The CSF Habit(AT) project has had us exploring the myriad ways we humans wear our culture in the cities we inhabit. We live in one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, and we are quickly realising the depth of ways the citizens of London engage with fashion as a means of communicating their individual and collective identity. But Habit(AT) doesn’t stop with London, our various projects have us working with people from all over the world and this gives us the opportunity to learn and share with other urban cultures.
Over the past few years CSF has developed a close alliance with the city of Copenhagen – our Director, Dilys Williams, has lead the Copenhagen Youth Fashion Summit for the past two years, and we have worked closely with design schools KEA and Kolding on projects like Local Wisdom and Fashioning the Future. When it comes to design for sustainability we share a common vision. Over the past several years, sustainable design has really started to flourish across Copenhagen’s fashion industry. The capital’s fashion week makes an intense effort of showcasing brands that are trying to put human and ecological resilience at the heart of their business – Designers Remix, Baum & Pferdgarten and Malene Birger are just a few examples.
Danish fashion is defined by its design heritage of clever simplicity, functionality, clean minimalism and the belief that design is for all. Sustainability seems to have grown into an essential ingredient of this design identity, and so when I had the opportunity to visit Copenhagen over the summer I wanted to know how the city had managed to nurture a culture which is not only receptive to but is driving the change towards sustainable design through sustainable living.
Last year Denmark was crowned the happiest country in the world, and there are many official reasons why: generous parental leave, a supportive health care system, a priority for gender equality and an almost 90% voting rate. Apparently half of Copenhagen residents cycle to work or school, and so as I rode around the city I noticed many examples of sustainable design in art galleries, independent shops and studios, but it was the design of the city itself that I found so engaging. Granted, I happened to be there during one of the hottest weeks on record, but this gave me the chance to see people jumping and swimming in the river and canals – only through googling did I realise Copenhagen’s harbours had gone through a decade long clean up to become a home for wild urban swimming. The city was like one giant, modernist water park!
With the inviting bike paths and waterways, it appears as though this city is actually being designed for the humans that live in it and this must be contributing to (what looks like to an outsider) a genuine sense of collective responsibility. Copenhagen not only encourages the active participation of its inhabitants, it feeds off it. At an under construction metro station in Nyhavn, environmental artist, Thomas Dambo has set up a playful art installation called the Happy Wall. You will find 2000 reversible, recycled wooden boards creating a giant interactive pixel screen, welcoming fun and play from anyone who is willing. Follow #HAPPYWALL to see just how happy the people of Copenhagen are.