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iStyle: The designer is making a killing

Malene Birger is one of Denmark’s (other) greatest exports – and she’s celebrating 10 years in the business. By Harriet Walker
  • @harrywalker1

At the Royal Danish Theatre in Copenhagen, the designer Malene Birger is preparing for her 10th anniversary show. “There are so many expectations, we know everybody here. The nerves don’t go away,” she says.

This, despite having been named by the Danish Crown Princess as the best designer in a country that holds increasing sway in the global fashion industry and has something of a stranglehold on British consciousness.

Several icons of that culture-crush are fans of the brand – Sofie Grabol of The Killing, as well as Sidse Babett Knudsen and Birgitte Hjort Sorensen from Borgen, who attended the show and after-party – but Birger’s popularity pre-dates this zeitgeist.

She began her career at the Swedish clothing brand Marc O’Polo in the early Nineties and in 1997 co-founded the label Day Birger et Mikkelsen. Six years later, she set off on her own to launch By Malene Birger, a more honed vision of modern femininity, with signatures that include slouchy tailoring, eclectic print and pattern, bold use of colour but also an emphasis on monochrome.

“It’s the same values,” she says of the label in its 10th year. “I stick to my gut feeling and I don’t compromise, I don’t like that. I want to do new things.”

Ahead of her autumn 2013 show, Birger cites her references as “black and white, Arabian architecture and the universe” and the audience in the theatre can read those in a focus on men’s tailoring, symmetry and photo prints on ties and scarves.

“My whole life, it seems like the answers have come to me,” she smiles. “I don’t like to push things on people if they don’t like it... I like to be honest – my catchphrase is ‘cut the crap’.”

After the show, By Malene Birger hosts a party at which Birger herself DJs, moving to her own rhythm – just as she has done for most of her career.