As a writer, blogger and editor, I have the luxury of working anywhere in the world with a strong wi-fi connection. As a fashion designer and long time lover of unique style and fashion perspectives other than my own, this freedom affords me the opportunity to travel and experience life from another perspective now and then. This week, I am comfortably situated at a cozy cafe in Copenhagen with the first latté of my day on my right and a roll topped with pumpkin seeds on my left. The other day a friend asked what I will miss most when I leave Copenhagen and the answer may very likely be this indescribably delicious roll topped with pumpkin seeds – soft, yummy with a little bit of crunch and always served with butter.
Coming in at a close second of the things I will miss here in Copenhagen is the hygge lifestyle Danes embrace. “Hygge” is a word, or to the Danes, a concept that most closely translates in English to “cozy.” On the surface, this cozy concept appears as tapers lit each evening at cafés and coffee shops, bars and restaurants. Danes describe a checkered blanket and a packed picnic by the beach as a hygge event. As an outsider experiencing hygge treats each day while I am here, I’ve noticed that this concept permeates all facets of life in Copenhagen – including everything from city planning to topics of conversation to of course, fashion.
When I am immersed in another culture, I often find myself asking “Why?” more times than those I meet would probably care to answer. For example, “Why does everyone bike everywhere in Copenhagen? Why does everyone seem to be finished with their work day at 3 pm? Why do new moms leave their sleeping babies outside stores while they shop? Why is every interior so beautifully designed? Why does androgynous style dominate here? Why does everyone speak Danish and English? Why does everyone look so natural, healthy and happy?”
The answers I receive always come with a hygge-spin. Biking is good for the environment and for your health, therefore, the city comes complete with well-designed bike lanes, making biking the easiest, most efficient way to get from here to there. Danes value a work life balance. Their leisure is just as important as their career path (and this goes for those who work in fashion as well). Copenhagen is a very safe place where men, women and children are treated with equal respect and care. Danes excel at simplistic, minimalist, beautiful design both in interiors and fashion. It’s no wonder Danes look so natural, healthy and happy.
It’s also no wonder that Copenhagen recently hosted a fashion summit dedicated to sustainability. Key fashion players from Nike and H&M shared their efforts to create a more sustainable fashion industry. Young designers were awarded for their innovative designs based in sustainability and the future of sustainability in fashion was discussed. While living like a local here in Copenhagen, I’ve noticed that a unique vintage find is more highly regarded than a brand new “it” bag. I’ve also noticed that Danes are more willing to spend on smart, sustainable, locally-based design. Finally, just as Danes are taught to speak in both Danish and English, Danes exhibit a local pride in conjunction with a global awareness – a mindset I think is necessary in making informed, sustainable decisions as both designers and consumers of fashion.
As an American, my experience here has given me new hope about my role in the fashion industry. With quick success as the winner of Fashion Star in 2012, and the “more, more, more” mentality that followed, I found myself overwhelmed and thinking that I had earned a lifestyle that I had not bargained for, nor could I sustain. In Copenhagen, I have been able to experience a hygge lifestyle that includes not only a more sustainable philosophy on fashion and design, but also a more sustainable way of living a well-balanced life.
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