On paper, Cathrine Saks and Barbara Potts are co-founders of their Copenhagen-based fashion brand, Saks Potts. But referring to one another in business terms doesn’t quite capture their energy—not with a friendship that started in kindergarten and a label they opened just shy of entering their twenties. While they spend every work day together (and most weekends, too), the duo considers themselves to be more like sisters than anything else.
They’re still a little stunned that they can be so close and run a label at the center of the Copenhagen Fashion Week calendar. “It’s really amazing that it still works,” Saks tells me on the eve of the fall/winter 2024 show. We sat at a glass-top table in the center of the label’s only store, closed for the day before a small group of editors, models, and photographers would squeeze in front of the wooden shelves for the following evening’s presentation.
She continued, “You don't really know when you start a company up, especially when you’re 19 and 20 years old, if it's going to work out in the end or if you're going to stay best friends during the process.”
“Working out” is an understatement for what the pair has accomplished while staying as close as they were at age five. Approaching their brand’s tenth anniversary this year, Barbara Potts and Cathrine Saks have turned their namesake label into one of Copenhagen Fashion Week’s most anticipated shows and an "if you know, you know" destination for statement outerwear and unpretentious, nostalgia-infused clothing. Their pieces are carried in some of the biggest global retailers, including Nordstrom, Shopbop, and SSENSE; last season, they won the Wessel & Vett Fashion Prize, one of the most prestigious awards for Scandinavian brands.
All the prestige—and designs that have made their way to the wardrobes of Bella Hadid, Cardi B, Kendall Jenner, and others—comes from humble beginnings. Saks Potts’ founders want everything they create to feel like a personal story. Moodboards and show notes come sprinkled with references to other close friends and formative style influences; show locations and soundtracks are almost always tied to precious memories Cathrine and Barbara share from their childhood in Denmark.
These references aren’t glaringly obvious from the outside. For most shoppers, like writer and consultant Chrissy Rutherford, it’s the sophisticated, yet colorful designs that immediately draw them in.
Rutherford was first introduced to Saks Potts in 2018, while she edited Bazaar.com. Her gateway purchase was a buttery yellow Foxy coat that she wears to this day—receiving more compliments than anything else she’s worn.
“They make things that are fun and colorful without being gimmicky,” she wrote in an email. “I think we typically associate Danish designers with minimalist designs, but Saks Potts is quite the opposite and that’s why they’re such a standout.”
“Essentially, what we're trying to do is design something where you don't feel like you look boring or you look like everybody else,” Saks says. “You're still dressing with personality.” The balance their clothing strikes reflects the two sides, same coin energy between the brand’s founders—in roles and in personal style. Cathrine leads the business side with a utilitarian-chic penchant for shirting and denim; Barbara embraces experimental layering and more dramatic juxtapositions as the creative and design director.
With an emphasis on shearling, sueded, and faux fur-trimmed outerwear, fall/winter 2024 was a greatest hits collection funneled through the lens of nostalgia for the years when Saks Potts was still just an idea. Kate Moss stomping through Glastonbury in a mini dress and wellies in the early 2000s was a focal reference; so were the friendship books they filled in with their dreams and aspirations as children. The result: a 14-look edit highlighting silhouettes from the label’s early days, welcomed back in a more mature palette. (They are growing up, after all.)
Outside the store-turned-runway, casual fans lined the sidewalk to catch glimpses of the collection in sub-freezing temperatures. They’re a snapshot of the label’s virtual following across continents. In the U.S., Saks Potts has built its presence through several online retailers. April Koza, vice president of luxury retailer FWRD, brought the label into her site’s edit around a year ago after following it for much longer. The “sophisticated, timeless” look that attracted Koza is also poised for more meet-cutes offline this year—Saks hinted that the brand would appear in New York City and Los Angeles at some point.
Still, Saks Potts doesn’t seem to want to measure their second decade in terms of corporate-standard business goals. When I ask what the co-founders want from the next ten years, their wish is as simple as a runway looping through their sales floor. Their biggest ambition is to remain side-by-side running the label, with even more friends-turned-coworkers surrounding them.
Saks recognizes that camaraderie is an unusual aspiration in comparison to, say, opening 100 more stores or eclipsing a one-hit-wonder product with consistently trending designs. “I don't know if it comes from starting a company when you are 19 and 20 and you don't have any industry experience,” she reflects. “Working with your friends, trying things out yourself, and then just building it—we don't have any other previous experience to draw from[.] We just do things in a very personal way, I guess.”
Monday’s intimate show at the Saks Potts store ended just like the ones that have taken over city blocks or full, one thousand-set auditoriums over the past ten years: with Cathrine and Barbara running the same path their models walked, holding hands and giggling while they took their final bow.
“They’re so cute,” another editor said to me as we exited afterward. “You can tell they’re close.” Just like sisters.