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 with muscular dystrophy 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 that 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 was met by a team of people rushing between cutting stations and sewing machines. They were working overtime to get the collection ready before the afternoon’s look-book photo shoot.
A seamstress stepped aside as Henrik entered the room, wearing an all-white outfit—a laced-up top and shorts. He clearly pays the same attention to detail these days 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. He dressed 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
“Living life in a wheelchair has given me a different eye level and perspective of the world around us,” he told me.
He might have made huge advancements since we first met, but the pressure’s still on. The Danish Fashion Council gave him center stage at the most sought-after venue during Copenhagen Fashion Week: 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 explained. “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 center of the studio stood a topless male model. A second model, dressed like a courier, stood there wrapping up the glass box with a ribbon bearing the Henrik Silvius brand name. Henrik was lost in the scene until he turned to me and said, “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 asked 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 said. “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 said: “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 told me, “I want people to feel secure and confident when they wear the pieces.”
Just before I left, Henrik told 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 maked his way over to the glass box, directed the photographer, and watched his alter-ego superhero.
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