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Denmark’s next clothing designer

Right now, DR TV is broadcasting a new show  
‘Danmarks næste tøjdesigner’
(Denmark’s Next clothing designer)
in primetime.

I meet next clothing designers at Designskolen Kolding for an article published in HÅNDVÆRK bookazine no. 8

Excerpt from the article below:

September 2023


Let me take you to Kolding, where the Design School is training accessory, fashion, textile, industrial and communication designers.

Here, we will take a look at the educational paths into fashion and textile.

Design School Kolding is an independent institution under the auspices of the Ministry of Higher Education and Science that offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in design. The school has 340 students and a number of PhD scholars, including some in the Industrial PhD programme. Every year, Design School Kolding enrols 150 new students, 80 in bachelor’s programmes and 70 in master’s programmes. 

Established in 1967 as Kunsthåndværkerskolen (School of Arts and Crafts), the institution has trained many acclaimed textile printers, weavers, clothing designers and ceramic artists.

In the late 1990s, it was renamed Design School Kolding.

In 2010, it was recognized as a design university, with the accompanying greater emphasis on academic topics and theory and a redefinition of the tasks design is supposed to address. 


During its arts and crafts era, the institution aimed to develop and train the students’ craft skills and enable them to create unique products or designs that could be developed into products.
The students learned that a product has to have sufficient clarity and integrity to exist in its own right without additional explanation. 

A university, on the other hand, teaches analytical and methodological skills and the ability to articulate and describe a project. Craft is not a key focus, and the product is not necessarily tangible but may also be the development of processes and dialogues.

Whether the development from the former to the latter is good or bad for the students, their training and the quality of their output is a – hotly contested – matter of opinion.


Some, including myself, welcome the modern design universities’ focus on teaching analysis, perspective and contextualization. These are important conditions for offering something of relevance and for the ability to argue and convey the relevance of one’s contribution.

However, I am concerned for a general development that seems to be driven by a common consensus that it is more prestigious to speak and write than it is to make, and that it is more prestigious to speak and write about topics where one has little or no experience and in a language few understand than it is to speak and write from first-hand knowledge and experience.


Whatever I and others might think, that is currently the prevailing perspective on design and design education.

Fact is, more new design graduates are finding employment than before, which was one of the Ministry’s goals with making this change.

Previously, unemployment among new graduates was high. The ones who made it typically had a patchwork economy made up of product sales, decorative projects, teaching, temporary jobs and grants from foundations.

Unlike other design universities, Design School Kolding has excellent workshop facilities, which are available almost round the clock. 

In the bachelor’s programmes, workshop activities are key, and the students choose among digital and analogue tools based on their own aesthetic preferences and the character of the project.

During my two-day visit, I spoke with Christel Arnevik, associate professor and head of Fashion Design. She also provide project supervision in the master’s programme People, Planet and Play.

From the academic year of 2022 the fashion line was renamed ‘clothing’. Has ‘fashion’ gone out of fashion? I wonder.

You could definitely say,’ Christel replies, ‘that we changed the name in order to better match our time and our students. 

We looked at what they bring in and where they wish to go. Many of them are not interested in making fashion, at least not as it has been defined since the 1980s and 1990s, when “fast fashion” became a common concept.

Today, “fashion” and “trend” both have problematic connotations. Above all, our students are not seeking to repeat the past but have a sensuous and inquisitive grasp of the future. The programmes give them the analytical skills to translate their sensory impressions into products that are relevant for the future.

In the Fashion programme, we have increased our emphasis on sustainability as a foundational condition.

We also launched a new course on inclusion and diversity where, instead of starting from an initial focus on aesthetics or on the designer’s thoughts or feelings, the starting point is a problem, a need or a challenge but never at the cost of aesthetics.

Morten Ussing teaching assistant professor and manager of the Sewing and Cutting workshop

His position is at Design School Kolding is 80% full-time; in addition, he has his own studio in Copenhagen, where he makes bespoke clothes. His designs are often seen on the red carpet.

“Doing your best” seems to be Morten’s mantra. He says it repeatedly as he shows me the sewing machines and overlock machines lined up in ruler-straight rows. He also underscores that the workshop should be tidy. He tolerates creative mess but not the sort of mess that comes because someone cannot be bothered to tidy up after themself.

We have a great workshop,’ he says and shows me the pattern construction programme CLO3D and the plotter used to draw and cut patterns. ‘We vary between analogue and digital. Personally, I’m old-school and prefer to work with paper patterns, but the benefit of the CLO3D is that you can scan your paper patterns and make corrections on the computer. You do this using an avatar that is dressed in the new creation. Then you enter the textile type and weight, and you can see how the piece drapes and make adjustments.

