The Danish designer Emilie Helmstedt, whose playful creations are loved by Bella Hadid and the Insta set alike, shares how she found inspiration in the alternative
"You are now entering the European Union" reads a hand-carved wooden sign which is often the last thing visitors to one of the world’s few self-governing societies, Christiania, see as they step back under conventional rule, into the busy streets of Copenhagen and return to the ‘real world’ once again. But for the 1000 inhabitants, known as 'Christianites', that reside inside the former military base turned anarchist’s playground, an entirely different way of life calls.
For fifty years, since the freetown was first established in 1971, its residents – a hodgepodge of freethinkers, artists, musicians, and activists – have flown their own flag and lived by their own rules. And even though anyone, including tourists, is free to meander over the cobblestones of Pusher Street, the area in Christiania where cannabis is sold openly, the car-free enclave remains something of a mystery to outsiders. But to fashion designer and artist Emilie Helmstedt, 29, who spent six years living there, it will always feel like home. “It's a place where I can express myself – it's a very different way of living,” she explains.
One of the houses within Christiania. Photo: Peter Holliday/Visit Copenhagen