The new height of fashion

Soon the tallest building in Western Europe will be in rural Denmark. The Bestseller Tower, designed by Dorte Mandrup for the Danish fashion giant, will soar 320 metres over the surrounding countryside. It will also put the small town of Brande on the architectural map.

High, higher, highest. For many years, this was the defining superlative for office towers. It was an era in which height was all that seemed to matter. These days architects are creating high-rises made of wood, while setting new standards in innovation, sustainability and energy efficiency. But the planned skyscraper in the small Danish town of Brande harkens back to the old days when developers competed to set height records. At 320 metres, the new head office of the fast-fashion company Bestseller will surpass the Shard in London by a crucial 10.4 metres. This will make the fashion tower the highest building in Western Europe.

Bestseller ranks amongst the world’s biggest fashion giants, with 2,700 branded chain stores, products sold in 15,000 multi-brand and department stores worldwide, and its own fashion company in China. Yet hardly anyone in Northern Europe has heard the name before. That’s because the family-run company based in Brande has more than 20 individual brands and thus covers a very broad spectrum. Vero Moda, Only and Name It are among the leading brands that are now available just about everywhere. So it should come as no surprise that CEO Anders Holch Povlsen is the richest man in Denmark.

Bestseller's new head office in Brande
A small town is created: in addition to offices, 30 shops and a hotel, Bestseller’s new corporate complex will feature playgrounds and nature trails.

A landmark visible far and wide

The company was founded in 1975 and has become one of the largest employers in the region. With this lofty construction project for its new head office in Brande, the fashion retailer intends to establish an architectural monument and – as the company emphasizes – give something back to the local community.

The Bestseller Tower will be a landmark that places Brande on the map.

Anders Krogh Vogdrup, Bestseller

“The Bestseller Tower will be a landmark that places Brande on the map,” says tower project manager Anders Krogh Vogdrup. Indeed, until recently very few Danes had the slightest idea where the town of Brande (population 7,000) was located. The term landmark is an apt description of the project. The 320-metre high tower is to be erected in a landscape of fields and pastures and will dominate the gently rolling countryside of Jutland for miles around. It will be visible from 60 km away. In future, anyone who visits Danish UNESCO World Heritage sites like the 10th century rune stones at Jelling will have the tower on their souvenir photo, as will visitors to nearby Legoland.

Permission was granted by the local planning authorities already in the spring of 2019, and everything went smoothly. While there was originally talk of completion in 2023, construction plans appear to have been pushed back. “The city council’s approval is obviously essential, but we still have a lot of homework to do and much to consider before a project like this can be brought to life. We still have years ahead of us before a potential start date,” says Vogdrup.

Bestseller Tower with grazing sheep on pastures
A skyscraper in the heart of the Jutland landscape: the building’s extreme vertical orientation has raised some critical eyebrows.

Solar power station planned

The design for the new corporate head office was created by the renowned architectural firm Dorte Mandrup, which is known for its sustainable approach. Sustainability is also one of the fashion company’s key strategic objectives. Bestseller has launched its Fashion FWD (Bringing Sustainable Fashion Forward) strategy in a bid to pursue sustainable solutions and fairness in the production of fashions. The company has also unveiled plans for a 125 megawatt solar power station that will cover the entire energy consumption of its owned and operated buildings around the world. “So it’s only natural that we look for sustainable solutions for the project in Brande as well,” says Vogdrup. The Tower and Village project is to be certified according to the global standards of the German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB).

Original head office in Brande
Compared to the planned tower, the original head office in Brande appears quite modest.

Murmurs of criticism

It appears that there are very few local critics of the fashion giant’s imposing structure, which is destined to become a defining element in the landscape of Jutland. However, Danish architect Trine Kammer complained to “The Guardian” that the local newspaper refused to publish her objections to the project. “People in Brande are so afraid to criticize Bestseller. It’s like a religion or something,” she says. She fears that the building will destroy the feeling of a huge, undisturbed landscape. “Such a big building will make the world claustrophobically small. Why do I have to be reminded of Bestseller when I’m walking by myself in a quiet wood?”

The extreme vertical orientation of the building is also questioned in various architectural forums. “Why vertical? Why does it have to be 320 metres?” people ask. “There are considerably greener alternatives, including buildings at ground level or below.”

Text: Gertraud Gerst
Translation: Rosemary Bridger-Lippe
Photos: Bestseller