It’s a great tool to master if you’re going to be working with production. The CLOD3D can reduce the number of production samples that have to be sent back and forth from design to production, which saves both time and resources.

He adds, ‘I am passionate about the craft. The world is full of poorly made clothes, and in order to do better, you have to be knowledgeable.

At the school, there is a tendency to coddle the students, so sometimes they’re surprised when I come in with my high standards and my insistence that they do their best. I don’t aim to make proficient tailors out of them – if that’s their goal, they need to be in a tailor’s college. But they do need to understand the processes, they have to learn to experiment, and above all, they have to learn not to be knocked out by mistakes.

Your position here is 80% full-time, and in addition, you run a business.
At times, I work a lot. I consider dedication my hallmark.
The clothes I make are not suited for commercial production; I tried it, but after a few years in the business, I realized that I don’t like the atmosphere or the premise, which is generally more about collaborations and influencers than about the quality of your work.

I found that pretty draining. 
Initially, I was here as a guest teacher before joining the staff. I find it personally very rewarding. Also, I can make more of a difference to the fashion industry here than as a one-man army.
Today, I make bespoke pieces in my studio; that suits my temperament and my style.

Anna and Marie are first-year Fashion students

In the first semester, students from all programmes learn about composition, construction and form.

They receive an introduction to and initial training in skills related to spatial sketching, composition and formal analysis and development.
This course concludes with a brief formal development project where they try out their skills in a design context within their chosen subject area. 

We meet at the big table in the tailor’s workroom, where they show me the output from the course. 

Anna shows me a small dummy with a cape consisting of two semicircles. She tells that she was very interested in costumes and that when she applied, she was certain that was what she wanted to work with. 

Is the programme meeting your expectations? I ask. ‘It is quite close to what I imagined, but my path is beginning to change. I thought I was certain about costumes. After learning about analytical methods and how to target user groups, my design is beginning to find its direction, and I also want to make other types of clothes. 

We have just begun to learn sewing techniques. I have been sewing for years but not the way it’s done here. Now I am learning how to cut and sew a collar to make it lie down flat.
I also used to have a lot of waste because I didn’t know how to place the pieces on the fabric; that, too, has improved.
I am getting quite nerdy; I never saw that coming!

Marie wants to be a fashion designer. She always dreamed of having her own company, and she still does. ‘So far, at least,’ she says.

I am interested in clothes where you can alter their shape and function by adding or removing elements. That’s one thing I’d like to explore further while I’m here.

I notice her boots, which turn out to be second-hand boots with an added shaft of her own design and making.

It’s a steep learning curve,’ says Marie. ‘I can already see that my designs are improving. I am practising starting with something wild and then distilling it to arrive at a good result.

Mathilde and Victor are second-year Fashion students.

Victor does not want his photo taken, but he does not mind talking about his lifelong interest in clothes. Not that he used to make clothes, and his interest was not trend-based but rather driven by vanity. In upper secondary school, his focus was on discovering his personal style, he explains.
He also always liked to draw and to play football. When he realized how many activities he would have to give up in order to be serious about football, however, he gave up that ambition.

A random Facebook post inspired him to take a drawing course during his gap year after upper secondary school. ‘I soon got quite good at it,’ he says. ‘The success was motivating and made me apply here, thinking that maybe I could turn this interest into a career. I don’t know if this is what I want to be doing the rest of my life, but I’m giving it everything I’ve got, and then we’ll see.

I still enjoy drawing. It’s mentally demanding to construct and sew, because I’m not very good at it yet, but I know that I have to get through it.
I have a very conceptual expression; for clothes to interest me, they have to have a deeper meaning that goes beyond the visual aspect.’ Victor shows me an oversize unisex top, reminiscent of a football jersey, made of satin, ‘My idea is to make it in silk,’ he explains. ‘It’s a mix of signals. I’d like to explore whether it’s possible to neutralize the symbolism of an item of clothing, and the cultural division it generates, by mixing stereotypes.

Mathilde says, ‘The design process quickly gets personal, and a project evaluation can be almost like psychoanalysis. That makes it interesting but also tough.
You probably have to learn to take it less personally once you get out.
I’m working on the project for my January exam, a collection where I work with digital prints. It takes time, because there’s a lot to learn, also about the printing process. I get help for that in the Textile workshop. 

