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The Copenhagen designer Cecilie Bahnsen recently unveiled a collaborative collection with the Singaporean shoe and accessory brand Charles & Keith. The new line reinterpreted iconic styles, featuring three Mary Janes and one Camelia mule that drew inspiration from one of her recurring motifs, school uniforms.
Made from precious fabrics—a recycled satin adorned with a hand-drawn quilted embroidery, and a unique patchwork made from preexisting fabrics—Bahnsen also brings back her black and white palette, but this time refreshing the mule style in a bright lemon yellow.
Bahnsen worked with photographer Benedict Brink to get the mood just right. They traveled just south of Copenhagen to the Herlufsholm School for a campaign centered around an academic aesthetic.
“I’ve always been fascinated by school uniforms. I think that explains why I loved the Mary Jane shoe in the Charles & Keith’s collection so much. It’s a traditional school-girlish shoe, but it also has that quality of a masculine-feminine contrast that I’m always looking for. Historically, the Mary Jane was not just a shoe for girls. Right into the 20th century, little boys wore them too,” she said.
“We made ours super feminine, more lady[like] than the shoes we’ve done before, working with patchwork and hand-drawn-embroidery. I think the combination of the Charles & Keith classic shape and our touch is very beautiful. It’s been really exciting to see how we can translate our universe into a shoe. It almost felt like we were morphing our dresses into a shoe,” said the designer.
Whitewall spoke with Bahnsen about the four new styles, how Copenhagen inspires her, and how her label mixes emotion with heritage.
WHITEWALL: Where did your collaboration with Charles & Keith begin?
CECILIE BAHNSEN: We really did start, more or less, from scratch and went through every single part of the development stage to make it perfect. Together, we have created a whole universe and story surrounding these four pairs of shoes. It’s been a collection in itself. The storytelling is what makes the collaboration so interesting.
WW: You mentioned being exciting about translating your universe into a shoe. What from your universe did you aim to include in the new styles?
CB: It’s always important for me that when I design a dress it has longevity and every detail is perfect. This is also the same with shoes. The finish, attaching the sole, buckles, which is very different from designing a dress. It was a big learning process, having to spend a lot of time on what some people would call “nitty-gritty” details to really get the finish right so the product is both functional and beautiful. It’s probably hard to notice all the effort that has gone into it, but that’s what I like—that it looks effortless but every detail has been thought through.
WW: Can you tell us a bit about the DNA of Cecilie Bahnsen and how it evolves each season?
CB: Each season we evolve the brand’s DNA, it is never about chasing trends, it is about creating a universe of its own, out of time. During the creative process working with the fabric on the stand or the model, the brand’s sculptural silhouettes have naturally evolved to signature styles in our collection, each season beautifully showcasing the unique and delicate fabrics
WW: Copenhagen women are on the rise as international style icons for things like effortless layering and afternoon biking in dresses. How does living there impact the way you design see fashion as a creative outlet?
CB: For me, Copenhagen and Copenhagen fashion week is home. It is a smaller fashion week that gives you the opportunity to re-think the concept and the experience of the traditional fashion show and allow us to create unique experiences around the show and the collection each season. What I share with the Copenhagen girls who wear Cecilie Bahnsen is the need to feel comfortable. With one of our dresses, you can wear it to a party then throw in on when Monday comes around just because that’s what you want to wear. Nothing saved for a “best” or “special” occasion.
WW: How does your label dress the woman of today?
CB: The feminine and modern universe of Cecilie Bahnsen mixes emotion, romance, and inherent beauty with the openness, simplicity, and pragmatism of my Danish heritage. The Danish have an effortless and relaxed approach to fashion. I am drawn to the freshness and purity of the different styles and the flourishes of color you see worn on the streets of Copenhagen.