As Copenhagen Fashion Week SS 13 cycles up today for its 6 day spin, TI's spotlight swings towards 2pm, The Copenhagen based management company founded in 1999 by Peter Damgaard and Michelle Jensen. On my visit earlier this summer I had wound my way to the courtyard offices of 2pm and found it an oasis of thoughtfulness crossed with great taste. During an al fresco lunch with Peter and his team of managers I was struck by the entirely holistic bent of 2pm's enterprise. There was something clean and fresh and modern in the merger of commerce and conscience that struck me as being so timely as to signal a future way of managing the new ideas emerging around fashion itself. After 10 years of being completely entrenched in the New York City way of model management, I was really moved by the display of critical intelligence welling up on a mother agent level. The true story, as Peter communicated , was not centralized, but thoroughly globalized and as such I followed up a few weeks later with the lingering questions our initial meeting triggered. This is what Mr Damgaard had to say.
You define 2pm as a "fashion intelligence-driven agency". Can you break this interesting idea down a little bit please?
To me intelligence is awareness and responsibility. It’s not enough just to think about the fee we make, we want to be proactive and responsible for what we in fashion put out and how it is received, whether it is the beauty ideal or how we treat our planet.
We have great power and we work in an industry that is beautiful, creative, fun but it can also be very ignorant and damaging.
The textile industry is in top three when it comes to polluting our planet. One T-shirt takes about 2000 liters (530 Gallons) of water from the cotton fields to the store shelves to make.
The amount of young people suffering from eating disorders is alarmingly rising and young girls are influenced from very little by perfectly skinny mums complaining about their own weight.
New sizes are now 0, 1 and 2 even though there is no zero’s to be found on any international conversion chart.
Since the supermodels the size and age of the models has tumbled down. We (the modeling agencies) have ironically put ourselves in a place dictated by designers and casting agents where our models are of no importance. We are in a frenzy of competition to find hundreds of models who are young enough and skinny enough in the hope that a few of them will ‘make it’ for more than one season. These are very young people that we recruit and promise the world and we must take care of them as much as we need to rethink the way we do business.
I sometimes get the feeling that fashion creatives do campaigns that only reach out to themselves and their own vision. An interesting study that psychologists from Appearance Research Center in Bristol did, shows that when women in the age 18-25 are shown advertising featuring ultra skinny and young girls they would have found them more attractive if the models had been more naturally fit and also expressed more maturity. That raises the question again, who are the designers designing for? Certainly not for the consumers that can afford buying their clothes.
One of the admirable things about 2pm is the way it combines ethics with aesthetics. Do you feel like consciousness , whether environmental or simply moral will become widespread in our industry?
Oh yes indeed and it has to. Not only for the fashion world per se, but because fashion has the power to change our behavior in so many other aspects. If it becomes fashionable to buy sustainable clothes, it will soon become just as fashionable to buy sustainable cars, fridges, food, whatever. Fashion has the power to start fundamental changes.
Just a few months ago Copenhagen Fashion Summit was held as part of the Nordic Initiative, Clean and Ethical (NICE / www.nicefashion.org ), a joint commitment by the Nordic fashion industry to take a lead on social and environmental issues.
This Summit addressed the challenge of how to engage consumers in sustainable fashion consumption – to turn “sustainable” into “fashionable” so to speak.
What is really encouraging is that the major players in the industry, media and politics are on board. Hence, Keynote speakers at the Summit included Helena Helmersson, head of Sustainability / H&M, Rossella Ravagli, Corporate Social and Environmental Responsibility Manager / Gucci, Holly Dublin, Special Adviser to the Chief Sustainability Officer (PPR), Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate.
Critics might say “hey – why blame consumers, the fashion industry needs to make this change, not people buying the products”. The answer is twofold. First, the industry cannot and will not change until consumers show they want to buy another product. Secondly, the environmental impact of a piece of clothing does not end at the production line. According to H&M, a company deeply engaged in this work, ironing, washing and cleaning, all processes taking place after the clothes are produced, imported, paid for and taken into use are estimated to account for about 40% of the total greenhouse gas emissions contained in a T-shirt or a pair of jeans. To compare, the production phase of cotton fibers ‘only’ stands for 18% of the emissions.