My concept is about the digital world and its rapid development. It’s very complex, and right now, I’m a little confused, because there are so many directions I can take.
The image I use is giant pixels. When I was little, I found my role models in the games I played.

This is the first project where I address sustainability but only at a late stage in the process. There are many things to consider, including materials and production processes but also making something that is designed to have a long lifespan.
Both my jacket and my top are fairly big, so they have room for the user to grow.
I don’t find rapidly changing fashion particularly charming; I’m more interested in clothing as something that relates to and reflects your identity.

Danmarks næste tøjdesigner -Titlen på et nyt TV show på DR1, men også hvad jeg mødte på Designskolen Kolding i mit arbejde med HÅNDVÆRK bookazne no. 8

Uddrag fra artiklen:
Bookazinet kan købes her


I Kolding, på designskolen uddannes accessory-designere, beklædningsdesignere, tekstildesignere, industrielle designere og kommunikationsdesignere.

Vi skal her tale om at uddanne sig ind i mode- og tekstilbranchen.

Designskolen Kolding er en selvejende institution under Uddannelses- og Forskningsministeriet, som uddanner designere på bachelor- og kandidatniveau. Designskolen har 340 indskrevne studerende og et antal ph.d.-studerende, herunder erhvervs-ph.d.-studerende.
Hvert år optages 150 nye studerende – 80 på bacheloruddannelsen og 70 på kandidatuddannelsen.

Skolen blev etableret i 1967 som kunsthåndværkerskole og har uddannet en lang række respekterede tekstiltrykkere, vævere, beklædningsformgivere og keramikere.

I slut-90erne skiftede den navn til Designskolen Kolding.

I 2010 fik Designskolen Kolding status af designuniversitet, med hvad det indebærer af akademisering af undervisningen. Forandringen har også ført til en re-definition af, hvilke opgaver design er sat i verden for at løse. 

På Kunsthåndværkerskolen var formålet med undervisningen at udvikle og træne elevernes kunsthåndværk og at sætte dem i stand til at skabe unikaprodukter eller designs, som kunne omsættes i produkter.
Eleverne lærte, at et produkt skal stå så stærkt, at det kan eksistere i egen ret, uden nogen form for forklaring.

På et universitet lærer man at analysere, man lærer metode, og man lærer at formulere sit projekt. Håndværket er ikke det centrale, produktet er ikke nødvendigvis fysisk, men kan også være udvikling af processer og dialoger.

Hvorvidt den udvikling er god eller dårlig for de studerende, deres uddannelse og kvaliteten af det, de lærer at frembringe, hersker der mange meninger om.

Nogle – jeg, for eksempel – hylder, at man på et moderne designuniversitet lærer at analysere, perspektivere og sætte i kontekst. Det er vigtigt for at være relevant og for at kunne argumentere for og formidle relevansen af det, man har at bidrage med.

Derimod er jeg bekymret for en samfundsudvikling, hvor vi synes at have en kollektiv overenskomst om, at det er finere at tale og skrive end at skabe, og finere at tale og skrive om noget, man ingen eller meget lidt erfaring har med, endda i et sprog, de færreste forstår, end det er at tage udgangspunkt i noget, man både kan og ved.

Uanset hvad jeg eller andre måtte mene, er det sådan, der for tiden tænkes om design og om uddannelse af designere.

Faktum er, at flere nyuddannede designere kommer i job nu end tidligere. Noget, som fra ministeriel side har været et af formålene med forandringen.

Tidligere har arbejdsløshedsprocenten blandt nyuddannede været høj. De, som har klaret sig, har haft en patchworkøkonomi, som har været stukket sammen af salg af produkter, udsmykningsopgaver, undervisning, forefaldende jobs og legater.

I modsætning til andre designuniversiteter råder Designskolen Kolding over virkelig fine værkstedsfaciliteter, som står til rådighed det meste af døgnet.

På bachelorprogrammerne er værkstedsaktiviteterne helt centrale, og de studerende vælger redskab, digitalt eller analogt, alt efter egne æstetiske præferencer eller projektets karakter.

Fra studieåret 2022 skiftede modelinjen navn til beklædning; er mode blevet umoderne? spurgte jeg retorisk, “man kan i al fald sige”, svarede Christel Arnevik, studielektor, studieretningsansvarlig for modedesign og underviser på Design for Planet (kandidatprogram) og tøjdesign (bachelor)

 “at vi har ændret navnet for at matche samtiden og de studerende. Vi har set på, hvad de kommer med, og hvor vil de hen. Der er mange, som ikke vil lave mode, i hvert fald ikke sådan som mode har været defineret siden 80’erne og 90’erne, hvor fast fashion vandt indpas.

