In her Paris studio the night before her Spring 2023 show Cecilie Bahnsen and her team wondered about the weather. The forecast for all of Paris Fashion Week was rain, but she planned to show outside, in a courtyard at the Cour Mansart Monnaie, regardless. If it rained, they reasoned, it would be on the theme. The collection is entitled “We Are Water”, inspired by an old Yoko Ono installation with a series of water-filled bottles, each with the name of a famous figure (Sylvia Plath, Cindy Sherman, David Bowie). “It so beautifully expresses something that I feel is true – that we are all the same, just placed in different containers,” the designer wrote in his show notes.
Back in the studio, she showed me a beautiful blue silk dress that had been strategically shredded throughout, giving it a texture reminiscent of ripples in liquid.
“It reminds me of when you throw a stone into the water,” she explains. In the show, it was styled over a knit T-shirt in similar shades, black socks and Asics customized with floral appliqués upcycled from a previous collection.
When I arrived, I found Bahnsen – a typical dirty-blonde, petite Copenhagen “cool girl” – in one of her signature white, voluminous (but light as air), puff-sleeved dresses, thrown on over pants and sneakers, nervously braided and unbraided her perfectly untidy, dirty hair. I assumed she was just trying on a sample, but no, it was just her outfit. There was something radical about treating such a precious, beautifully constructed (not to mention expensive) piece so casually, as if she had casually picked it up off the floor and thrown it on. In past shows, she might style her puffy, bow-adorned, hyper-feminine dresses and skirts with flats and/or minimalist sweaters, but for Spring 2023, she leaned into a more utilitarian way of dressing, inspired by the way she and her on. employees wear the brand.
“We wear all the dresses with jeans or with a denim jacket over it. It’s really like this masculine counterpoint to the femininity and also really speaks to this Scandinavian way of dressing, like this effortless, kind of playful, not too precious way of putting your things together,” she explains. This was more than just a styling decision: Bahnsen is expanding its offering to include more everyday pieces, including denim and a range of delicately knit T-shirts and tanks. She also introduced a collaboration with British heritage brand Macintosh on outerwear (also very practical given the weather forecast) roomy enough to accommodate her billowing sleeves and her first sneakers, done in collaboration with Asics.
“We are so well known for dresses. So it’s really nice to now also introduce, like this denim jacket, the trousers and the outerwear,” she says. “I’m really building the collection.”
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This practical approach to styling did not detract from the exceptional craftsmanship of her dresses. Bahnsen put much of his focus on the way the dresses would move, creating each (often asymmetrical) silhouette right on the dress rack, transferring it directly from the rack to the fitting model. For her, this compilation is representative of her brand’s evolution since she began showing in Paris last season.
“Paris, for me, has such a romance about it and it’s where I started my career – I worked for Galliano before – seeing the craftsmanship in the atelier.” she explains. “For me, that’s also why it’s like a dream come true here now. But then you pair it with this effortless Danish way of wearing it. It has to be practical and it has to be comfortable, but also take something couture and precious, but make it something that you just want to make a part of your everyday life and that you will love and you will wear it on a Monday as well as to a party… So you can well mix the two, right?”
Bahnsen’s dedication to sustainability is also very Scandinavian. Her first denim collection will be produced locally without dyes and many elements of the collection are upcycled.
“It’s something like this where you don’t start from a blank canvas, but you work with what you have,” she says. “I think it really gives an individuality to the collection a new twist.”
With his latest collection, Bahnsen continues to build his business and a name for himself. Among Paris’ uniquely formidable mix of established and vibrant emerging designers, she refines her craft while bringing it all back down to earth—reminding us that in the end, we’re all just water. (And yes, it ended up raining.)
See every look from Cecilie Bahnsen’s spring 2023 collection in the gallery below.