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A new direction for By Malene Birger

New creative director Mathilde Torp Mader introduces her vision for Danish womenswear brand By Malene Birger with collection for autumn 18.

February’s Copenhagen Fashion Week saw Mathilde Torp Mader, the new creative director of Danish womenswear brand By Malene Birger, make her official debut.

Born in Denmark, Torp Mader graduated from London’s Central Saint Martins in 2006 and worked on the design teams at Mulberry, Marni and Sonia Rykiel before taking the creative reins at By Malene Birger in August 2017.

Founded in 2003 by Malene Birger, the brand was one of the original Scandi labels that bought a dose of contemporary Copenhagen cool to international shores. In addition to its UK store on London’s Marylebone High Street, stockists include Net-a-Porter, Harvey Nichols and Flannels.

For autumn 18, Torp Mader has added a fashion-focused twist to the brand’s signature aesthetic of grown-up, pared-back simplicity. Quality staples have a sense of personality via off-beat colour combinations, prints and textures, giving it a fresher, more contemporary feel.

Wholesale prices range from £61 for shirts to £700 for outerwear.

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What have you brought to the role?

I’ve worked with some amazing women over the past 17 years and I’ve learned a lot: a love of colours, an understanding of shapes, how clothes are an extension of who you are, how a design process works best. These are all the essence of who I am as a designer, and definitely something I’m bringing with me. 

Tell us about your debut autumn 18 collection

The collection started with outerwear and the key inspiration was the skiwear of the 1960s. I thought it was interesting to turn these glamorous and colourful ski suits into wearable, chic outerwear, because I had to combine form and function to make it work. Everything in the collection has both form and function. Obviously, it has to be well designed, but I want it to be practical as well.

You will also find inspiration from the 1930s, especially in the more feminine part of the collection, such as the beautiful evening gowns, and also the shoes and belts that have references to 1930s soirées.

What are buyers drawn to?

An Italian wool-blend coat with tiers of dark chocolate trim in Spanish shearling; the hand-crocheted sweater in a soft off-white wool in a hole lace pattern; a navy-blue cable knit in an Italian alpaca wool blend with an asymmetrical hem; and a shearling coat in a generous cut and a graphic appearance.

What are your favourite pieces?

Probably one of the coats. They combine form and function perfectly. I’m also really into a black draped feminine dress, because it is a modern take on a classic.

How would you like to evolve the brand?

I hope to give it more of a contemporary touch and feel. Not just in the collections but everything – the visual expression, tone of voice, the shops and the website. I want to make it relevant to all women, so it is the go-to brand when updating your wardrobe.

Instead of a traditional catwalk show, why did you decide to present your first collection at Copenhagen Fashion Week digitally?

I never intended to do a show for my first collection. By Malene Birger had been doing shows for so long, so I wanted to do something totally different to indicate a new direction.

That’s when the idea of a digital presentation appeared. Here, we had a chance to not only display some of the best parts of the collection, but also slightly introduce the new By Malene Birger universe to our guests. I wanted to do something that surprised a bit – the aesthetic was cleaner, the music was much more contemporary, the collection offered something new and the models had a new visual expression. Every little detail told something about where we are headed.

Will this continue?

Next season, we will probably go back to a traditional runway show, but who knows what we will do in the future. The fashion landscape is changing and we will all have to follow along.



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