Not since Marimekko’s cheerful prints swept Jacqueline Kennedy off her feet in the Sixties has Finnish fashion had such a moment. Now, a clutch of promising young designers is making news, driven by cutting-edge schooling and an adventurous approach to fashion.
“For a long time, it seemed that it was just a couple of designers doing their own thing in relative isolation. But now it’s beginning to be more like an actual wave of labels, magazines, photographers and stylists,” said designer Saara Lepokorpi, suggesting that the groundswell of talent in Finland echoes what happened in Antwerp in the Eighties.
The prospects are certainly promising. The last two winners of the Hyères International Festival were Finns: Trio Siiri Raasakka, Tiia Siren and Elina Laitinen scooped the prestigious Grand Prix in 2012 while they were still students at Helsinki’s Aalto University (they’ve since disbanded), while Satu Maaranen, also an Aalto grad, secured it this year.
“In the last five years, the level of education has risen impressively,” said Maaranen, who was tapped by Marimekko in 2010, while still studying, to design the brand’s women’s wear and prints. “The most important lesson we were taught: Be as experimental as possible.”
According to industry insiders, the man in charge of this Finnish movement is Tuomas Laitinen, a designer who took over the reins at Aalto’s fashion department seven years ago. Under the direction of design department head Pirjo Hirvonen, Laitinen set up studios with top-notch equipment where students weave, knit and print their own fabrics, and trimmed the curriculum down to no more than two complete collections a year. He invites his industry contacts to the graduate shows and at times has helped facilitate stints at major fashion houses. “Students work as if they were designers already,” said Laitinen, who won the honorary Hyères prize himself in 2006.
Perhaps most impressive: Out of hundreds of applicants and after a long and laborious admissions process, only 12 students are accepted into Aalto’s fashion program each year. “[This] guarantees a very personal tutoring both with design work and technical aspects [such as] pattern-cutting and sewing techniques,” Laitinen said, adding that his students are eager to forge an aesthetic different from Nordic minimalism, one that’s “still clean, but very rich in textile, color and surface.”
Although Finland has no fashion week or fashion council, a new platform called Pre-Helsinki, founded in May 2012 to promote local designers internationally, is filling the gap. The group sets up temporary showrooms during fashion weeks abroad, arranges for young designers to meet with buyers and press and handles marketing for new labels. “These designers have the courage to start their own businesses, [they] understand the international markets, have the language skills and the international contacts. This is our moment,” said Pre-Helsinki’s director, Miia Koski, who cites Asia and the U.S. as the most important and fastest-growing markets for Finnish designers.
Even financing — still the biggest challenge — is easing up. While Finnish investors are typically more interested in technology ventures, more are discovering that fashion is serious business. Pre-Helsinki hosts annual meetings to raise funds and attract so-called “business angels.” Koski said 60 such potential investors attended this year’s May meeting, versus only seven in 2012.
Indeed, the Finnish wave is spreading. Aalto’s Laitinen confirmed that many of his graduates who have not launched their own lines are now working at major companies, including Balenciaga, Lanvin, Saint Laurent, Maison Martin Margiela, Calvin Klein, Levi’s, H&M and Nike. “Before, designers had a domestic view; they catered to the Finnish market,” Laitinen said. “This generation definitely has a wider perspective.”
EXCLUSIVE: Two and half months after John Targon, cofounder and codesigner of Baja East, was hired as creative director of the contemporary division at Marc Jacobs, he has left the company, WWD has learned. Marc Jacobs International, which is owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, confirmed Targon’s departure in a statement: “John Targon is a talented designer and we appreciate the work he has done here. Ultimately working together did not make sense for the brand and we wish him the best.” Read the story by @jessiredale, link in bio. #wwdnews
@theluxurycollection is officially launching a collection, tapping Sofia Sanchez de Betak for the capsule. Over 30 styles will be featured in the Chufy x The Luxury Collection, debuting next month at Bergdorf Goodman, The Webster, FiveStory and more. De Betak, known as “@chufy,” drew inspiration for the collection from her trips to Japan in the past year #wwdfashion
@lhd, founder and CEO of @thewebster, has teamed up with @lebonmarcherivegauche for the European launch of her ready-to-wear line, LHD. The launch will come with an exclusive pop-up opening today that’s set to run through May 20. Located on the second floor, it carries her debut Miami-themed resort collection, launched in November as see-now-buy-now. #wwdfashion
@longchamp, which marks its 70th anniversary this year, just opened its biggest U.S. store on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. On the lower level there’s a floor-to-ceiling display of the brand’s iconic Le Pliage bag – in all of its different colors, shapes and sizes. Customers can also have their product personalized in-store by imprinting names, initials or emblems. #wwdfashion (📷: @ericmtownsend)
“Whenever I’m in that place of sound and music, I don’t have fear or nervousness…This album has a lot of themes of courage and boldness and I want to be the soundtrack for people’s lives. I’ll be so happy if [my songs] evoke strength in people, which I know music has done for me,” says @kimbramusic of her newest album “Primal Heart.” The New Zealand-born singer sat down with WWD to talk about her music, newest tour and connecting with hear fans — read more on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
Luxury handbag resale company @rebagofficial is planning to sell a rare collectible for $70,000: the @hermes White Crocodile Himalayan Birkin. The exclusive Birkin sold for about $100,000 in 2008, when @davidbeckham bought one for his wife @victoriabeckham to add to her collection. Read more about the rare Birkin on WWD.com #wwdaccessories
With her costume pearl necklace and what-you-see-is-what-you-get style, Barbara Bush, who died Tuesday at age 92, was a straight-shooter from start to finish.
Born Barbara Pierce in New York City, Bush served as the 37th first lady, as well as the country’s second lady from 1981 to 1989. In addition to being part of the longest presidential marriage — 73 years — Bush also had the unlikely distinction of having one son, George W., become the 43rd president and another son, Jeb, run unsuccessfully in 2016. Having served as second lady during the Reagan administration’s two terms and lived all over the world during her own husband’s ascending political career, Barbara Bush made it clear that literacy — not fashion — was her priority. Read more from Rosemary Feitelberg’s obituary on the late First Lady in WWD.com, link in bio. #barbarabush #wwdnews
Western and ’90s trends have influenced denim for fall 2018. Think raw, dark and coated jeans mixed with bold prints and tough leather. #trendtuesdays #wwdfashion (Styled by @thealexbadia;📷: @ryanplett)