Finnish design and fashion has gained its reputation along 50s architecture and print design. And it seems that the hype is still ongoing at the annual fashion show where young Finnish talents attract people from all over the world to seek for the next big thing. But what is it that defines Finnish fashion and design? For its geography, landscape and nature, Finland is part of Scandinavia and could easily profit from the ongoing international Scandinavian design boom. What I find interesting is this certain oddity of Finnish design. I can easily find in it the urge to fit into the Western European fashion scene while failing ever so slightly, and, nevertheless or because of that, developing a uniqueness in doing so.
Can we define Finnish fashion with geographical and socio-cultural aspects?
Scandinavian nature is one of the big inspirational elements, not only for Finnish fashion and design, explored and picked for its simplicity over and over. Our everyday life and surrounding affect us by creating a distinct culture full of connotations to our local nature. Finland has a long coast line, a rocky seashore with thin pine trees and little summer cottages here and there. There are also many lakes and a lot of (commercially used) forest. The scene is quite flat and not very dramatic, in a way minimalistic. This nature scene is quite prominent in Finland, as there are not so many people and the few cities tend to be rather small. I easily think of contemporary Finnish brands, such as R-collection, Frenn, or TAUKO, as brands that grew from the tradition of Finnish nature with its influence on city architecture and planning.
The little odd, twisted aesthetics might have its roots within the idea of not really belonging to the rest of Scandinavia, culturally and aesthetically. Although heavily induced into local marketing speech, Finland is not hygge at all. The cuteness and sweetness that increasingly accompanies Danish or Swedish design finds its counterpart in a certain roughness, even clumsiness in Finnish designs. Kasper Strömman, self-entitled “Finnish influencer” has some beautiful work around this topic!
Anyhow, when talking about fashion, there are the beautiful over the top brands that I look at, as some, who have taken this theme of not belonging, to the extreme and making it their thing. The international design trends are clearly seen in the works of Minna Parikka, but the bunny ear shoe brand has taken its own oddness to the extreme. It becomes humorous by bringing naïve and playful elements to the catwalks.
As a cherry on top of the cake, there is the notion of understatement as virtue. Like the pine trees in the commercial forest or the city planning that got affected by local nature, a Finnish person tries to not stand out too much from the rest. Understated fashion is something TAUKO adopted in the new AW1819 collection presented at Fashion in Helsinki for the international audience. Understated can also mean to be aware and self-confident of one’s capability, even to such an extent that it does not need to be blasted about. Rather just wait and trust that others will notice.
There might not be so much point in defining Finnish fashion, even less now when the influences are not restricted anymore to local culture. However, it is charming to think that there are certain features and issues that are relevant and common to Finnish designers, differentiating them from French or German fashion designers. And these aspects, be they cultural, geographical or historical, have connotations that are certainly worth to look out for.
Text: Mila Moisio
Photos from the related brand