Emerging Capitals: Up and Coming European Fashion Cities

14 Oct , 2019

written by Lizzie Vince.


The big four fashion capitals, yes you can probably guess, unless you’ve been living under an unfashionable rock, London, New York, Paris and Milan. But here’s the thing, the global fashion scene is in an intriguing state of flux with emerging markets challenging the dominance of the mighty four pillars.

Forcing the fashion industry, and ourselves, to ask a big question: is it time to redraw the world's fashion map?


Ones to Watch
fashion capital of Scandinavia
the new capital of everyday fashion
definitely making its stamp on the global fashion map
cultural scene is in the process of being created
most undervalued fashion capital of Europe
1st fashion week in Eastern Europe
one to watch closely


 the pared back elegance of “Scandi-chic” – mainstay of Danish interior design – is now making its mark on the fashion scene 

Copenhagen Fashion Week 
Copenhagen is the fashion capital  of Scandinavia, as its stylish  inhabitants show every day.  Clothing plays an important role in  the lives of the Copenhageners,  who brave the cool climate in the  most beautiful and warmest  creations. In addition to this, Copenhagen’s twice-yearly fashion week has become the largest industry event in Northern Europe and a showcase for designers from neighbouring Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland and elsewhere. It only takes casually wandering the streets of Denmark’s capital city for it to become immediately apparent why Copenhagen is considered an emerging fashion destination. With a minimalist, practical style and a muted colour pallet, the effortless elegance and sophistication of the Danish men and women makes them look as if they have stepped right out of the pages of Vogue. Copenhagen continues to entice the eyes of the fashion press towards Scandinavian shores, where street style is renowned. This said, a number of Danish labels are emerging as competitors on a global scale – Malene Birger and Ivan Grundahl, also our very own  HUNKØN is among them. Copenhagen impressively boasts the longest pedestrian shopping street in Europe and some 47 percent of the Danes said that Copenhagen was the top Nordic fashion city – an opinion shared by the Norwegians (32 percent). Both the Swedes (37 percent) and Finns (38 percent) voted their own capitals number one. Interestingly, an annual ranking of the leading fashion capitals produced by Global Language Monitor, a US-based company that tracks trends through language use worldwide, saw Copenhagen as the leading fashion capital of the world. The Danish fashion industry is flourishing like never before and there are countless successful designers for you to discover. Famous names include InWear, Huset Sand and ONLY. Even more exciting are the smaller fashion houses conquering the world from their base in Copenhagen.


an established leader in design, Stockholm’s fashion community is clued into the hottest style trends, with an effortless aesthetic   


Leopard print coat for ss19 Stockholm Fashion Week
Stockholm is counted as an incubator for the Swedish designers to innovate, and it hasn't taken very long for the city to establish itself as one of the most prolific fashion locations in Europe. Stockholm Fashion Week, which celebrated its 17th anniversary last week, has often failed to attract the buzz surrounding the four fashion capitals (New York, London, Milan and Paris). But this season, sub-zero temperatures didn’t put off the fashion pack and buyers from Harvey Nichols to Fenwick were in the front row. ‘It wasn’t that long ago that hardly anyone was paying attention to fashion week here in Stockholm,’ Carl Malmgren, denim designer at Cheap Monday, tells backstage at the label’s show. The success of brands such as Acne has played a large part in pushing Stockholm into the spotlight, says Roland Hjort, co-founder of Swedish fashion label Whyred, as has the proliferation of blogs such as fashion magazine Styleby Elin Kling and Stockholm Streetstyle. But the biggest catalyst has been the recession. In the face of financial instability, the quality, pared-back aesthetic of the Swedes has resonated with women and helped send fashion in a different direction to the excesses of the past. If there’s a fashion week that has a real bearing on a woman’s everyday wardrobe, it’s Stockholm. ‘A lot of brands are brilliant at doing spectacular things but we’re good at doing things that are well made and wearable but still with that fashion appeal,’ says Filippa K designer Nina Bogstedt. Needless to say, the effortless street style that Stockholm is so famous for is not about one look in particular, nor is it about wearing certain labels or brands.

