Following its year as World Design Capital, Helsinki finds itself still a focus of our insatiable appetite for all things Scandinavian. But it’s not all modern function and sharp, angular lines; increasingly, Finland’s fashion designers are taking a softer, more ethereal approach inspired by their close contact with the country’s vast and unspoiled landscape.
Waves of beauty
Marita Huurinainen is a clothing and footwear designer whose distinctive Wave shoes feature curled soles made from birch or palisander (a kind of rosewood). Huurinainen believes passionately that ‘beauty and functionality must form a perfect alliance’, and her creations combine natural materials with innovation. Wood-bending techniques are used to create a scroll-shaped sole, which is then finished with a leather, canvas or Perspex strap for a modern take on the mule.
Draped to perfection
Katri Niskanen combines soft draping and loose tailoring with a colour palette that’s as tonal as the changing seasons. Brought up in the Finnish countryside, Niskanen now lives in Helsinki, but regularly looks to ‘the big quiet forests’ for inspiration. For spring/summer 2013 her Design by Katrin collection showcases tailored separates in neutral tones with asymmetrical Grecian-style draping. There is a whimsical, fairy-tale quality to the pieces that’s created through textured lace on softly sculpted dresses and silky cowl-neck tops. The silver-grey of clouds or the brown of the forest is lifted by neon touches that echo elements of the setting sun. ‘Finland has four seasons, each with their different moods and colours, and this influences me to renew myself every time,’ Niskanen explains.
Town and country
Where Niskanen and Huurinainen take inspiration from Finland’s natural beauty in their designs, sisters Milla and Iina Kettunen of Month of Sundays are fascinated by the relationship between countryside and urban areas. Of course, it helps that, for a modern city, Helsinki itself is unusually close to nature, hemmed in as it is by forests and the sea.
A palette of forest green and midnight blue is underpinned by a pale cream for the spring/summer season, providing a platform for an avant-garde play on shape, structure and form. Standout pieces include a three-quarter-length cropped sleeve blazer in thick textured cotton and a forest-green sleeveless utility dress with a wide front fold.
‘Growing up in Finland teaches you to appreciate the clean lines and purity in any design and also influences your choice of material,’ Milla explains. The designer is keen to articulate what she describes as the ‘silent intelligence’ of the duo’s creative approach, both in the cut and the detail. ‘The colour is there to assist the shape and help the details to stand out. That is why we don’t have any patterns, only solid colours and mixes.’ The sisters regularly use natural fibres; for this season, linen is waxed and blended to create texture and structure.
With so much wilderness on their doorstep, Finland’s fashion designers can’t help but be inspired by nature, but they also share a considered discipline in the way they express and produce their ideas. The result is a purity that’s freshening up Scandinavian design. As Huurinainen so eloquently puts it when talking about her Wave shoes, ‘It has its heritage in Finnish design tradition, but uses it in a new, innovative way