If more consumers were aware I’m sure we would think about these things and pick clothes that are made from other intelligent fibers or from companies already producing with awareness. So whatever course fashion decided to plot, it will have an enormous effect on people’s mindset and the way we act.
CNN covered the summit and can be seen on this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NCi14XMQoJw&feature=related
We are currently working on having a similar summit in regards to the beauty ideal within the next year or two. Addressing all the key players and getting people on board who have already taken certain initiatives, for example Vogue’s new Health Initiative that contains elements such as not using models under 16, only using models who appear to have a healthy body image. Also structuring mentoring programs, where more mature models are able to give advice and guidance to younger girls, raising industry-wide awareness through education, and finally encouraging designers to consider the consequences of unrealistically small sample sizes of their clothing, which limits the range of women who can be photographed in their clothes, and encourages the use of extremely thin models.
We need to highlight all the good decisions out there such as Inez and Vinoodh only using girls over 18 of age or that Centre of Sustainable Fashion in London in Cooperation with I-D magazine has launched a blog with pictures and essays to inspire sustainability and of course also the new Model Alliance founded by Sara Ziff etc.
In Denmark we have together with Danish Fashion Institute and National Association for eating disorder & self-harm back in 2007 launched an Ethical charter with the aim of improving models conditions and promoting a more natural beauty ideal.
And in contrast to Council of Fashion Designers America, we do not say that we recommend designers not to use girls under 16 years of age, we say not allowed to.
So if through a Summit we could gather all the key players that have influence on the beauty ideal we can raise more awareness and the new black will be a cooler new black than previously
Three years ago we started up 2PM Academy, the target being to educate the young models to get strong bodies and minds – ready to face life as it faces them – I want to give them a good start in life, should they succeed as models or not.
Nutritionists teach them not only the different ingredients your body need but also easy cooking and how to make a healthy snack to go. That way our models won’t end up with greasy fastfood or even worse not eating at all.
The models work with teenage coaches that address everything from motivation, self-esteem/confidence to insight and blueprint.
A trainer gives them good advice about how to use their own body weight to get strong and lean with exercises inspired from circuit training and crossfit and that can be done everywhere, also when travelling a lot.
We have our ’older’ models giving lectures from their experiences and good advice in how to cope and be professional when you are ’bought’ for the day.
In addition to the above we also have 2PM PLAY twice a week. It’s an offer to show up at the agency at 6pm where our trainer (educated in molecular physiology) takes us for an hour of outdoor training no matter what the weather all year around. It’s hardcore, it’s social and it’s fun.
At the moment I’m working on an educational blog that will combine all the above but also have a models log in where they can download the different recipes from the Academy, see the future workout days and get small exercise programs for holidays, travel etc.
It will also contain fashion history as they need to know where all these amazing big brands come from, how fashion the likes of Yves and Coco has played a big part in for example the liberation of women.
I think these kids will be the future and I, together with my incredible employees, am in the process of building an army of intelligent and aware ’Angelina Jolies’ to take over where the Supermodels came out of fashion. We can build our own icons.
As for the 2PM aesthetics, my motto is keep it simple, real and clean. It goes without saying that aesthetics are and always will be at the core of our business. But while the story of sustainable fashion needs to be written and spoken out loud, I like to believe that our look speaks for itself.
Your website discusses the rise in demand for an international image by Scandinavian clients. In your experience, how has this evidenced itself?
I was a model myself for almost 10 years and the last couple of years (this was back at the end of the 90’s) when I returned home for jobs I discovered that the fashion scene started to develop and change. Photographers and art directors started to look abroad, and booking locally was no longer enough. With my experience of traveling the world I found that this was a niche the Danish modeling agencies didn’t pursue and actually the main reason for me to start up an agency. I must have behaved well as all the international agencies that I worked for were very helpful in letting me represent a variety of great models and I started to convince clients that they could have their ‘own’ face representing their product and that all it took was airfare and hotel on top.
This was perfect timing, as not long after only having three fashion magazines, new designers became popular and started to do their own shows and within the first three years of 2PM we had seven fashion magazines and clients got used to fly models in from all over the world.
Today the Danish fashion scene with all the fairs, cool hip designers and Copenhagen Fashion Week has developed into an important scene that the world has got its eyes on.
