The Sustainable Choices of Cecilie Bahnsen

March 1, 2021

Cecilie Bahnsen is a Danish womenswear designer of the namesake brand, Cecilie Bahnsen. With an MA from the Royal College of Art, London, and after working for some of the best international brands, she launched her label in 2015. As new and rising voice in fashion, she was awarded the distinguished DANSK Design Talent Award in 2016 and was a finalist for the LVMH Prize in 2017. Cecilie draws inspiration from traditional techniques and uses them in new and exploratory ways. Her simple and feminine silhouettes work as canvases for delicate embroidery and fabric combinations that underline an understanding of structure, artwork and craftsmanship. Cecilie’s elegant and effortless pieces show a love for playing with layering of transparent and opaque materials, resulting in a modern yet alluring look.

What does sustainability mean to you?

Simply put, sustainability is the consideration and thoughtfulness for the way we design and produce, as well as the way we work daily and choose collaborations that are true to our values.

Why does sustainability matter to you?

Since launching the brand, I have always cared for the creation and the history of each garment, as I think the beauty of good design lies in the look, the quality, and the considered process.

Why do you think we are only giving more attention to sustainability now?

We can all learn and improve the way we work and develop sustainably. It comes very unnatural for the fashion industry to share information and learnings, but I think we need to come together for the industry to make real change.

How has your approach to sustainability evolved in the past year?

I think going through this pandemic has allowed time for designers, including myself, to slow down; to take a step back and really consider what and how much we’re creating. It has highlighted a number of elements that will have quite a big effect on our future – sustainability being among the most significant.

How do you remain engaged or environmentally aware in your personal life?

You can´t do everything, but everyone can do something. This is my daily motto and a gentle reminder to myself: to make better conscious decisions; shopping eco-conscious; buying more vintage; avoiding non-biodegradable materials; re-using instead of buying new; over-wearing oversharing and dividing waste – all of this is a natural part of my every day.

 How can we produce more responsibly?

Sometimes it takes a bit of creative thinking and turning the industry norms upside down, but there are many ways to produce more responsibly. It’s about keeping “responsibilities” as a soft thought running through your head during every step of the way, not looking at it as a constraint. If you think about it in a circular way, we start by working with craftspeople in Europe, preserving traditions and techniques that have been held in communities for centuries. All of our fabrics originate here. We keep every scrap of fabric as they are too precious to throw away. This is how our upcycled concept Encore was started: utilizing deadstock fabric to create limited edition upcycled pieces exclusive to ceciliebahnsen.com. It´s the idea in mind that our pieces are to be cherished and passed on, a modern-day heirloom.

This spring, we are introducing a collection called Edition: staple Cecilie Bahnsen pieces that encapsulate the brand. Each item in the collection will come with a QR code revealing its journey and details of the craftsmanship involved in the making. This is a way for us to be transparent from the fabric to finished garment at every step along the way.

For FW21, we will also be rolling out a pre-order model as part of our responsibility strategy. By offering this service to our community we can estimate how many pieces of each style we are going to sell, allowing us to plan and create exact quantities. The pre-order process helps us to minimize waste and mindfully plan our production to empower and support the groups of people we work with: partners, suppliers, and customers.

How can we consume more responsibly?

It’s really just about making the decision to care. As individuals, we need to take responsibility for our daily choices. We must commit to buying less; investing in quality pieces that last; and most importantly, spending the time and doing research, which also means paying close attention to how brands commit to ethical and sustainable practices. Quality over quantity. Always.

How might sustainable materials and fabrics influence or direct future fashion design?

As a designer and a creative being, you have to design with what you have, no longer with the antiquated notion that you have to start anew from a blank canvas. This process will be challenging, but also inspiring and rewarding.

 Does ‘sustainable fashion’ have an aesthetic and is this changing?

I don’t think sustainable fashion has one aesthetic, and that is the beauty of it. The creative process and a brand’s design aesthetic is not limited by sustainability. I think and hope that in the future. sustainable choices and workflows will be a natural and needed part of every design company.

In what ways have you seen the industry already improving?

I believe brands are adapting their business models and improving their supply chains to reduce overall environmental impacts. We are also seeing a growing awareness among consumers. All strategies promoting more environmentally, socially and ethically conscious production and consumption are important steps towards becoming a more sustainable industry.

In what ways could the industry be doing better?

At Cecilie Bahnsen, we are striving towards implementing different initiatives to reduce waste and challenge the industry’s over-production. We want to be part of the solution not the problem. This past year, and starting with SS21 we decided to reduce to two collections a year, stepping away from pre-collections. The two main collections will be delivered in drops true to the season.

Who are your sustainability role models?

Eva Kruse comes to mind. Along with the Global Fashion Agenda, she has mobilized the fashion system to change the way we produce and market fashion. She has managed to get the fashion industry to not only collaborate, but share input and knowledge on working sustainably, pushing us all to not only be truthful to our word, but exceeding it in our actions.

What is one change in practice that you are proud to share?

In addition to changing our whole business model and reducing our collections to two per year, I hold Encore very dear to my heart. We first launched the collection in June 2020 and continue to launch new capsules when it feels right. It feels freeing to not be dictated by a fashion calendar, but rather my designs, ideas, and love for bringing life to archive fabrics and creating timeless collectable items. I hope this small collection brings new inspirations to our audience without over-producing. It is a very organic process, and very flexible, so it can change each season to fit the mood and of course the amount of fabric we have to work with.

What is one change in practice that you would like to make?

For now, I’d like to continue to design pieces that I love and that have a purpose.

What is one change all of us could be doing right now?

Be mindful and be informed. Small changes can make a huge difference. My favorite impact-minimizing tactic is to borrow, lend and share.

What gives you hope right now?

My baby boy and that the next generations; curiosity and demand for conscious design.

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