Introducing Finnish fashion through its rising crop of designers
As a country's fashion industry begins to flourish and gain recognition beyond its borders, it sparks the human instinct to slap labels on it. For the Finnish fashion landscape, it is its colourful history — quite literally, with Vuokko Nurmesniemi and Maija Isola of Marimekko's vibrant prints (which blossomed in the '60s) largely defining it. New blood sees this slowly changing.
The alumni of its fashion school Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture has been rising onto the international stage — clinching prizes at Hyères Fashion Festival in the last couple of years, garnering attention at Pitti Uomo as the 93rd edition's guest nation just last month, and closer to home, offering up glimpses of what contemporary Finnish talent are capable of at designer's showcase, 'Finland's Fashion Frontier' in Singapore.
Through five up-and-coming names, we find out what matters in Finnish fashion, how it's flourished as of late, and what it needs to thrive.
1. ROLF EKROTH
Designer: Rolf Ekroth
Known for: A fresh take on sportswear-inspired garments. For his first collection, Ekroth repurposed vintage sports gear from the '90s by splicing and juxtaposing them with denim.
On the Finnish fashion community and its future: "I think it's quite simple. We need more Finnish fashion brands, and the brands need a lot more financial support from the government, art funds or private investors." [Presenting at Pitti Uomo 93] was a great start and I'm looking forward to more challenges. Most of all, it was really nice to spend time with 'Guest Nation Finland — to see the camaraderie between the designers; to help each other in this tough industry."
Designer: Anna Isoniemi
Known for: An unabashed love for shimmer. Her latest collection embraces old school glamour with shine and fluid silhouttes, but interwoven is a contemporary sports spirit by way of bold graphics.
On how Finnish fashion has evolved in the recent years: "The Finnish fashion industry has changed a lot and I think that it is currently at a breaking point. New designers create interesting brands while classic companies are becoming more modern. Finnish design is known for being very minimalistic, but I feel it has become richer recently. Young designers aren't afraid of pushing the limits, and this has resulted in open-minded and bold collections."
Designer: Ida-Sofia Tuomisto
Known for: Unique form and cut of garments, and use of vibrant tones. In Tuomisto's words, "I want to create garments that give people courage to be who they are."
On other Finnish designers that inspire her: "Mannisto — it has its own bold style and to me, is free of gender norms and expectations. They represent modernity very well. Making clothes in Finland takes a lot of hard work and patience, and I think Mannisto's active presence in Finnish fashion — especially in the last years — is a good example for young designers."
Designer: Janette Friis
Known for: Über feminine designs that favour soft fabrics and blush tones. "We could use more romance in our time," says Friis.
On the strength of Finnish designers as a collective: "The most inspiration phenomenon has been how many from Aalto University have gained success internationally. Seeing fellow students succeed and do their own thing is really motivating. Many have also engaged in strong collaborations and this interests me for plans in the future."
Designer: Sini-Pilvi Kiilunen
Known for: Incorporating recycled materials in his clothing, and androgyny in both garment design and collection presentation.
On sustainability in Finnish fashion: "There is always a way to make a beautiful collection from recycled or sustainable materials. What I noticed is that I just need more time to make it. [Finnish fashion and the industry] has become more and more sustainable, with many young Finnish designers who are not willing to work against their values. Finland also has potential for creating innovations in the field of sustainable materials. Hopefully this will change the course very soon."