Mode er blevet et belastet ord, ligesom trend er blevet det. Frem for alt stræber vores elever ikke efter at repetere fortiden, derimod har de en sanselig og nysgerrig forståelse for morgendagen. Uddannelsen giver dem et analyseapparat, som sætter dem i stand til at omsætte deres sansninger til produkter, som er relevante i fremtiden.

På beklædning har vi skruet op for bæredygtighed som et givent fundament.

Vi har også etableret et nyt kursus om inklusion og diversitet, hvor man i stedet for at starte med det æstetiske, eller med hvad man føler og tænker, starter med et problem, et behov eller en udfordring, men aldrig på bekostning af æstetikken.”

Morten Ussing studieadjunkt og værkstedsansvarlig på syning og tilskæreværkstedet. Han er ansat 80% på Designskolen Kolding og har desuden sit studio i København, hvor han fremstiller tøj på bestilling. Hans kreationer ses ikke sjældent på den røde løber.
At gøre sig umage, synes at være Mortens mantra, han siger det i al fald igen og igen, mens han viser rundt mellem symaskiner og overlockmaskiner, som står på snorlige rækker, ligesom han pointerer, at der skal være orden på værkstedet. Han tolererer kreativt rod, men ikke rod, fordi man ikke gider rydde op efter sig.

Vi har et fantastisk værksted”, siger han og viser mig mønsterkonstruktionsprogrammet CLO3D og den tilhørende plotter til at plotte og skære mønstre. “Vi veksler mellem det analoge og det digitale, selv er jeg ret gammeldags og vil gerne arbejde med papirmønstre, men fordelen med CLO3D er, at man kan scanne sine papirmønstre ind og foretage tilretninger på computeren. Det foregår ved hjælp af en avatar, som iklædes ens kreation, man indtaster tekstiltype og vægt, derefter kan man se, hvordan det pågældende stykke tøj vil falde, og foretage sine justeringer.

Det er et godt værktøj at beherske, hvis man skal arbejde med produktion. CLOD3D kan reducere antallet af produktionssamples, som skal sendes frem og tilbage mellem designafdeling og produktionssted – derved spares både tid og ressourcer.”

Han fortsætter: Jeg går meget op i håndværket. Der bliver fremstillet så meget dårligt tøj i verden, og for at gøre det bedre skal man have viden.

Her på skolen nurser vi eleverne ret meget, og de kan derfor godt blive forundrede, når jeg stiller op med mine høje standarder og krav om, at de skal gøre sig umage. Det er ikke hensigten, at de skal blive fuldbefarne skræddere. Er det dét, de vil, skal de søge en skrædderskole, men de skal kende til processerne, og de skal lære at eksperimentere og frem for alt lære ikke at lade sig slå ud af fejl.”

Du er ansat her 80% og driver virksomhed ved siden af. “Ja, jeg arbejder meget i perioder, jeg ser det lidt som mit adelsmærke at være dedikeret. Det tøj, jeg laver, egner sig ikke til at være kommercielt. Jeg har prøvet, men efter nogle år i branchen har jeg indset, at jeg ikke rigtig trives med atmosfæren og præmissen, som overordnet set handler mere om samarbejder og influencers end om kvaliteten af det, man laver.

Jeg døde lidt på det.
Jeg var her først som gæsteunderviser, inden jeg blev ansat. Det giver mig så meget på det personlige plan. Desuden kan jeg forandre mere i modebranchen her, end jeg kan som enmandshær.
Nu syr jeg bestillinger i mit studio, det passer mit temperament og min stil ret godt.”


Anna og Marie er førsteårsstuderende på beklædning

På første semester undervises de studerende fra alle linjer i komposition, konstruktion og form. De studerende får en introduktion til og træning i færdigheder inden for rumlig skitsering, komposition samt formanalyse og formudvikling.
Forløbet afsluttes med et mindre formudviklingsforløb, hvor de afprøver færdighederne i en designfaglig kontekst inden for deres eget fagområde.

Vi mødes ved det store bord på skræddersalen, hvor de fremviser resultatet af kurset.

Anna står foran en lille gine med en kappe formet af to halvcirkler. Hun fortæller, at hun er meget interesseret i kostumer og var sikker på, at det var den vej, hun ville gå, da hun søgte ind.

