In Conversation With: Cecilie Bahnsen

Cecilie Bahnsen is currently in Tokyo, not too far from Shinjuku Central, where she is hosting a pop-up to welcome the launch of her latest collaboration with ASICS. In fact, it’s her second time collaborating with ASICS on the recently launched and style of the year, GT-2160.

We join Bahnsen between showroom appointments and a packed schedule. Behind her are girls dressed in her couture pieces with recognisably blonde Danish locks, hanging her pieces and making final adjustments. As busy as the girls are, they radiate a calm, romantic and ethereal energy around them - something that her designs achieve so effortlessly. 

Cecilie Bahnsen’s roster of ASICS collaborations are coveted by those whose opinions influence the industry. With what started as custom pieces previewed at her Spring 2023 collection in Paris last year, the Cecilie Bahsnen x ASICS partnership has accelerated into a range of one-of-a-kind pieces handmade at her Copenhagen Studio, to limited collaborations atop ASICS signatures like the Gel-NYC in partnership with Dover St Market and most recently, the GT-2160. What could be conceived as an unconventional partnership; couture and performance footwear has blossomed into a distinctively personal, and realistic mirror of everyday life for the designer. For Bahnsen ‘people understand that that's also how we wear the collection in Copenhagen’.

Cecilie, thank you for meeting with me today. I know that you're in the middle of the pop-up event. How is that going?

It's been so exciting. It's the first time for us to be back in Japan for four years, so to be here with ASICS and see it all come together and to build the universe with the campaign, and the new shoes, it's really been incredible. 

Why did you decide on Tokyo as the location for the pop-up? 

I think it's really a celebration of ASICS being from here as well. And then Japan has always been a very big inspiration for me creatively, whether it's the craftsmanship or their way of styling. I think it kind of all came together. We shot on Serena Motola, a girl that I met four years ago, and then we had Takashi Homma that I've followed since I was a teenager. So it's a lot of things that I love come together in one, which was really nice. 

Speaking about ASICS, I read that your collaboration combines the idea of modern femininity with ASICS’ concept of motion, mindfulness, and movement. What does that look like to you day to day? 

I think for me, we create these really beautiful sculptural dresses, but they always have to feel comfortable, and there needs to be ease to them. I really want people to feel like they can throw them on on a Monday. And I think since we started styling the collection with ASICS, people understand that that's also how we wear the collection in Copenhagen. I think this movement to it and ease to it is super important for me. Then I think as brands, we have many design qualities in common, like the sustainable point of view, the craftsmanship, the comfort. So it's been great to kind of combine the similarities and also play off the contrast of each other. 

Your last GT-2160 collaboration launched the Mary Jane silhouette, which is obviously the shoe of the moment. How did you get to the point of transforming the GT-2160 into a Mary Jane?

We worked really closely with the ASICS team in Amsterdam - we had the fitting and we really worked with it as we would do with the dresses. So (i wondered) how could we put in cutout details, the bows, the transparency, the seams? I think with the first one, it was really starting monochrome, but getting as many of these iconic things into it. And then I think in the fitting, we were just like, “let's just try and take the tongue out of the shoe” and actually, that was where the Mary Jane kind of started. 

I know that you've also had other collaborations with Diemme, you've done ASICS, and you've got your inline footwear range. Why was it ASICS that you've continued collaborating with? Is there something that has kept you coming back?

I think, first off, it was important for me to build a long-term relationship and to bring all the story of what we're doing together. I think there is something with the ASICS’ design that just complements the way we wear the dresses and we style them so well. But also, I think, really the lightness of the shoes as well, it's been a bit heavier what we've done before, so you both get the chunkiness, but the actual weight of the shoe is like nothing, so it feels so great when you put it on, and that's a little bit like our dresses as well. 

I would like to go back to this idea of modern femininity that you reference quite often throughout your work and also your collaborations with ASICS. That concept is always taking on new meanings and it's evolving and becoming more complex the more as time goes on. What does that idea of modern femininity look like to you?

I think for me, it's about that there are so many different ways of expressing femininity, and especially within my collection I never want my dresses to overshine who wears them, and I want them to be their own. But I love that there is a power and a strength in romance and that you can kind of enhance in that. Then I think it's been really exciting with ASICS to work on a unisex sizing and actually see how it's worn very differently and styled differently as well. And super inspiring also for us in the collection. 

Now that you've had such an amazing career so far, do you have any advice that you would give your younger self, or has there been something that has carried you through your career that has kept you in this momentum that you are in now?

I think for me, it's like there's a stubbornness to what I do, but that I think is very important for a young designer is to stay really true to what your DNA is. For us, we always reinvent the collection the season before instead of starting fully from scratch, and I think in that way, you both get an identity that's your own, but you also let people get to know you, and take that time that it actually takes to grow. So I think there's a lot in that. Instead of being too drawn by trends or like that, just listening to your own inspiration and what you want to say.

It's a very personal journey.

How much time do you have left in Tokyo? Beyond all the showings, what do you have planned for the rest of your stay?

So we're doing quite a few interviews, and some store visits, and then I will have Friday just to walk around the city, do some shopping, look at some vintage and books. So I'm very excited for tomorrow. 

Is there somewhere that you're excited to go and visit?

I think where the pop-up is placed and the area around and then going down towards Shinjuku and Harajuku are some of my favourite areas. And I think it's one of the things I love about Tokyo. It's quite similar to Copenhagen, that you can walk around everywhere and explore and find something new.

You could be there for weeks!

Registration for the Cecilie Bahnsen x ASICS Sportstyle GT-2160 is now live via launches. Registration closes at 08:00 AM AEDT on Wednesday, 22nd November. Terms and conditions apply. 

Thank you to Cecilie Bahnsen and the ASICS APAC team for hosting us. 

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