When it comes to Scandinavian fashion it is Sweden who owns the runway worldwide, but now Finnish fashion has in recent (fashion) seasons made the heads of fashion editors and buyers turn.
Pre Helsinki, Finland’s premier fashion association, has been an important factor to present Finnish designers to the world. The fashion association hosts an annual event in Helsinki, participates with the designers to international Fashion Weeks and organises match making sessions and press events in Asia. In other words, Pre Helsinki puts the best of Finnish fashion on the global map.
Recently Pre Helsinki organised a Hong Kong and China tour for its emerging designers with the purpose to connect the country’s top designers with international brands, stylists, buyers and media to gain a foothold in the Chinese market.
More than sauna and cellphones
Finland’s next generation of designers will be able to reach a wider audience. Through international tours such as the ones Pre Helsinki organises and together with a yearly fashion show in Helsinki to which the world’s leading fashion editors are invited, Finland will be famous for more than Nokia and the Finnish steam bath.
There is a market for colourful Finnish fashion in Asia. In Hong Kong today, lifestyle and fashion brand Marimekko is the country’s most famous style export, with a total of three stores in the Chinese big city according to South China Morning Post.
“The tipping point for Finnish designers came in 2012 when Helsinki was announced as the World Design Capital of 2012”, says Martta Louekari, co-founder of Pre Helsinki.
Together with business partner Miia Koski the two Finns saw a new wave of promising designers who had the talent, but not the arena to help them gain international exposure and growth.
“After meeting with these fashion designers, we realised it was our responsibility to make something meaningful happen collectively with Finnish fashion,” says Martta Louekari. That is how Pre Helsinki was born, and that is how the Finnish fashion designers got the opportunity to reach a global audience.
One example of the success of Pre Helsinki and their pursuit of making Finnish fashion visible, is the story of Satu Maaranen: after the first China tour in 2014 she collaborated with juggernaut label Exception de Mixmind. This is the same brand who dressed first lady of China Peng Liyuan, and now they have signed with Maaranen to work with the company for three seasons.
Similar to that of Sweden with its Scandinavian sensibility, the Finnish women’s fashion aesthetic focuses on a practical, slightly mannish sensibility, favouring boxy, roomy silhouettes. Yet, unlike the Swedes, the Finnish are much more experimental and willing to push the envelope. They play with abstract colours and conceptual textures with a high-fashion, sophisticated approach. This conceptual, though sometimes not wearable approach has found a receptive audience.
One example of this avant-garde sensibility is Ensæmble, a dark and moody brand by Alisa Närvänen and Elina Peltonen.
“We like anti-colours – different broken tones of greens, blues, blacks, whites, beige and metallics,” says Peltonen. “We’ve tried bright colours as well, but for some reason they don’t feel very natural.”
It is this singular and focused approach to design that has allowed Ensæmble to create an exclusive collaboration with JNBY, spanning a capsule collection, film, campaign images and installation across the company’s 500 China stores. For these brands, this kind of reach into one of fashion’s most promising markets is a goldmine of opportunity.
The success of Pre Helsinki underscores the success emerging designers can have if they create a curated and focused programme for international buyers and media. The next step for this generation of Finns is to build a similarly creative business and commercial infrastructure.