Han Kjøbenhavn – Interview

Words: Catherine McPhee

From little things, big things grow. Granted, when Vincent Lingiari spoke these words their weight was rooted in a political, social and economic stoush.  It may be hard to imagine the connection between a lands right movement and a Danish design label, but the story of Han Kjøbenhavn is a total example of the triumph of Vincent’s words: with one idea, one can dream a bigger future.

Act one of this story starts in Copenhagen, 2008.  Jannik Davidsen and Tim Hancock design three basic sunglass shapes.  Simple in design, the styles touch a fashion nerve, where quality, price and style infer Copenhagen cool, but with a universal appeal.  Riding on a wave of local and international success, three styles became four, became more.  Quite soon after, what started as a statement in frames led to an idea that framed the entire body.

The idea to jump from the face to the body is quite clearly a linear progression, though perhaps achieved far more quickly than one would expect from a sunglass brand.  Try and wrack the brain for any other label that can claim a similar fate and the mind will draw a blank.  Says Jannik, “We started designing eyewear because of our interest in furniture design and architecture; functional objects created from lines, the use of space and materials, and objects that can become iconic and timeless if you do it well enough”.   In the process of said eyewear design, ideas for clothing aptly followed.  But it was a lack of finance, rather than lack of wont, that stalled the collection, which eventually kickstarted with an AW10 collection. “For us, (doing a clothing line) it’s a pretty organic process. We do everything from a point of interest and then we let the creativity dictate what to do with it and how to execute it”.

Each season is centred around classic Danish elements.  Agreed, the clothing had its beginnings in workwear, and the fact the boys spell Copenhagen in the traditional way, with it’s unique “jø” combination, is not lost on the heritage aspect of the Han’s overall aesethetic.  But fast forward from AW10 and you will notice the focus lies more in craftmanship and quality, instead of getting caught in the tidal wave of a workwear trend.  With a keen and subtle eye the collections have evolved and fixated towards the technical elements of design.

“There is only so much you can do with silhouettes if you want it to be wearable. Thats why much of the creativity lies within the choice of material and artworks.  The great thing about technical fabric is that it serves a purpose, which is important when you design with functionality in mind.  Which we do”.

Sensing something in the wind, or something more succinct, the next chapter of this story finds us on the streets of New York.  27 Prince Street is Han Kjøbenhavn’s Danish home-away-from-home, settled in the Soho district.  Having opened their eponymous boutique in central Copenhagen only a year earlier, itchy feet, a healthy balance sheet and a State-side fan base encouraged another seemingly straight path, albeit across the Atlantic.  One thing that becomes noticeable about Han Kjøbenhavn is their unwavering ability to take risks.  Though the financial crisis looks to be be a fading image in the rear view mirror, it’s still an argument for people to act conservatively, whether it be as a business owner, consumer or producer.  But for Han, opening a New York store is more an act of benevolence than bravado.

“New York was the first city to really embrace our brand. We have so many online sales to New York as well as followers on our social media platforms. When we have such a strong support in New York, the least we could do was to open our first foreign store there and let people get even closer to Han Kjøbenhavn”.  The link between the sunglasses, the stores and the sartorial elements is Hans Kjøbenhavn’s classic Danish expression, each exerting details akin to minimalism and reflecting something clean and concise.

The third act of this story is yet to be written, though if Jannik and Tim could pen a chapter or three more, there would be more collaborations and more stores and more success. Riding off the back of a Pendleton colab, a capsule collection of Nordic inspired graphics, and a summer catwalk show energised by sport, it hints to possible future scenarios for the label.  “We are aiming to open a new store each year – at least for the next couple of years. We are looking into Tokyo and Paris at the moment, and will try to make that happen within the next two years.  We have a pretty interesting year coming up, (with) lots of good collaborations with talented people.  And we will keep developing our short films and pushing our fashion shows as far as we can”.  The future looks very big indeed for the boys of Kjøbenhavn.