.
Though visitor numbers are still depressed due to COVID, CIFF remains very much Scandinavia’s key fashion trade show and a true bellwether on the state of the industry.
This season marks the 58th edition of CIFF, which was founded as an industry group to put Copenhagen on the fashion map but now is a private entity. CIFF works closely with Copenhagen Fashion Week and its catwalk season, as the two events run concurrently.
Though in a curious inversion of logic, and counter intuitively, the collections and small shows seen inside CIFF were often more innovative and original than the runway shows scattered throughout Copenhagen Fashion Week. A subsequent article will cover the catwalks in the Danish capital.
Case in point, Iso. Poetism, by Tobias Birk Nielsen, a very coolly rugged brand showing some sensational outerwear. A clever conceptual marque, with lots of novel ideas. From the worn gray sweatshirts with great etching graphics; to the craftily cut voluminous pants, everything finished with hard-wearing trims. And accessorized with gusto – like the cement-finished caps and even life-jackets.
Though located somewhere near Rick Owens and Yohji Yamamoto, Tobias Birk Nielsen is very much his own man. And, after 48 hours in the Danish capital, the only brand with the design chops to show in Paris. Last month, when Rains showed successfully during the Paris menswear season, it marked the first catwalk show by a Scandi brand on the very-hard-to-get-onto official Paris show schedule.
“During the pandemic we had to ask ourselves, is there a future for trade shows? And my gut feeling is that there is. We just need to improve and better ourselves. Going forward we need to create more theatre, more experiential. We cannot count on people just showing up to trade shows twice a year. That was our privilege before. Now there are endless seasons. And a lot of the trade goes online with New Order or Joor and those platforms,” said Christina Neustrup, managing director of CIFF, who took up the position in October 2020.
CIFF is divided into multiple curated sections, notably CIFF Sustain. Where one finds concepts like Copenhagen Cartel, which showed cool swimwear, in smartly chosen hues, made of plastics recycled from oceans. And, in a novel move, very comfortable T-shirts and sweatshirts made from blends of organic cotton and Icelandic seaweed. A great natural product, which requires no fresh water, as it grows in the sea, and naturally regenerates. Though Copenhagen Cartel only harvests the seaweed every four years to give nature the best chance.
Though most brands come from Scandinavia, their names tend to be English, like Fine Chaos, Studio Stars or Care by Me. There’s even a giant show-space for the Danish fashion conglomerate – DK Company, again with brands called Lounge Nine, Part Two, Saint, Soaked and !Solid.
CIFF also added a small vintage section, featuring 3AM Eternal Deluxe or Before Midnight, where one could find used Commes des Garcons lab coats and Issey Miyake plissé suits.
“We are a business of tactility, so things needs to be more inviting, and I believe we need more of a knowledge exchange. We have so many challenges – digitalization, logistic problems en masse and sustainability. We have always been secretive in fashion, scared of people stealing our best ideas. Now we need to be more collaborative,” opined Neustrup.
Throughout the event, there were well-attended talks and video presentations every hour by industry experts in a prime location.
There’s more than fashion at CIFF, like Mate. This leading electric bike maker has a stand and even a test track, where one can try out their latest models.
The e.bike brand has linked up with happening Italian skateboard fashion marque Palm Angels. The result is a must-have bike that looks uber cool, and uncannily seems to accelerate like a convertible when you put any effort into peddling.
This season, CIFF has around 500 exhibitors, way down on a normal edition at about 1,500, though the ambience was far from depressed, with several major international brands enjoying impressive stands.
Like Nobis, the top-notch Canadian apparel and down jacket specialist, at CIFF for the first time.
“The Scandinavian market is a growing one for us. So, it felt like a good moment to come. Plus, because it’s quiet we were able to get a great central location. And I ain’t going to give that up!” laughed Robin Yates, founder and CEO of Nobis.
Over 70% of the brands are Scandi labels but a lot of international companies are featured – including Asian, Italian, French, Dutch and German. Organizers are expecting 8,000 to 10,000 visitors, mainly buyers, again about 60% of normal attendance. Like retail star Andreas Murkudis, who owns Berlin’s most happening fashion boutique, where he is planning to unveil a series of Danish designers this spring.
The salon charges roughly 2,000 Danish kroners per square meter, or $125, or less than half of Pitti's rates in Florence, by way of comparison.
“But the price per square meter is not so important. What really costs is building the stand,” cautioned Maximilian Bock, CEO of family-owned Marco O’Polo, who had CIFF's best-looking installation.
Though founded in Stockholm, and manufactured mainly in Turkey and Italy, Marc O’Polo sources its fabrics primarily from Italy and the result is some very convincing plausible Scandi chic, and a less than painful price at the register. Most especially, some great check overshirts, and knubby coats, all made out of fine wools, recovered, shredded and recycled by Manteco, the textile specialist based in Prato, Italy.
A good metaphor for CIFF and for fashion in general.
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