Vain, Tuesday 8. August 2023 at 16.00, Refshalevej 177A, 1432 Copenhagen
In a world where the internet and social media links us across the whole planet within seconds, there is a very real danger of a loss of both personal and national identity with brands becoming increasingly international and therefore homogenous and bland. Finnish label Vain – showing for the first time in Copenhagen Fashion Week – seem to be determined not to be caught in that (world wide) web but instead celebrate exactly who they are. Under the creative leadership of the wonderfully named Jimi Vain, the company has a zoomer grasp of viral marketing matched with a deep sense of place. With aesthetics that combine folklore, melancholia, heavy metal and sustainability, they could not be more Finnish. All we missed was a Moomintroll.
In the absence of a deep dark forest, Vain opted to show in a paintball arena (mercifully free from bachelor parties), in the industrial Refshaløen area, for a more post-apocalyptic slant on gothic romance. Modelled by a wide selection of friends and family, the presentation, set to thumping techno music and walked at break neck speed, had all the trappings of moody angst but a sense of ironic humour was also evident. In fact this had been hinted at in the title of the collection – ‘Social Avoidance’ is definitely a name that raises an eyebrow coming from a label that has made its name through social media.
A preponderance of black shroud shapes added a sense of drama – especially in flowing capes or some surprisingly elegant puffball dresses. Garments were sliced open and partly reconstructed, Frankenstein-like, with zips or silver rings – a technique that was sometimes lumpy on shirts but worked well on knits. A frock coat had classic appeal that hinted at funerals but, with identity tags hanging from the waist, also felt modern. Vain seemed very keen that we don’t revert to screen tapping whilst wearing his clothes – arms were strapped firmly to the sides of a leather jacket, gloves were fused together and the sleeves of a ecru denim jacket were zipped at the cuffs to create one long, hands-free tube. This was strictly enforced social avoidance for sure – no hand shakes in Helsinki this season. But amongst the messaging and the severity, Vain threw in flashes of levity and love. A heart (an unofficial logo for the brand) appeared as a cut-out in a long jersey skirt and a cute bow in silver made an unexpected belt buckle. Clearly there is a twinkle in the eye behind that veneer of gloom.
See a selection of the show looks below and see the entire collection here.