Tobias Birk Nielsen of Iso.Poetisme wins the Wessel & Vett fashion award – WWD

MILAN — “A member of the jury called it ‘Danish fashion’s best-kept secret’, meaning it managed to become an international hit before becoming a household name in Copenhagen. It’s rare. We are happy to change all that today,” said Nina Wedell-Wedellsborg, founder of the Wessel & Vett Fashion Prize, in revealing this year’s winner.

Iso.Poetisme by Tobias Birk Nielsen won the prestigious award, designed as Denmark’s response to the LVMH Prize to support Scandinavia’s most promising emerging talent in their local and international growth.

“Iso.poetism should not be a secret to anyone. Tobias has come a long way already, and the jury is proud to push this strong vision even further,” Wedell-Wedellsborg said at the ceremony held at Designmuseum Denmark in Copenhagen on Wednesday.

As the winner of the accolade, formerly known as the Magasin du Nord Fashion Award and also supported by Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, the designer follows in the footsteps of Anne Sofie Madsen, Cecilie Bahnsen, Mark Kenly Domino Tan and, more recently, A. Roege Hove.

“It’s such a crazy mix of being extremely tired, extremely happy and relieved. And in general, I’m incredibly grateful to the people who support me and for this award, which is something quite extraordinary,” said Birk Nielsen at WWD right after the announcement.

Tobias Birk Nielsen

Tobias Birk Nielsen

Courtesy picture

The designer won a new top prize of 500,000 Danish kroner (around $70,000), making it the biggest talent prize in the region.

Also new this year, the organizers have launched a strategic partnership with Copenhagen Fashion Week through the recently created talent support program CPHFW NewTalent, signaling both parties’ commitment to nurturing Danish design talent. As a result of this collaboration, Iso.Poetisme is automatically enrolled in the CPHFW talent incubator program and will therefore be on the official show calendar for three consecutive seasons. The brand will also be offered the opening slot for the next edition in February.

Birk Nielsen, who will also benefit from a one-year mentorship program, beat the other three finalists. Among them were Nicklas Skovgaard, Sophia Khaled and Birrot founders Kyeongmin Kim and Seyoung Hong. Each of them was rewarded with 10,000 Danish crowns (about $1,500) for their efforts and participation.

A look from Iso.Poetisme's spring 2021 collection.

A look from Iso.Poetisme’s spring 2021 collection.

Courtesy of Iso.Poetisme

All showcasing different approaches to fashion, the finalists were unveiled during Copenhagen Fashion Week in August and selected by a panel of industry experts, who evaluated entries based on criteria such as talent in design, originality, craftsmanship, enduring credentials, commercial viability and digital flair.

Immediately after the announcement, each finalist began working on their business plan, collection and pitch with a mentor. Skovgaard was paired with Nicolaj Reffstrup, co-founder and CEO of Ganni; Birrot designers with Marimekko Creative Director Rebekka Bay, while Khaled worked with Sophie Bille-Brahe and Anne-Sofie Møller, Creative Director and CEO of Sophie Bille Brahe Jewelry, respectively.

As for Birk Nielsen, he was mentored by Silas Adler, creative director and founder of the Danish brand Soulland.

“He’s just a really nice guy, incredibly calm and really warm, so it was a great game,” Birk Nielsen said. “What he’s been really good at is the support to slow the pace down a bit because it’s been a really hectic time because we also had a number of things going on besides the award. He’s been a great support in telling us where to focus and where to channel our energy in the short and long term. And of course he mentored the last two winners, so he has a pretty impressive track record,” the designer said.

Silas Adler, Tobias Birk Nielsen and Nina Wedell-Wedellsborg.

Silas Adler, Tobias Birk Nielsen and Nina Wedell-Wedellsborg.

Madeleine Carstensen/Courtesy of Wessel & Vett Fashion Prize

The four mentors were also part of the jury, which also included Wedell-Wedellsborg; CPHFW CEO Cecilie Thorsmark; Eszter Aron, Founder and Creative Director of Aeron, and Christopher-Jacques Morency, Chief Brand Officer at Vanguards and Acting Chief Brand Officer of Nanushka, among others.

