Words Sofie Ringtved Jensen, Photo Elisabeth Eibye
By Malene Birger’s new creative director, Mathilde Torp Mader, on her debut at Copenhagen Fashion Week today, on dedication to Danish fashion, and on striking a balance between design heritage and new ambitions.
In August last year, the iconic Danish fashion house By Malene Birger unveiled a change in its creative leadership, as Mathilde Torp Mader took the reins as its new creative director. Today, six months on, she is ready to present her first collection at Copenhagen Fashion Week — a presentation that will offer a renewed By Malene Birger, according to the new creative director.
“The collection will still include some of the classics that By Malene Birger is known for, but in an updated and contemporary version with lots of strong colors and prints. I love colors and believe you can create something truly special if you combine them in the right way,” says Mathilde Torp Mader, who brings a wealth of experience in the international fashion industry to the table. She was educated at Central Saint Martins and has more than ten years of experience with fashion houses in Paris, Milan, and London, including Marni, Sonia Rykiel, Vanessa Bruno, and, most recently, Mulberry. She is now going back to her roots to channel her creative energy into the Danish fashion industry — bringing certain values and a personal style of working with her.
“I am happy to assume this role and will, as always, work with a notion that the design process should be both dynamic and democratic, and that one must never censor oneself — or others. I want to create a forum in which the design team can share ideas, also when those ideas don’t fit into what I have thought out myself. In that way, the collection becomes more organic, so that it can — and does — develop in the process for the best possible result,” says Mader, who has had to adjust to a new job and work structure.
“As a Danish company, By Malene Birger has a flatter hierarchy, which means a greater number of decision-makers. It is definitely something cultural, but also something I’ve had to get used to,” she adds.
Carrying the legacy onward
Above all, however, the Danish designer has approached the task with humility towards the tradition and legacy at the foundation of By Malene Birger — which she takes great pride in carrying forward.
“I am aware that this is a great task, a great legacy to carry onward. The brand enjoys tremendous respect, and I have to adjust to being its face. And I’m actually quite a shy person,” the experienced designer says, adding:
“But it has been a delight to experience the very positive reactions to the brand, and to see how many people abroad are familiar with By Malene Birger. This has made the job even more exciting for me.”
When Mathilde Torp Mader was chosen back in August, the brand’s ambition to accelerate growth internationally was key. Due to this, the new creative director has dedicated much of her time to reinvent and strengthen the already well-functioning and successful By Malene Birger brand. A welcome challenge and, at the same time, quite the mouthful.
“We are building a new By Malene Birger universe, which is super exciting. But it is of course a lengthy process. So you won’t immediately see new stores, a new website, or things like that, but I am confident that everyone will see things happening in the collection,” she says, emphasizing that this is the aim for today’s presentation.
“The criteria of success is first and foremost that people like what they see. That they recognize a development in the collection, and that they get the idea of the By Malene Birger universe we are creating as a brand. It has been truly interesting to rethink something that is already a success, but I am very happy with the result. It is recognizable while offering a new twist,” she says, punctuating her ambition:
“I want to create a brand that both our customers and the house itself can be proud of.”