Copenhagen based researcher, Maria Mackinney-Valentin, reviews the eclectic fashion graduate show from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, at Copenhagen Fashion Week AW17.

Photographer: Ingmar Bötker Designer: Ida Sophie Holm, Casper Munch, Agnete Beierholm

In the serene courtyard at the Thorvaldsen’s Museum in Copenhagen, the Danish heavens were on the side of fashion on August 10. On one of the clearest nights of an otherwise torrential summer, 14 BA fashion graduates displayed a seductive mix of raw energy and unabridged curiosity in their show “Cut Out Fragments”.

The culmination of three years at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Design (KADK), the graduates showed great conceptual, technical and aesthetic promise. Whether presenting what appeared to be a dystopian mermaid rescued from the polluted seas as in “Beautiful Disaster” by Michelle Lyhne Schjerbeck, a 1990s-nostalgic extravaganza with an upcycling twist as in “Rewind” by Nina Balstrup or exploring contemporary female identities as in “They Burn Witches, Don’t They?” by Martina Enevold, each collection offered a novel contribution to re-shaping the fashion industry by redefining its rules.

As a whole, the graduates represented a fresh, creative force not yet tainted by the reality of the current state and practical restrictions of the fashion industry. They rattled the norms of gender, beauty ideals, ethnicity and tailoring in a persuasive demonstration of how fashion can be political, beautiful and fun all at the same time.     

Photographer: Agnes Saaby Designer: Nina Balstrup

The graduates showed how fashion designers hold the potential for engaging with societal challenges such as pollution, mental health, and body perceptions through visual and tactile means. The discrete hair and make-up styling allowed for the clothes to ‘speak’ for themselves strengthening the attention to details, proportions, design methods and textile techniques.

With their collections, the graduates asked more questions than they provided answers but that is part of the power of fashion: To bring attention to issues through the visual medium of clothing. Fashion holds the ability to create a visceral impact because of the personal nature of garments as second skin and the democracy of the sartorial medium allowed as it is to walk among us in the streets as a living art form.

From the classics gone wacky in Emil Bang Hoffmann’s “Out of Proportion” to the sharp monochromes of the group collection “Gakushi” by Casper Munch-Anders, Agnete Beierholm and Ida Sophie Holm, the show made me optimistic about a more diverse, responsible, collaborative and joyful fashion future.

About Maria Mackinney-Valentin
Maria is fortunate enough to spend her workdays in the inspiring company of fashion students at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Design where she is an Associate Professor. She holds an MA in English Literature and a Ph.D. in Trend Studies after trying out and subsequently abandoning a number of other career options including professional clown at a suburban Danish mall.

She recently published a monography entitled Fashioning Identity: Identity Ambivalence in Contemporary Fashion (Bloomsbury 2017), a highly nerdy exploration of fashion as a vehicle for identity negotiations covering a wide range of themes including the beard, heavy metal T-shirts, leotards, J. F. Kennedy’s tophat and football jerseys in Kenya.