Last week, Henrik Silvius presented his debut menswear collection, “Caesarean”, at Copenhagen Fashion Week. In 2012, the last time I saw Henrik – a 23-year-old muscular dystrophy sufferer who receives 24-hour care and has been on assisted breathing since the age of four – he was just a fashion blogger, part-time stylist and aspiring designer. Now those aspirations have come to fruition, I thought I’d pay him another visit.
Walking into his studio a couple of weeks before his debut catwalk show, I’m met by a team of people rushing between cutting stations and sewing machines, working overtime to get the collection ready before this afternoon’s look-book photo shoot.
A seamstress steps aside as Henrik enters the room, wearing an all-white outfit – a laced-up top and shorts. He clearly pays the same attention to detail now as he did two years ago, when he told me: “I choose my outfits the evening before. I mix items, try something new and match it with my mood. If, in the morning, my mood changes, then I'll start all over again. It's very important for me that the clothes make me feel better.”
Back then he was already a face in Denmark’s fashion scene, front-rowing between whichever reality star and socialite had managed to cram themselves onto the guest-list, and continuing to dress like he was on the runway after all the photographers had packed up their gear and the models had been flown off to endure another 12 months of go-sees.
Sketches for Henrik's collection
“I have always believed that clothes make people stronger,” he says. “What you wear expresses your identity and brings you closer to your goals. Living life in a wheelchair has given me a different eye level and perspective of the world around us.”
He might have made huge advancements since we first met, but the pressure’s still on. The Danish Fashion Council has given him centre stage at the most sought-after venue during Copenhagen Fashion Week, the city hall. But Henrik doesn’t appear to let the nerves affect him; he’s got a coherent vision for how he wants to bring together every piece, and a story to tell with the collection
“When I started working on this collection, which is my first, I really wanted the clothes to portray the story of my visions,” he explains. “Inspired by the idea of the uniform everybody needs to conquer the world in – and my lifelong obsession with contradictions – I started sketching a fusion of the fashion doll and the superhero.”
Inside a glass box in the centre of the studio stands a topless male model. A second model, dressed like a courier, is wrapping the box with a ribbon bearing the Henrik Silvius brand name. Henrik’s lost in the scene, until he turns to me and says, “I have always believed that clothes make people stronger. Clothes define who you are and what you want to be in the future, and I thought it could be very interesting to invent this incredibly strong man whose power comes from his clothes.”
I ask Henrik to elaborate on the concept behind his collection. “All my life I’ve felt I have to make a new perfect world,” he answers. “It’s important for everyone to have an alter-ego with super powers and forge a path for yourself in the future. To become the super you.”
It’s obvious that Henrik’s disability is at the root of his concept, and it’s inspiring how he’s empowering himself through the design. “It’s important to see your opportunities instead of your limitations,” he says. “I have never bought a piece of clothing that fits me. Never. I have to figure out how to work it out. It’s a very important part of life to work with the things you’ve got. You have to find a way to live with your limitations; it’s always been a part of my personality to spot the opportunities above all else.”
Back to the superhero concept, Henrik says: “Menswear needs to boost individuality, strength, attitude, sex appeal and playfulness,” adding that the collection will balance strong silhouettes with delicate fabrics. Referring again to the power he finds in clothes, Henrik says: “I want people to feel secure and confident when they wear the pieces.”
Just before leaving, Henrik tells me: “I hope to make it big. It’s always been a dream of mine. I’m enjoying the ride I’m in right now, and I hope it’ll keep going into the next season.”
With that, Henrik makes his way over to the glass box, directs the photographer and watches his alter-ego superhero.
See more of Sol's work at solthatsit.tumblr.com.
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