CPHFW Talent: Iso.Poetism by Tobias Birk Nielsen AW23
Danish menswear label Iso.Poetism by Tobias Birk Nielsen, winner of the Wessel & Vett Fashion Prize 2022 and a member of Copenhagen Fashion Week’s talent incubator programme CPHFW Talent, showcased his autumn/winter 2023 collection inspired by the relationship between nature and man.
Birk Nielsen welcomed editors and buyers into Copenhagen’s Bella Center, where models navigated around floating stones and rocks, upcycled from discarded cardboard boxes, newspapers and deadstock textiles.
“Since I was a kid, I’ve been collecting stones,” explains Birk Nielsen in the show notes. “It started as a modest hobby inherited from my sweet grandma. When beginning, it mainly had a focus around a visual attention, simply to find beautiful and unique shape and colours.”
The set was designed to showcase the designer’s apocalyptic universe for his Copenhagen Osidian Society (13)* collection, highlighting the slouchy cargo pants with exposed zips, wrap-around padded vests, and stone-inspired tie-dyed cropped boxy sweatshirts designed to reflect the fragility and changing nature of the world.
Birk Nielsen added: “The story of the AW23 collection is a homage to the intricate correlation between modern human beings and our surrounding nature. An exploration of finding meaning, believe and substance through the knowledge of nature and it’s power of giving.”
As with all Birk Nielsen’s collection, his ambitious sustainability approach to design is at the forefront, with the collection mainly featuring recycled fibres and GOTS-certified cotton. He has also been developing his own treatments and dying techniques, with more than 30 percent of the jersey and fleece treated with a handmade localised spray dye on top of direct dyeing and stone washing.
In addition, all the PFC-free technical fabric used has been applied with a water-repellent treatment made of 57 percent PA recycled and 43 percent of organic cotton. Other interesting treatments in the collection include a 100 percent merino wool yarn treated with an electric dye technique.
The AW23 collection also features a collaboration with Italian sportswear brand Kappa. The capsule ‘Autofocus’ collection merges Iso.Poetism’s DNA with Kappa's technologies and history by upcycling deadstock archive items by manipulating, reconstructing and dying several garments to give them new life. The collection will be sold in very limited amounts in curated retail partners.
In conversation with Iso.Poetism by Tobias Birk Nielsen
Ahead of the AW23 showcase, FashionUnited caught up with Birk Nielsen to discuss the inspiration behind his collection, how he approaches sustainability, as well as his plans for the future.
What did it mean to you to be awarded the Wessel & Vett Fashion Prize 2022?
It meant everything. It also came in a very vulnerable time of brand development, therefore the gratitude for this award exceeds all previous experiences. The intention of letting the heritage fund trickle down to new generations of creative entrepreneurship is truly inspiring.
And we're extremely thankful to be rewarded and recognised for our hard work and purpose - and I'm more than sure it will have an enormous impact on the coming journey of Iso.Poetism.
How would you describe your brand’s aesthetic?
Emotions are the overall inspiration throughout all the seasons we have made so far. Real lived emotions, which I as the designer behind the brand, encounter while going through life - with all its vast ups and downs. This is the inspiration that continuously keeps giving us topics that we find relevant to disseminate - and in order to succeed with this ambition, then we strive to create a perfect balance between poetry and dystopia, as the arena to communicate within.
What’s the inspiration behind your upcoming collection?
The story of the AW23 Copenhagen Osidian Society (13)* collection, is a homage to the intricate correlation between modern human beings and our nature. An exploration of finding meaning and substance through the knowledge of nature and its power of giving.
In concrete, the AW23 collection is a story of a local community finding meaning and thankfulness through the energy and emotional power of crystals rocks, and with a shared vision for an improved impact on mental well-being. For thousands of years, it has been believed that crystals provide healing, that remind us of our roots and true intention. This grounding energy is implementing awareness and altruism - an experience which connects people and creates a society that grants a safe haven and gratitude.
How do you implement sustainability in your designs?
Having a holistic and sustainable approach to our work - is the key. I have a very strong connection to nature, and I believe that nature should be treated as a dear friend. In practice, we experiment with new techniques and learn about being environmentally responsible within fashion through each season and we investigate options available.
As with so many other parallels, the supply of more sustainable fabrics is running a bit behind with general supply, so it’s a pleasure to see season to season how the selection keeps increasing as new techniques are being launched.
We produce most of our collection in Italy and follow the value chain closely, making sure everything and everyone is treated ethically. We use recycled/upcycled materials whenever possible and use our dead-stock fabrics, avoiding wasting materials.
On top of the various techniques, we also try to solve the dying process with new solutions, so that we constantly learn and have the potential to improve. And of course, what we constantly are trying to improve is, for example, the amount of water needed for the dying processes, and the temperature applied. Therefore, we have found a way to only work with cold water, which actually allows us to dye more garments with the same amount of dye, causing more than 50 percent fewer emissions – and additionally, then we of course only work with natural dyes.
Furthermore, and on a more holistic level of our collections, each of our collection universes is created with an emotional approach, creating an enticing story behind the inspiration, in hopes to connect with the client on a deeper level and tell the story of why the artefact is created the way it is.
What is so special about showing at Copenhagen Fashion Week?
Copenhagen is our home, and being able to present our collection here, and support the local Copenhagen fashion community in our local market is always a special moment. Copenhagen Fashion Week’s team has been building sustainability as the core value for Scandinavian fashion and making sure the standards are followed thoroughly, which is very inspiring.
It is becoming known as a sustainability-focused event, in comparison to other fashion weeks, at least as far as fashion events go. Its environmentally responsible approach and demand for the participating brands to follow the mandatory sustainability requirements to even be represented in the fashion week calendar is definitely setting itself apart. We are quite proud to be a part of that selection.
What’s next for your brand?
We are constantly developing our brand, though keeping in mind our heritage, our DNA and our overall vision for the brand. We have seen great interest in creating womenswear, as we have been slowly introducing it in our runway shows, and it would absolutely be an exciting addition to our retail universe as well. Would love to have the possibility of genderless items in the product portfolio.
We also have some exciting collaborations coming up within the next month that we cannot wait to unveil that will help us to communicate our sustainability goals for future developments of the brand.