a hidden gem when it comes to Scandinavian design and new innovative brands

     Oslo Fashion Week Girls in Statement Outerwear

Contrary to popular belief, Norway isn’t covered in a perpetual blanket of snow, nor do polar bears walk through the streets – but the fashion does tend to be practical and warm! With up-and-coming fashion labels such as JohnnyLove and Mardou & Dean reinventing practical and minimalist dressing, Norway is definitely on the rise within the fashion world. Norwegians are also changing the way they shop, and are indeed overtaking Sweden and Denmark when it comes to online shopping. More than 50% of Norwegians shop online with 40% shopping online for fashion. Norway also has the highest amount of people shopping via their mobile devices (25%, topmost amongst the Nordic countries). Though this beautiful country has more to offer than just Oslo, Norway’s capital is undeniably the center for design, shopping, bloggers and fashion publishing. From the tourist-filled streets of Karl Johan to hipster-central Grünerløkka, Oslo is the place to shop. If Copenhagen Fashion Week left you craving more Scandi style inspiration then you’re in luck as Oslo Fashion Week comes next on the fashion schedule. Where the Danish capital’s warm weather brought out the sunniest of styles, the Norwegian capital is just that bit cooler – both temperature-wise and sartorially speaking. Cue lightweight coatsplaid, wipe-clean vinyl and pastel shades are firm favourites, as well as the perennial leather jacket. If there is one styling trick to take away though, it is the power of contrasting colours, particularly when it comes to accessories. An emerald green bag pops against a pale pink trench; a burnt orange clutch lifts a burgundy silk skirt; and Balenciaga’s floral-printed knife booties add a frisky twist to a mango yellow dress. 

an influx of design talent is breaking the mould with unconventional post-Soviet flair

     Kiev Fashion Week Street Style Bold Colourful Print jacket

Kiev has gained international attention with a new wave of talent, most notably fashion’s golden boy, Demna Gvasalia, creative head of Vêtements and Balenciaga. Today, Kiev is changing rapidly to welcome increasing numbers of visitors and gravitating more towards Europe and the West. At the same time, the search for Ukrainian identity is becoming ever more crucial among its creatives. Ukraine’s new cultural scene is still in the process of being created, and fashion designers, photographers and artists are in it together. But in times when the fashion world is driven by image like never before, it’s also about having a shared vision. With the rise of youth culture and the enviable independent rave scene in Kiev, designers like Anton Belinskiy, Yulia Yefimtchuk and Sasha Kanevski are trying to channel this energy into their collections. Kiev street style, influenced by the diversity of the design scene and its emerging youth culture, is always vibrant. Vintage leather pieces and shoes are often mixed with colourful Nineties sportswear and garments produced by local designers. Despite the fact that most designers produce womenswear, brands like Subrosa and Sasha Kanevski promote unisex and complete freedom in what to wear and how to style it, both for men and women. The DIY spirit here is always on the rise: they make it up as they go along, and that’s exactly how they’re used to doing it, both in fashion and in life. Fashion events such as the Ukrainian Fashion Week and Kiev Fashion Days, as well as a surge of locally produced magazines such as L'Officiel Ukraine, Vogue Ukraine, and Elle Ukraine - have all positively contributed to the steady rise of Kiev on the global fashion map.

