Henrik Vibskov should be the product of the Central Saint Martins dream – a fashion designer who does more than just design, who works in a collaborative, non-traditional way and whose creativity is as focused on music as it is on fashion and design. Yet the Danish designer’s name isn’t quite treated with the same high-minded reverence as many of the programme’s other alums. Why not? Maybe because Vibskov is a self-proclaimed dabbler, not sitting still long enough to be seen in full as a designer, an artist or even a musician – Vibskov moonlights as a drummer for producer and electronic musician Trentemøller. At least, when he finds time out from churning out men’s and women’s collections in Copenhagen and Paris.
What started as a young man’s eclecticism and taste for experimentation has turned into a global enterprise, with international stockists and his own Henrik Vibskov stores in New York, Oslo and Copenhagen. Presentations often feature bizarre theatrics, and the clothes themselves are characterised by a sort-of magpie approach to design – a bit of this, a lot of that and capped off with some cut-outs and wacky prints. Did his time at CSM help foster this experimentalism? “Yes. One of my school projects was “the egg” – a blown up egg shaped suit with a built-in blower in a rucksack.” But Henrik believes the college, where he studied alongside fellow Dane Peter Jensen, also taught him more than that. “[It gave me] a more artistic point of view towards the commercial business. And also the ability to answer the What, Why and How of concept researches, etc.”
Cross-discipline is in Henrik’s blood, it seems. While we think of Scandi fashion as maybe a little more minimal, the kind of austere hip you’d expect from say, Acne, Henrik’s style is something different. He thinks this comes from his long-running musical background.
“When I was studying, my bank manager was my friend’s little brother, so the first 4 years in London were great fun. Suddenly I got a new bank-lady and paradise shut down. It was Disneyland after dark.”
“I have been playing music for nearly 30 years now, so that definitely started my creative process,” he explains. “14 years later I got into art and design, from which I take form and colour with me. But I don’t even think about it as cross-discipline – a bit more like walking, but you have to use the ears and eyes to balance it.” Working as a musician, an artist and a designer concurrently could be bewildering for some people. Henrik looks at the examples set by other 21st century talents: “Is Woody Allen a better musician than director?” he asks. “Is Kanye West a better designer than musician? Is Bono a better hotel owner than politician?”
While the music has always been in Henrik’s life, Central Saint Martins came later, after Henrik caught the eye of a girl who said she was applying to the school. He applied to the menswear program to impress her, he got in, and got the girl, too.
London became his playground, and he confirms that there was a lot of partying during his time there. “Yes, I did [party],” he tells me, before launching into one late-night tale. “I was on a date at Brixton Academy at an Autechre concert – loud noise electronica – not particularly date music but anyway, my date, a Scandi girl, went up to the bar to get drinks. In the meantime some bouncers came with a completely drugged-out guy who couldn’t move. I was standing at some staircase and they were fighting a bit with him to get him out. Afterwards the person in front of me turns around asking me if I lost my plastic bag – I couldn’t see what she had in her hands in the darkness so I took it. Inside were 200 Superman pills! I quickly put the bag in my pocket when I realized the massive amount. The Scandi girl came back and I showed the bag from my pocket and was trying to explain what just happened. In the loudness and darkness it all suddenly felt wrong and not really date-suitable – and she didn’t really get the story – we never got together and I left the Superman pills in the corner.”
“Is Woody Allen a better musician than director?” he asks. “Is Kanye West a better designer than musician? Is Bono a better hotel owner than politician?”
After graduating from CSM Henrik stuck around London a little while longer. But in the end Copenhagen won his affections in the end. “I was completely broke and hungry and needed a cigarette break – many thought it was the worst move I could ever have done,” he explains. “When I was studying, my bank manager was my friend’s little brother, so the first 4 years in London were great fun. Suddenly I got a new bank-lady and paradise shut down. It was Disneyland after dark.”
Denmark is home for Henrik Vibskov now, but he is a little more globally-minded than that. “It would be a lie to say that I’m not a Scandi, through learning in an old school socialistic system in Denmark,” he tells me. “But I’ve grown up with a certain eclectic focus and learning that’s deep down in my membrane. So my way of thinking in concept, colours, installation – it’s all from somewhere else – more jungle chaos from Pluto, maybe, if they have jungle up there?”
Words by Ana Kinsella