Martin Gjesing cuts a sharp figure on the international scene. With his slicked-back hair, armfuls of tattoos and signature cowboy boots, the Copenhagener looks more like he might belong in a band than in a business meeting; on one of his hands he has ‘God’ inked onto his knuckles and on the other, ‘Satan’. Yet, despite first impressions, Gjesing is one of the new guard of Danish creatives to take the world by storm with his own agency, MOON. It offers a multitude of creative and business services for brands such as Vitra, Artek, Hay, Andreas Murkudis, Sophie Bille Brahe and Pandora. The agency also produces Space, the design and photography-focused magazine that just released its fifth issue. They're even running the Magasin du Nord Fashion Prize for young designers, approved by HRH Princess Mary of Denmark.
In a sense, it’s all down to a fortunate accident. After a car collision left Gjesing with whiplash at 18, he was forced to reconsider plans for college and instead moved to Copenhagen and worked for independent fashion boutiques. In one role, he found himself buying into almost the entire collection of Acne, then a fledgling Swedish denim label, and it led to several meetings. Within two years, Gjesing was the CEO of Acne in Denmark at a tender age, travelling the world to help internationally expand the brand in partnership with some of the most prominent and coolest retailers and boutiques. When he joined the brand, the turnover was 3 million euros and when he left, in 2013, it was 110 million euros.
"I think at one point I felt that if I have to travel the world for 200 days a year, it might be better to do it for myself rather than for somebody else."
“I think at one point I felt that if I have to travel the world for 200 days a year, it might be better to do it for myself rather than for somebody else,” he reflects. The result was MOON, an agency he co-founded with Frederik Bjerregaard to provide consulting on various aspects of fashion businesses, from retail to marketing to production. “We wanted to form something where creativity and business meet, because we were feeling that so many companies are either good at business or creative development, but they’re not always good at merging those two things,” Gjesing explains.
“I’ve always had a uniform because it made it easier for me
to get up at five in the morning and fly somewhere."
“All my time with Acne, everyone was kind of laughing at the Danish at that time because like 12 or 15 years ago everything was happening in Stockholm, and the Danes were not as design-led,” he points out. Today, that couldn’t be further from the truth as a wave of artists, designers and chefs have put Copenhagen on the international map. The beauty of Copenhagen, says Gjesing, is its small size. “Everything is in the centre of the city,” he explains, recommending the arty Charlottenborg neighbourhood to hang out. “It’s right next to where all the sailors and the hookers and the strip bars are, but then on the opposite side you have this amazing building that was one of the first botanical gardens in Denmark,” he enthuses. Also in the area is the Kunsthal Museum, where there is usually a blockbuster art exhibition, and the buzzy Apollo Bar & Kantine, run by Frederik Bille Brahe.
Gjesing is the father of Charlie aged 1 and a half and 11 year-old girl, Karla, and he also recommends renting a car (the Danish capital is a city of cyclists) and driving out to the child-friendly Louisiana Museum of Modern Art on the coast, 35 km north of Copenhagen. “You can’t really come here without going there,” he stresses. “It’s just such an amazing spot because it holds some of the most amazing art collections but it’s actually just nice to just hang out there for an entire day.” For food, he says he prefers “humble” eateries to Copenhagen’s many design-conscious restaurants. “There’s a lot of Italian people coming here and setting up businesses, and they just have a different aesthetic,” he says, naming Osteria 16 as a favourite. “They don’t mind having a plastic Pellegrino bottle on the table, or pouring coffee from a scruffy pot. It doesn’t have to be designed all the way through.”
"It’s about who you are and what you mix it with that kind of makes
the difference. I think that’s pretty nice because, if it’s good quality and a traditional fit, you always feel comfortable."
For someone with such a strong look, it may come as a surprise that Gjesing’s life has been segmented into sartorial phases, including an all-black period that was an antidote to travelling so much, and a tenure during which he only wore leather trousers. “I’ve always had a uniform because it made it easier for me to get up at five in the morning and fly somewhere,” he reasons. His enduring obsession, however, is his collection of leather cowboy boots. “I now never have to think about shoes,” he adds.
After years of experimenting with the Acne’s fashion-forward design, he’s also keen to point out that these days he’s much more drawn to traditional pieces, which he comes to Salle Privée for. “It’s about who you are and what you mix it with that kind of makes the difference,” he explains. “I think that’s pretty nice because, if it’s good quality and a traditional fit, you always feel comfortable.”