Lever uddannelsen op til dine forventninger?, spørger jeg. “Her er ret meget, som jeg havde forestillet mig, men min vej begynder at ændre sig. Jeg troede, at jeg var urokkelig omkring kostumer. Nu, hvor vi har lært forskellige analysemetoder og lært at målrette i forhold til brugergrupper, får jeg mere retning på mit design og lyst til at lave andre typer af tøj også.
Vi er netop begyndt at arbejde med sy-teknikker. Jeg har syet længe, men ikke som man gør her. Nu lærer jeg, hvordan er krave skal tilskæres og sys, så den lægger sig smukt ned. Tidligere havde jeg meget spildstof, fordi jeg ikke vidste, hvordan jeg skulle lægge mønsterdelene på stoffet, også det er blevet bedre. Jeg begynder at blive lidt nørdet, det havde jeg ikke forudset ville ske.”

Marie skal være modedesigner, hun har altid drømt om eget firma, og sådan drømmer hun stadig, “i hvert fald endnu”, siger hun. “Jeg interesserer mig for tøj, som kan ændre sin form og funktion ved at tilføje dele eller tage dele af. Det er noget af det, jeg gerne vil arbejde videre med, mens jeg går her.”

Jeg får øje på hendes støvler, som ved nærmere eftersyn består af støvler købt i en genbrugsbutik tilføjet et støvleskaft, som hun selv har konstrueret og syet.

“Læringskurven er stejl”, siger Marie. “Jeg kan allerede se, at det, jeg designer, er blevet bedre, jeg øver mig på at starte vildt og siden destillere for at ende med et skarpt resultat.”

Mathilde og Victor er andetårsstuderende på beklædning

Victor vil ikke fotograferes, men gerne tale om sin interesse for tøj, som han har haft, så længe han erindrer. Ikke sådan at forstå, at han har syet tøj, og interessen har ikke været trendbaseret, mere båret af forfængelighed. I gymnasietiden en optagethed af finde sin egen stil, forklarer han.

Han har også altid tegnet, for sjov, men også spillet fodbold. Da det gik op for ham, hvor mange ting han skulle give afkald på, hvis han satsede på fodbold, lod han bolden fare.

Et tilfældigt facebookopslag sendte ham på tegnekursus i hans sabbatår efter gymnasiet. “Jeg blev hurtigt rigtig dygtig”, fortæller han, “succesen var motiverende og ledte til, at jeg søgte ind her, for tænk, hvis min interesse kunne blive til mit arbejde. Jeg ved ikke, om det er det her, jeg skal lave resten af mit liv, men jeg gør mig al den umage, jeg kan, så får vi se. Jeg kan stadig godt lide at tegne. Det er mentalt hårdt arbejde med at konstruere og sy, fordi jeg ikke er så god endnu, men jeg ved, at jeg skal igennem det.
Jeg er meget konceptuel i mit udtryk; for at tøj skal interessere mig, skal der være en dybere mening, som rækker ud over det visuelle”. Victor fremviser en oversized unisex-overdel à la fodboldtrøje fremstillet af satin. “Tanken er at den skal sys af silke”, forklarer han, “den er et miks af signaler. Det interesserer mig at undersøge, om man kan neutralisere den symbolik, som et stykke beklædning har, og de kulturkløfter, det genererer, ved at blande flere stereotyper sammen.”

Mathilde siger: “Designprocessen bliver hurtigt ret personligt, og at evaluere en opgave kan blive som en stor psykoanalyse; det er derfor, det er interessant, men også så hårdt
Man skal nok lære at være knap så personlig, når man kommer ud.”

“Jeg er i gang med det projekt, jeg skal til eksamen i til januar – til min kollektion arbejder jeg digitalt med tryk; det tager tid, fordi der er meget at lære også om trykprocessen. Her henter jeg hjælp på tekstilværkstedet.

Konceptet handler om den digitale verden, og om hvor hurtigt den udvikler sig. Det er meget komplekst, og lige nu er jeg lidt forvirret, fordi der er så mange veje, man kan gå.
Mit motiv er kæmpestore pixler – da jeg var lille, havde jeg mine forbilleder i de spil, jeg spillede.

Det her er det første projekt, hvor jeg forholder mig til bæredygtighed – men først langt inde i processen. Der er mange ting, man kan forholde sig til i forhold til materialevalg og produktionsprocesser, men også i form af at skabe tøj, som er beregnet til at blive brugt længe.

Min jakke og min overdel er begge ret store, og man kan vokse i dem. Mode som noget, der skifter hurtigt, synes jeg ikke er særligt charmerende, jeg er mere optaget af tøjet som noget, der hænger sammen med og spejler ens identitet.”


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