Although it’s chilly and gray most of the year in Finland, the nordic country is now the latest hot spot on the fashion map. Young designers have been filling the ranks of Europe’s top fashion houses, making finalists’ lists, and often winning, the biggest fashion competitions including France’s
Hyères Fashion Festival, ITS in Trieste, Italy and the coveted LVMH prize. But not everything happens abroad: every year, the country’s capital city turns into a fashion circus with multiple events–including Aalto University’s annual Näytös grad show, two new events, Helsinki New and Pre Helsinki, and a runway show held on the tarmac of the Helsinki Airport–to highlight the country’s latest fashion designers. Here, the highlights. Rolf Ekroth 26-year-old Ekroth made the short list at this year’s Hyères fashion festival for his men’s wear collection, which was inspired by Brett Morgen’s “June 17th, 1994,” a documentary about a series of major sporting events that were ignored because they occurred on the same day as the O.J. Simpson police chase. The pieces mix athletic uniforms with with laser-cut polyamide fringe and Swarovski crystals, which Ekroth and his parents spent hours applying. Despite his momentum, Ekroth never planned to be a fashion designer. After studying to be a social worker, he became a pro poker player and then took sewing lessons “with a bunch of little old ladies.” It was only then that Ekroth began studying fashion design at Aalto. He’s now considering offers from several major European houses, but plans to continue his eponymous collection on the side. Maija Mero
Mero, 27, won Aalto’s Finnair prize this year for her exaggeratedly ruffled collection inspired by Finnish gypsies in velvet, patent leather and glittery fabrics. “They intrigue me because there’s something gangster about them and I like their style which is always a mix of masculine and feminine elements.”
Heikki Salonen Finnish designer Heikki Salonen has worked for Erdem and Diesel in the past. He showed the elaborately patched, patterned and tattered pieces he created for his eponymous collection on the tarmac at Helsinki airport for Finnair’s “Match Made in Hel” show. Julia Mannisto Mannisto, 34, is from Columbia, but was raised in Finland. She just returned to the country after living in Berlin and getting her masters degree from Central Saint Martins. To celebrate her homecoming, Mannisto built a men’s wear collection out of mixed padded ice hockey shapes with Elizabethan court dress and rubber stamp style prints. Tiia Siren Tiia Siren is a Finnish menswear designer based in London who won the Hyères Festival Grand Prize in 2012 with Finland’s Siiri Raasakka and Elina Laitinen. This year, the designer presented a delightful collection that mixed feminine fabrics with swashbuckling menswear shapes. R/H
The duo behind R/H, Hannah Riihelainen and Emilia Hernesniemi, come from different backgrounds. Riihelainen worked for Zac Posen in New York for years, while Hernesniemi cut her teeth in Berlin with Agency V. Together, they design pieces that are perfect for Finland’s cold weather: simple, floaty pieces that come in cool prints and great textural knitwear that combines traditional wool with metallic Lurex patterns.
Maria Korkeila Korkeila, 23, is Finnish, but spent part of her childhood in the U.S. Her men’s wear designs blend gender binaries–she weaves the glittery fabrics that she uses by hand and mixes them with 1970s Playboy adult magazine imagery. Valter Tornberg Tornberg, 24, developped a coating process with polyurethane to make fabric look like it’s melting. “I wanted to make clothes look as though they were liquifying and the proces is actually kind of poisonous,” says Tornberg who sees his design as fine art fashion sculpture and would like to combine this with more wearable pieces.