I am thrilled to be in Finland for Pre Helsinki, a fashion event supported by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland in collaboration with a range of Finnish creatives. Finland has a rich history of beautiful design work, from the iconic Marimekko 'unikko' print, recognised across the world for its joyful simplicity (and aptly celebrating its 50th birthday this year), to the output of younger, upcoming creatives like Satu Maaranen, who won last year's fashion design prize at the 2013 Hyères festival. While here, we've been privileged to get to see some of this work up-close. A highlight was visiting fashion designer Vuokko Nurmesniemi's house, which was built by her late husband, acclaimed designer Antti Nurmesniemi and is perhaps one of the most wonderful pieces of sixties residential architecture in existence. 83-year-old Nurmesniemi was kind enough to regale us with stories from her long career in fashion, discussing how she's influenced everyone from Raf Simons and Issey Miyake to a whole generation of young Finnish designers. Nurmensniemi's work, both at Marimekko and at her own label Vuokko, was truly revolutionary and ahead of its time and helped establish the reputation of Finland as a design centre in the fifties. Nurmensnimi pioneered dresses made out of one piece of fabric, large prints and clean, futuristic shapes and freed women from corsets and general design fuss. What an icon!
My schedule also included a visit to the Marimekko textile printing factory, which allowed me a peek at the brand's wonderfully-named 'Colour Kitchen' where they dream up their iconic hues. While watching the bold prints come to life, it was impossible not to reflect on how progressive and exciting the brand was when it debuted cheerful androgynous shapes and unconventional patterns in the fifties and sixties, designs that set new parameters of taste. It's great to see that the brand is now championing new design talent, as Maaranen herself was working in the factor as a freelance designer.
One of the main reasons I came to Helsinki was to partake in the Aalto Arts Fashion Seminar, which took place in the middle of our schedule at Aalto University and was titled 'For Fa$hion's S@ke'. I was honoured and thrilled to be co-chairing the discussion alongside the seminar's guest curator Dan Thawley from A Magazine Curated By. Our lineup of speakers was second to none - milliner (and SHOWstudio favourite) Stephen Jones, LCF's brilliant dean Frances Corner, designer Lutz Huelle, sound designer Michel Gaubert and his partner and collaborator Ryan Aguilar. There was one notable absentee, the wonderful and fearsome Professor Louise Wilson, who sadly passed away last weekend. Naturally, we dedicated the talk to her memory, and kept in mind all the insightful, witty and cutting remarks she would have made had she been able to join us as we discussed how fashion has got so fashionable. The 3 hour plus discussion saw us navigate topics such as the difference between 'consumption' and 'fashion', the way Instagram has revolutionised both shopping and design, the accessibility of 'high fashion' and the paradox of 'affordable luxury'. It was a truly brilliant discussion and I'm thrilled that footage of it will be available on SHOWstudio shortly! A highlight for me was spending a part of the talk sporting Stephen Jones' brilliant 'Interview' hat, which features a mini screen that can display a hat of your choice, whether a bowler, top hat or cap. Truly the best example of wearable tech I've come across - move over smart watches!