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.”
Harrods plans to remove the famous statue of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed from the bottom of the Egyptian escalators and hand it back to Mohamed Al-Fayed. “We are very proud to have played our role in celebrating the lives of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Al Fayed at Harrods and to have welcomed people from around the world to visit the memorial for the past 20 years,” said Michael Ward, Harrods managing director. “With the announcement of the new official memorial statue to Diana, Princess of Wales at Kensington Palace, we feel that the time is right to return this memorial to Mr. Al Fayed and for the public to be invited to pay their respects at the palace.” More on the news, with reporting by @loreleimarfil, at WWD.com. #wwdnews
@prada is introducing a new project at its men’s fall 2018 show this Sunday: “Prada Invites.” The fashion house invited four celebrated creative minds – @ronanaerwanbouroullec, Konstantin Grcic, @herzogdemeuron and @rem.koolhaas – to each create a unique item with its iconic nylon material. The designs will be unveiled on the runway show, which will take place at the company’s warehouse in Viale Ortles 25. #wwdfashion #mfwm (📷: @martinocarrera)
@kering_official is spinning off its stake in puma in an effort to focus on its luxury brands, the brand operator announced yesterday. “We are proud to have supported the turnaround of Puma, which now has unrivaled capabilities to take full advantage of the specific dynamics of its global markets and is poised to achieve substantial growth,” said François-Henri Pinault, Kering’s chief executive officer and chairman. Artémis will become a “long-term strategic shareholder” of Puma with a 29 percent stake. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
The fashion world mourns for celebrated street style photographer, Nabile Quenum, who died at age 32 in Paris.
Quenum, creator of the fashion blog “J’ai Perdu Ma Veste,” was a fashion week fixture, and regularly shot for New York magazine’s The Cut, among other outlets, and brands such as Louis Vuitton, Moncler and Adidas. He was also actively involved in the #NoFreePhotos initiative, which kicked off in the fall. Read more about Quenum in @kbsmoke's story on WWD.com. #wwdnews
@verwanggang and @maisonladuree have teamed up on a dessert collab called Vera Wang Pour Ladurée. The collection, which launched this week, features a specialty macaroon, as well as a wedding cake inspired by one of the designer’s gowns. “I could not imagine a more delicate or sophisticated creation to grace any couple’s celebration,” said Wang. #wwdfashion