“The jury was very impressed with the work of Iso.Poetisme, who skilfully makes streetwear a personal and modern affair,” said Wedell-Wedellsborg, adding how Birk Nielsen “managed to turn a personal story into a lasting business “.

The brand was officially launched in 2016, just after Birk Nielsen graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and Design. Still deciding to “stay in Copenhagen to start life and start a family or maybe look for assistant jobs in fashion houses around the world”, the designer decided to build on the momentum he acquired with her graduation collection and the attention of international stores to take the leap and launch her business.

“I started the brand and slowly it changed because I had a lot of challenges in my private life. My wife got sick and I had a son and a lot of things happened at the same time and I knew that I had to find meaning to continue working with fashion,” he said. “So my vision with the brand is to speak to those emotions that we encounter as normal human beings going through life, all the ups and downs. And to be bold to put into words what I think is something that people can relate to.… So I try to build on some of these emotions that are deeply ingrained in all modern human beings and d to use our clothes as a tool to start this dialogue. said Birk Nielsen.

A look from Iso.Poetisme's spring 2022 collection.

A look from Iso.Poetisme’s spring 2022 collection.

Courtesy of Iso.Poetisme

This mission translates into layered utilitarian designs – with a strong emphasis on menswear – often blending functionality and graphic effects with subtle and captivating statements, such as “Altruism”, “You are not alone” and “We are not alone”. we haven’t come this far to only come this far.

The sustainable element is equally bold, as the brand uses upcycled fabrics and upcycled materials; produced with a make-to-order approach to avoid unsold stock and redundant production procedures; minimizes sizes per style to simplify production procedures and required consumption, and offers one-drop delivery to wholesale partners to reduce pollution caused by transportation, among others. This approach has also pushed the brand to experiment to find new solutions and develop new dyeing techniques in garments to halve the pollution caused by conventional dyeing processes.

For Birk Nielsen, the catalyst for every design or project is a conversation about purpose and meaning along with an assessment of resources and possible social impact.

“When we feel the conversation makes sense, then it’s about figuring out how to convey the project,” said the designer, explaining that the sustainable approach touches on all aspects, including communication. On the one hand, by creating lookbooks and campaigns, the brand is committed to reusing existing elements, such as scaffolding.

“We work with this do-it-yourself dogma where we only allow ourselves to work with materials that we find in our environment,” he said.

A look from Iso.Poetisme's spring 2022 collection.

A look from Iso.Poetisme’s spring 2022 collection.

Courtesy of Iso.Poetisme

In front of the Wessel & Vett Fashion Prize jury, Birk Nielsen presented a collection that was a mix of several pieces throughout the brand’s history, “combined to show different aspects of the brand”, ranging from sustainability to style. in light of its balance between craftsmanship and innovation, or displaying its commercial character.

Iso.Poetisme is currently sold in over 35 countries, including at key retailers such as Illum, Rinascente, Harvey Nichols and HBX Hypebeast, among others. She presented collections in showrooms during Paris Men’s Fashion Week, as well as catwalks in places such as Berghain Berlin, Center for Contemporary Art in Vilnius and CIFF in Copenhagen.

Going forward, the cash prize will help Birk Nielsen improve the business setup, expand its team and accelerate business. “We have a lot of activities planned, including collaborations…and now with this award in our bag, maybe we can push that a little further,” the designer said.

A look from Iso.Poetisme's spring 2023 collection.

A look from Iso.Poetisme’s spring 2023 collection.

Courtesy of Iso.Poetisme

Established in 2012, the prize is run by the Wessel & Vett Foundation, created by the descendants of the founders of the 19th century Magasin du Nord department store, Emil Vett and Theodor Wessel. The renaming of the award this year was to mark the 10e anniversary and further celebrate the retailer’s entrepreneurial spirit and innovation. On Jan. 19, a special exhibition at the Store Museum will be held highlighting previous winners of the award, Wedell-Wedellsborg said.

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