Super Cool Plus Totally Wearable: Why We’re Loving By Malene Birger

  • Marie Claire is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy.
  • This article originally appeared on

    ‘I was like: “We get a cooked breakfast everyday, what is this place?”‘ laughs Mathilde Torp Mader. ‘It’s very different to any other atelier I’ve worked in. You feel like a princess.’ I’m sitting with the newly appointed Creative Director of By Malene Birger at the brand’s headquarters in Copenhagen. In the vast showroom, her debut collection for the brand is neatly displayed on rails, interspersed by huge vases of fresh flowers whilst her team kitted out in samples and oozing Scandi coolness wander between it and the kitchen where the in-house chef is preparing lunch. Meanwhile, upstairs overlooking the garden lie individual offices with Eames chairs and sheepskin throws that up the hygge factor. Compared to the usual drafty warehouse, where nipping to Pret for a sandwich is considered a luxury you can see why Mathilde was slightly taken aback with the plush working conditions and catering on tap when she first arrived. However, having landed in the job in August, just weeks before the production deadline for the brand’s autumn winter 2018 collection, Mathilde didn’t have time to worry about settling in. ‘I basically started and everyone on day one was like: “The deadline is next week” so I was “Great!”‘ With a mood-board featuring everything from 1960’s skiwear editorials to images of 1930’s evening gowns, Malthide has cleverly translated what she calls an ‘explosion of ideas’ into a very wearable yet totally Instagrammable collection that ticks all those ‘What shall I wear?’ conundrum boxes in a woman’s wardrobe. Think quilted coats, chic knitwear and a super flattering silk bias cut dress in acid green. No wonder it’s been snapped on everyone from celebrities including Rosie Huntington-Whiteley to bloggers Caroline Daur and Sofie Valkiers. Here Malthide talks style, shoes and why everyone is obsessed with all things Scandi…

    Mathilde Torp Mader

    ‘Living in London wasn’t always the plan. I grew up in Copenhagen, then moved to Florence to do a foundation in fashion. I studied for my BA in London and then my Masters too and then began freelancing for designers including Kim Jones. It was all very cool and I somehow ended up staying. I now come to Copenhagen every other week for design meetings.’

    ‘I’ve worked for Marni, Sonia Rykiel and just before this I was at Mulberry. When I started here I made a huge board of images. I didn’t have a huge amount of time to design this collection, so what I really wanted to do was to establish the key elements and key silhouettes that I want to continue to develop each season.’

    ‘I’m all about building a wardrobe that is practical but still looks really cool. So a great outerwear piece, a great evening dress, a great pair of trousers. These are the boxes every woman needs to tick off.’

    ‘Malene Biger has a really strong history and reputation in Denmark. We met for dinner and she is just so cool. I have a lot of respect for the heritage she created here. We talked about how in fashion you constantly need to be evolving. So that’s the one thing I wanted to express to my team. We have to be super good at what we do because there is so much competition and it’s so fast.’

    ‘For me when designing, it’s not about who one woman, it’s more about a collective of women. I think it should appeal to everyone. As a woman you go through different phases and have different needs, even week to week or sometimes day to day. I wanted this to be reflected in the collection.’

    ‘I think people love the Scandi look because they are trying to buy into the sense of wholesomeness and zeness. Danish people have a good work/life balance. We love natural fibres and classic colours. So I’m combining that with more eccentric design elements to give the collection more personality.’

    ‘In my previous jobs I focused on womenswear, whereas at By Malene Birger I’m overseeing everything. I’m loving the shoes and bags. When I started here I was like ‘No we need to do it like this,’ or ‘try doing it like this,’ and I was like how do I know this? At Marni I sat next to the shoe designers and what I’ve realized is that you can’t sit next to someone for five years and not subconsciously absorb some of their skills.’

    ‘The best piece of career advice I’ve ever got was from Kim Jones. I was freelancing for him when he had his own brand and was torn about what to do next. He told me to go back to Central Saint Martins and do my masters. He even went to see Louise Wilson (CSM’s former British professor of fashion design) on the day of my interview. He is very sweet and such a generous person.’

    ‘People always ask me about my own style. I think it’s developed over the years. When I was a student I was skint so I  lived in vintage pieces. Now at work, I’m crawling around on the floor doing fittings or running to meetings at lot so I have an almost uniform of mainly jeans, sweaters and sneakers. Otherwise, I have a more dressed-up version. But it’s always based around the same silhouette that suits me. That’s the most important thing. You need to find what works for you and then build your wardrobe around that.’

    Watch the By Malene Birger Autumn/Winter 2018 presentation shot by Casper Sejersen below…


    Reading now