Feminine and sculptural. These are two buzzwords used constantly by Danish womenswear designer Cecilie Bahnsen when asked to describe her label’s aesthetics. After graduating from the Royal College of Art in London, Bahnsen worked with several international brands, one of which was John Galliano. When she launched her eponymous label in 2015, her feminine and delicate designs won her the distinguished DANSK Design Talent Award in 2016 and she was also a finalist for the LVMH Prize in 2017.
PrestigeOnline.com talked to Bahnsen to find out what her label is all about, the things that inspire her collections, as well as the special new collaboration and installation with Japanese shoe brand Suicoke at Dover Street Market in Singapore.
For those not familiar with your label, can you tell us what Cecilie Bahnsen is all about?
The Cecilie Bahnsen look is about romance, femininity, and not being afraid to stand out. Together with the Scandinavian minimalist sensibility that I grew up with, you get the Cecilie Bahnsen aesthetics.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I love libraries and bookstores. I especially love the Danish Design Museum’s library — they have a beautiful collection of historical textiles. I love finding ideas and getting inspired there.
What’s a typical day like for you in the studio?
Everyday is different when you’re running a relatively young brand. The tasks are much more nuanced than you think. In a day we can be working on different things — from production, logistic and sales to the actual development of the collections, textiles and silhouettes. My favourite days are definitely the ones when we are working out the details on fabric development as well as sketching the collection.
How did you get started in fashion?
When I was around 12 years old, I did my first internship with one of the teachers at a Danish design school. It was just for a week, but it was so inspiring and interesting. I knew then I wanted to study and work in fashion design.
Tell us more about the Spring/Summer 2019 collection. What inspired this collection?
I was looking at a photo book, Assembly, by Japanese photographer Osamu Yokonami, and his photos are of girls wearing the same clothes, mostly in their school uniforms. The images may depict many girls in a group, but you notice each distinct personality and identity. That really speaks to me about what we do. Every collection we put out must be strong, but they need to also sit alongside one another in harmony. It also says something about the women who like to wear the label – the clothes don’t own them. You see who they are.
What are some personal highlights from this collection?
This season, we have new open-back dresses with bow details that are sensual yet fragile. I think the colour palette is also especially beautiful for this collection. With the main focus on white, we’ve also added bursts of colour within the delicately embroidered florals as well as the beading. The silhouettes — full-skirts and sculptural dresses — stand on their own like pieces of art. The collaboration with Suicoke and Margrethe Hjort Hays are on the masculine side — practical sandals combined with colourful beadings; they add the perfect final touch effortlessly.
What is your vision for Cecilie Bahnsen in the future?
We are focusing more on in-store installations like the one at Dover Street Market Singapore. We want to bring even more of the Cecilie Bahnsen universe to the consumers. We also just launched our new website, which includes an online store that we are very excited about. This gives us the chance to get closer to the the consumers. Likewise, it gives the customers the opportunity to explore the brand and shop the collection.
In its review for your FW19 collection, Vogue.com says “… it was pleasing to see (Cecilie Bahnsen) move, however slightly, in a strong new direction.” How do you think your aesthetics has evolved over the years?
Since I launched the brand in June 2015, I have managed to define what the Cecilie Bahnsen look is, and make the silhouettes and fabrics instantly recognisable. It has always been important for me to stay very close to our aesthetics ethos right from the beginning, and to redefine and evolve every season. I want the label to grow from strength to strength, and to take the collections to the next level every season, with a stronger and more defined vision.
Which living person do you think best embody the Cecilie Bahnsen spirit?
This is a difficult question! For me, the brand is not just about one person, celebrity or it-girl; it is about the strength of girls and women supporting one another.
Who has been the greatest influence in your life?
On the personal front, my little sister has been a great influence. We look quite alike but the similarities stop there; we are completely different. She is also my best friend and inspiration.
Anja Vang Kragh, on the other hand, is my greatest inspiration when it comes to creativity. She was my teacher at the Danish design school and took me with her to Paris to work for John Galliano. She showed me the the poetic and emotional appeal of craftsmanship and nurtured my love for couture-level details.
Can you tell us more about your collaboration with Suicoke?
In October 2017, I bought a pair of Suicoke sandals in Japan to wear with my dress and I thought the they were the perfect match. I loved the relaxed look with the sculptural dress so I contacted Suicoke when I started developing my Spring/Summer 19 collection to see if they would be interested in collaborating. As luck would have it, they said yes.
The collaboration with Suicoke have taught my team and I a lot. We have never designed a collection of accessories before, so a collaboration was the perfect way to dip our toes into the world of accessories. It has been an amazing experience and we are already exploring the opportunities of working with Suicoke again.
Can you share with us the inspiration behind the Cecilie Bahnsen X Suicoke collection?
Suicoke sandals are ergonomic, practical and casual in a minimalistic and masculine way, which complements our decadent and feminine designs. I think adding the multi-coloured beading on the sandals lent the perfect Scandinavian feminine touch.