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Fashion

Charles & Keith Teams Up With Cecilie Bahnsen For Its Debut Designer Collab

One’s the young Danish designer charming industry insider types with her pretty, artisanally made dresses that fuse the child-like with the conceptual. The other is the Singapore footwear label that’s gone from fast-fashion favourite to global titan in just over two decades. Who would have thought that Cecilie Bahnsen would be Charles & Keith's first designer collaborator? Yet as she and Emmanuelle Mace-Driskill – the shoe brand’s executive director of planning & product strategy – tells Keng Yang Shuen, this recently launched coupling could just be the way forward with its rewriting of femininity and environmentally conscious ethos.

When we first heard months back that Danish wunderkind Cecilie Bahnsen was to be the first partner for homegrown shoes and accessories giant Charles & Keith’s inaugural designer collaboration, we were pleasantly surprised. Bahnsen is known for her ethereal confections that delicately graze around the body like a corporeal cloud; her slow and tender approach to femininity and style is one that has won her many fans.

“(The Cecilie Bahnsen woman) is cautious of quality, craftsmanship rather than what’s on trend. An independent and sophisticated woman that can find strength and female power in romance. A woman who wears clothes she treasures but above all, clothes to wear, for celebrations, holidays and everyday life. To share, to lend, to pass on,” says Bahnsen. Amidst the overdue questions the fashion industry is now asking itself due to the coronavirus pandemic – key among which is the too-fast pace of production and overloading of content and merchandise – the Danish designer’s empathetic sensibilities and focus on quality and narrative is one that we need more of.

Charles & Keith evidently thought along the same lines. “With Cecilie Bahnsen, it was an instantaneous match – we connected immediately when discussing new codes of femininity and on the topic of responsible fashion. The entire collaboration evolved around those two key pillars,” explains Emmanuelle Mace-Driskill, executive director of planning & product strategy at Charles & Keith.

The collection, which has just launched online, is a small and concise one, consisting of four styles ($379-$529) in total – three Mary Jane designs and a backless mule.

On the topic of responsible fashion, we’re pleased to report that this collaboration takes a demonstrative stance. “Taking a sustainable approach for this collection, we have upcycled Cecilie’s leftover fabrics from previous seasons to create a unique patchwork (for the black Mary Janes speckled with tiny motifs of flowers). For the remaining three designs, a recycled satin sourced and provided by Charles & Keith was used,” says Mace-Driskill, when we asked how Charles & Keith translated Bahnsen’s signature use of hyper artisanal and often custom-made fabrics into the shoes. This upcycling also extends to the packaging – the dust bags for each pair of shoes were created from Bahnsen’s leftover fabrics, while the box itself is conceived from recycled paper.

Before you start shopping for these pieces, check out the beautiful, evocative video of the campaign below and check out our exclusive Q&A with Cecilie Bahnsen and Emmanuelle Mace-Driskill in the newly launched June issue of Female.