 many European cities claim to be cool but Berlin doesn’t even have to try


When cutting edge fashion, world-class nightlife and out-there art come together, the result is a creative wonderland. Fashion photographer Marija Mihailova says, “throw away the guide book, take a walk through the streets of Berlin and breathe it all in. You’ll find style inspiration everywhere you look.” Berlin is a shapeshifter. The neon colours of the 90s rave circuit, the leather and rubber of the 2000s queer sex scene, the current decade-long reign of Angela Merkel’s power suits. As the city searches for a new place on the global fashion map, it is enjoying its emergence as a capital of digital, defining the ways luxury is perceived in the nanotech age – less glitz and more zeitgeist relevance, high-tech and always cutting edge. Leave the communist era memorabilia to history enthusiasts. Welcome to Berlin 2.0: the champion of new cool. Today Germany is Europe’s biggest fashion retail market where even fast fashion giants such as H&M and Zara make an impressive turnover of over 40 billion euros per year. There are the German Fashion Council, several hefty prizes to nourish upcoming talent, several major platforms for fashion, beauty and lifestyle shows, trade fairs like PREMIUM and ETHICAL with their educational sidebars, and the Mercedes-Benz (naturally!) Fashion Week held twice a year in July and January at the start of the global industry runway calendar. In July 2009, Berlin finally managed to become Germany’s fashion capital: Bread & Butter returned from Barcelona where it succeeded in establishing its status as the world’s most important fashion show in its segment. Only a few years ago, it was inconceivable that Berlin would one day become Germany’s fashion capital. Everything seemed possible after the wall opening in 1989, when creative minds from all over the world streamed into the city in search of freedom. Berlin feels different. It dresses differently, too.

the contemporary Belgrade fashion scene has something to offer to everybody    

 Serbian Fashion

You might already know Roksanda Ilincic, one of the country's most famous fashion exports currently taking London by storm, but we'd like to introduce you to the works of Ana Ljubinkovic, Budislava Kekovic and Aleksandra Lalic. These three women caught my attention, with their unique perspectives, compelling craftsmanship and an all-around excellent attention to fabrication. You may visit this city for its rich fusion of European architecture, but you'll leave having fallen in love with its people, its food (which is usually always organic), its celebrated club scene and it's small but fervent fashion community—only visit the Belgrade Design District and you'll discover why this city more than deserves a mention on this list. The Serbian capital has seen an increase in cool streetwear labels that are inspiring, creative, and unique. They promote sustainability, durability, innovation, and local ideas and styles. From clean cuts and timeless simplicity to more extravagant and in-your-face designs and prints, the contemporary Belgrade fashion scene has something to offer to everybody. This is nothing new, though. The Belgrade Fashion Week, for example, was the first fashion week in Eastern Europe to be hosted on a regular basis, and has been showcasing Serbian designers and brands since 1996. While you may be familiar with more household names such as Roksanda Ilinčić, a now London-based designer from Belgrade, and the late Boris Nikolić, during a stay in the Serbian capital this summer, Post Pravda discovered an exciting new scene of young, ambitious, and status quo challenging designers.

as a city with a population of 12 million people, it possesses immense potential for global fashion success     


It’s not only Berlin that hosts a Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week but Moscow too. At its core, MBFW Russia is focused on fortifying Russian talent, but it is also big on supporting international designers. This season included special international showcases with designers from  Africa and Kazakhstan. In the past, guest designers have been invited from China and Indonesia as well. In fact, such household names as Jeremy Scott and Vivienne Westwood have previously shown in Russia. To those outside of Moscow, it might seem like Russia’s fashion scene has just begun, and in some respects, it has. It’s important to remember that the Soviet Union dissolved in December 1991, less than 30 years ago. In the early 1900s, Russia didn’t have someone like Coco Chanel, Cristobal Balenciaga, or Christian Dior leading its fashion industry. Many of the designers on the Russian calendar today started their journey not long ago — some in the early 2000s, others just recently. In fact, 2004 is when Russia’s first fashion week launched. At the time, “we invited just 17 designers,” Alexander Shumsky, president of the Russian Fashion Council, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. He explains that the shows were set up in tents similar to those at New York’s Bryant Park, centered in Moscow’s iconic Red Square, home to St. Basil’s Cathedral and the historic GUM shopping center and near the Kremlin. Now, the shows are held at the Manege in Moscow’s Design Museum. But to say that Moscow is the next fashion capital right now is a bit premature, although it’s certainly one to watch closely.

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