The late Toni Morrison—empowering black American writer—proclaimed, “If you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.” This is precisely what Danish designer Stine Goya has been doing since launching her eponymous, award-winning brand 12 years ago. The Central Saint Martins grad, who modeled for Chanel on the side, is in the midst of a substantial brand turning point. Calling it a tornado of activity would not be a stretch. Her label took up residence in 500m2 of soaring-ceiling space in Copenhagen, where Queen Margrethe II, a block over, is practically a neighbor. She launched an entirely sustainable capsule, a first even for green-conscious Denmark. And, Michelle Obama wore a custom-made Stine Goya suit for the Danish leg of her book tour. Goya could have therefore gone in any direction this season. She could have even taken a break. Instead, she ruffled through her archives, took the best of what she knew, maintaining her signature style, and then threw in a poker by casting a posse of boss women and men to serve the looks.
“At school, I was made fun of because of my red hair,” remembers Goya, who would go on to catch the eye of Karl Lagerfeld; the late designer likened her features to those of Marlene Dietrich. “Then, I met some wild girls who gave me confidence to be myself, but up until then, yeah, I felt alone.” For Spring 2020, Goya championed diversity with the “House of Goya.” This, is an alternative family where everyone is different and freedom of expression the rule. Goya chose a waterfront gymnasium for her show and enormous paper maché hands decorated the floorspace. “These hands will raise you up,” they seemed to say.
Out came the models. The majority were cast via the international social networking app Bumble and from Ballroom cultures, and they walked with sass upon sass. In the Scandi culture, where neutrality is the word du jour, the sheer expression of color, and well, expression was a force this critic hopes will ripple throughout Copenhagen’s fashion scene. Goya served a collection to be noticed in. She took her classic styles, floaty and feminine silhouettes, fabrics, and vibrant prints, and supercharged them. The show notes explained that the oomph drew from “the perfect excess of ballroom performers.” Everything was tighter, bolder—freer. Meanwhile the sustainable track that Goya laid with her capsule continued with showpieces featuring 100% sustainable materials like recycled polyester.
Towards the end of the show, the talent came together in the center of the court, forming a circle, arms locked, before breaking out, and in some cases, getting down. The “bleachers” roared. A familiar feeling took over, one hidden deep in the annals of memory. Gymnasium, after all, is a breeding ground for bullying. School is one of the first places where children are ostracized, ridiculed for their differences, and belittled for their incapacity to fit in. Sometimes however, on the court, through sport, or at a school dance, everyone finds their place. That is what Goya did. She made everyone feel like they belonged. Fashion can be that safe house, too.