After decades of gender-dictated fashion, it seems only fair for unisex to have finally hit the industry’s spotlight. However, while the pursuit of many designers to reconcile the world with the idea that gender has become an obsolete discernment is certainly noble, it does not strike us as a victory that the inferable standing of dresses and curvy silhouettes are passé and not welcomed in the closets of open-minded, independent woman. Luckily, and for the sake of diversity, some women’s wear designers have not given up on lacy gowns and bows quite yet and—on the contrary—believe ruffles to be just as modern and empowering as shoulder pad jackets.
A compelling example can be found in Cecilie Bahnsen’s work. The 27-year-old designer graduated from the Danish Design School and completed an MA in Womenswear at the Royal College of Art in London, before working for the likes of Christian Dior and John Galliano and ultimately starting her own label.
Her designs are the quintessence of muliebrity and lie at the intersection of baby-doll and sophistication, where bold and self-reliant woman give it up for frippery without being accused of betraying modern womanhood.
Her latest work is a triumph of sheer layers and structural bows that create a voluminous yet gentle mesh of organza, cotton, and silk. It counts numerous pinafore inspired dresses, but also wide cut trousers, and smock-apron tops. The styles are held together by double ruffles that are placed on the edges, which also represent the collection’s signature finish.
We had a chat with her to find out more about her work…
Œ Magazine: What inspired your latest collections?
Cecilie Bahnsen: I love fashion from the Edwardian period. There was very much this idea that you could make an outfit elaborate through “illusive” layers, for instance by wearing a fake shirt under the jacket. That way you didn’t need to clean it so much. The male shirts all had elaborate dainty elements to them and I was hooked on the fabric details I spotted in a vintage photograph. I knew I wanted to create something very clean and simple but also refined and with a feminine touch.
Œ Magazine: How did you translate that?
I decided to work from this one detail, the double ruffle on the top and see how the technique would adjust to the different materials. I liked the idea of having one element unite the whole collection and worked very much through fabric development.
Œ Magazine: How do you feel about woman’s fashion today? Did you ever consider designing men’s wear?
Cecilie Bahnsen: No. I’m definitely a woman’s wear designer and have always been aware of that… Right now, there is a lot of fanfare around sports wear and the “androgynous look”, pieces that work for all genders and types, so in a way, I believe it’s ever so important to find ways to still embrace femininity. You can be an independent woman with strong personal style without having to be unisex!
Œ Magazine: And that’s very refreshing! What is feminine to you?
Cecilie Bahnsen: To me it has a lot to do with dressing up and getting ready for the day by putting together a look. Also, I try to stand for the sort of femininity that doesn’t rely on sexiness. It is possible to be feminine and sophisticated without being “sexy feminine”, and the same thing goes for masculinity. But, perhaps, I’ve always reacted a little bit against the whole “provoking” fashion…
Œ Magazine: And what is this woman like? The woman you have in mind when you design your collections,
Cecilie Bahnsen: I’m not just thinking of one type. I enjoy seeing how different personalities combine my pieces. Last season I remember this one girl wearing one of our more feminine styles over a hoody and sweatshirt and I just loved the way it clashed with the rest of the look. In a good way! I’m always excited when I see people adding their own twist, wearing the pieces with worn out jeans or a t-shirt.
Œ Magazine: Do you ever wear your pieces combined with jeans or trousers?
Cecilie Bahnsen: Yes! More or less every day. I love seeing my friends in them oder doing that as well. That’s the greatest part.
Œ Magazine: By going through your lookbook, it’s easy to mistake your outfits for dresses, when really most of the outfits are constructed looks, am I right?
Cecilie Bahnsen: Yes, most looks count at least 2 pieces. I design in looks but the idea is two have a collection that can be mixed and where each and every piece can be integrated in the own wardrobe.
Œ Magazine: Do you have any plans to do a more commercial line?
Cecilie Bahnsen: Hardly a whole line, but I would like to have elements in the collection that make it more accessible. When I have chance to develop it, there will definitely be more daytime cuts, jackets and separates… It would be fun to see my touch on doing a t-shirt or some other basic that could be worn with the more complicated styles.
Œ Magazine: What challenges do you see for women’s wear designers today?
Cecilie Bahnsen: Mmm, an overall challenge is definitely sustainability. I feel like a big part of leading sustainable projects comes from going down to the factories and talking with the people who take part in the production to actually make sure everything is done in a qualitative way. And that’s not always easy. I’m trying to do everything in Europe and would like to further keep things as close to me as possible. Right now 50% is done in Denmark and the other half in Lithuania. The same people have been working on all my collections so by now they are familiar with my “language” and the way I think about the product.
Œ Magazine: What is the last thing that made an impact on you in fashion?
Cecilie Bahnsen: Probably Dior because it made everyone reflect on the way we make fashion. The reflection they encouraged felt very healthy and necessary at the moment. At the speed everything is done now, it’s so hard to create a product that is unique and matches high quality standards at the same time. The collection itself was so casual and small and at the same time there was enough there for anyone to put together a great look. There is really no reason to create 200 styles every two months… In fact, one of my goals is for people to actually hold on to my pieces throughout the years and make good memories with them.
Œ Magazine: What are you currently working on?
Cecilie Bahnsen: I’m taking part in this competition called “Danish Design Talent Award” which will take up the next couple of months. Then, of course, we are working towards London fashion week for February.
Œ Magazine: What is the recipe for a successful career in fashion?
Cecile Bahnsen: Trying to grow bigger while keeping the small things in your mind!