Finnish design has always been known for its minimalist, practical and stylish characteristics, with names such as Marimekko, Kaj Franck or Alvar Aalto gaining international reputations. This tradition of remarkable excellence continues to inspire young Finnish designers. Among the rising stars are Fernando Korpi, Tiina Lehtonen and Marika Ollikka, who have launched new collections of clothing and accessories for spring/summer 2011.
Fernando Korpi established his menswear company in Helsinki in 2009, with high quality, functionality and original design as the core values. In 2010 the label became a brand with a new full-scale autumn/winter menswear collection, A Modern Man, based on the book Gentlemen: A Timeless Guide to Fashion by Roetzel Bernhard. As Korpi says, the gentleman of the 21st century is aware of his past as well as the present and future. ‘He appreciates high quality in clothes, but is still into trends and everything that is going on in the world at the moment.’
Korpi’s spring/summer 2011 collection, Man of the Woods, found its inspiration in traditional Finnish themes such as wandering around in nature and laid-back cottage life. ‘In Finland,’ he says, ‘nature is an element that makes you calm down and gives you the time to reflect on your thoughts. It’s all about having the possibility to go back to the woods, by the lake or the sea every once in a while.’
Korpi’s first industrially manufactured collection aims to push Finnish menswear design forward in Finland as well as abroad and to gain important international connections in order to enhance the recognisability of the brand. Korpi mentions a few menswear designers and brands such as CTRL, Dusty and Daniel Palillo who have succeeded internationally. He hopes to join them by presenting a collection that is fresh and practical but stylish and high quality, aimed at men who like classic cuts and street wear but with a twist. As he says, ‘Designing men’s fashion is like modifying an old car’s motor. The exterior doesn’t change, but the details are essential for the product.’ Indeed, Korpi’s spring/summer 2011 collection offers timeless style and spring-like charm to the modern man.
Marika Ollikka’s exclusive leather footwear and accessories are, unusually, tailor-made accordingly to the customer’s colour wishes. ‘I feel that customers want more individual things nowadays,’ she says. ‘I started to think about how I could offer something special to them and when I found a leather supplier from whom I can order small amounts of leather in different colours I thought this could be something I could use to specialise my brand.’
Ollikka’s flip flop collection is frisky and fun, with personality and carefully crafted details. ‘I offer a personal service when someone buys my flip flops,’ she says. ‘When the customer comes to my workplace I do the fitting of the flip flop according to the customer’s foot. I hope this makes my customers happy, and makes my products and the buying experience more special in their eyes.’ It’s not just footwear that benefits from her individual approach: Ollikka’s black leather computer bag can be ordered to fit any laptop or tablet size. With a philosophy of ‘simple is beautiful’, Ollikka’s accessories are classical with a modern twist. ‘My target market,’ she concludes, ‘is everybody who likes beautiful products and values hand-crafting.’
Sparkling colour is one of the characteristics of Tiina Lehtonen’s accessory and toy designs. The soft texture of felted wool makes the Balloon necklace and earrings look warm and fun, for instance. ‘Every piece is individually handmade, giving a dashing look,’ says Lehtonen. The playfulness of her Hobby Horse is in harmony with the environment, as Lehtonen uses recycled materials to create this toy. ‘I think nowadays every designer has to think about the ecological aspect of the product and also its practicality,’ she says.
Many of Lehtonen’s products have a purpose. The Frostly reflector is one of the most successful products, bought by both women and men. Its design makes it ideal to wear with even the finest jacket. The most original product is the Loru Koru, a necklace made of cloth on one side and blank canvas on the other which can also be used as a card.
There is no doubt that the new generation of Finnish designers has successfully merged the best of traditional local design with a fresh modern outlook.