Another thing that I quickly found out was that the Danish talents we should be scouting should have an international appeal. The local look didn’t go for the international fashion scene and more importantly it takes some to get some, meaning if we wanted to be able to get our clients the very best selection we needed to give something incredible back to the mother agents. For me it was crucial that I could have the very best so that I could offer the same as agencies abroad.
Here 13 years later we have had bookings on everybody from Kate, Giselle to Hollywood starlets and it has become the norm.
Copenhagen Fashion Week has gotten its fair spike because of the interest of the likes of Testino and V Magazine. How do you see that event and the Danish fashion market growing?
I met Mario in New York in 2003 as he was shooting my model Louise Pedersen and later same evening bumped into him again when I was having dinner with 10 of my Danish models I had in town. He came over and said ‘you are all so beautiful are you all Danish’? I asked him to come visit and he did. It was a great summer and Copenhagen is right by the sea and he told me that he found it to be a Scandinavian Brazil except for all the blondes
I guess he must have had a good time and seen something he liked as he has been back several times since.
Denmark has a long history of world renowned architects, furniture designers and now the new Nordic cuisine is very hip, so not a bad place to come and do jobs.
Stephen from V magazine came for a couple of days of vacation and found the scene and the professionalism of the Danes interesting, so he decided to come back for our fashion week to check out the designers and search for ideas. This became a fantastic window for Danish fashion to be shown in such a trendsetting amazing magazine as V.
In 2006 Danish Fashion Institute saw the light of day and has since worked hard on getting Copenhagen Fashion Week on the map by creating a platform for shows, designers and reputation. This has definitely had a big impact on the rising amounts of buyers, journalists and trend searchers. This August there will be even more brands exhibiting than previously. Last season we had 2.400 brands on the fairs and this time around there will be 2.706 brands so that’s more than Berlin, Stockholm, Milano and London only surpassed by Paris I’ve been informed.
I would like to see the future of Copenhagen fashion to be known as the epicenter of sustainability and in front when it comes to the search for new intelligent fabrics, if we can do that we would add value beyond aesthetics.
What is it about about the Danish taste point that creates an international appeal? Do you envisage there being a "Danish" movement the way there was a "Belgian" movement into fashion?
I think that the Antwerp Six is exceptional also because they left and showed their clothes in London and this was back in the late 80’s. So much has happened since then especially the fact that the internet became a new media to communicate with. It’s not that Danish designers haven’t shown in London, Paris and New York but the ’togetherness’ about promoting this special thing from one single country is way harder today. Also to me the majority of clothes coming from Denmark are more for everyday use than visionary art pieces.
When it comes to models, Denmark has been cutting edge for decades and still is. It’s quite unique for a country of five million people to create great models such as Renee Simonsen, Helena Christensen, Rie Rasmussen, May Andersen, Louise Pedesen, Freja Beha, the Hegelund sisters, Caroline Brasch, Josephine Skriver and now the newbies Nadja Bender, Juliane Grüner, Dorte Limkilde, Julier Bugge and Kirstin Liljegren…
The secret is very down to earth, however: It’s all about good and steady scoutwork, educating and nursing the models not to become delicate mimosas but to grow strong and beautiful. As long as we keep that tradition alive, we’ll continue being thoroughly searched by casters all year round.
What is the role of "celebrity" in the 2pm dynamic?
For me it isn’t enough being known for a pretty face, blogging or having a drug problem I believe that if you need to add value to a product you need a person that makes a positive difference in the world whether it’s giving children in Africa a second chance, fighting for a better climate or being a hell of a good artist with a story to tell. To be a celebrity with all it takes you have to be a role model.
I work very closely with Hollywood actress Connie Nielsen who is deeply involved with NGO work. She is a board member of the CSR foundation, Denmark, She hosted the Fashion summit both during the event in Copenhagen and in Rio during Rio+20 just held in June. In addition to the above she has also started her own project (Humanneedsproject.org) where she is Co-founder & President. How she juggles 3 kids, movies, series, and all this is just amazing to me and I am honored to be able to help out on these very important things, it makes my everyday work worthwhile.
To me that’s a celebrity.
Beautiful sentiment! Thank you so much for your time Peter!
My pleasure Wayne.