Fashion as a cultural communicator has been much debated and it's the driving force behind new Finnish label Aalto. This is no fledging graduate offering, mind; head designer Tuomas Merikoski has spent 15 years working for the world's best luxury brands in Paris, including Philippe Starck, Givenchy menswear and Louis Vuitton, for whom he continues to freelance. His next mission is to bring the unique Finnish point of view to the global fashion arena.
'The brand DNA is fully Finnish, but we are operating directly internationally,' he says from his studio in Paris where the team of eight is based. 'The whole concept is building on the idea that we gathered know-how that doesn't exist in Finland,' he says, acknowledging the international experience of his sales and financial team, too.
The result is a collection of ready-to-wear and shoes that walk the masculine/feminine line: think coats inspired by men's jackets but cut for women, dramatic wide leg trousers and patterned knitwear. 'There's a contemporary and youthful element that comes from the graphics, and then there's something elegant, simple and chic at the same time,' he says, signaling the emphasis on cut as well as print and colour.
Using predominantly Italian fabrics, the clothes are mainly produced in Portugal and Italy. Merikoski is keen to bring this gathered know-how to a wider audience, too, explaining, 'We are not aiming at the mega luxury thing, that's not Finland, but of course we want to be very qualitative in every level.'
Not content with just promoting Finnish fashion, Aalto will collaborate with a local artist each season. For the pre A/W 2015 and A/W 2015 collections, it's photographer Jouko Lehtola (1963-2010). Merikoski was drawn to his raw and energetic photographs depicting Finnish youth, and named both collections Young Heroes, explaining, 'I really want to keep the two collections each season to one story somehow.' Aalto has also independently published a book of Lehtola's back catalogue. 'Our idea was that we want to bring Finland to international level, so we want to support the creative arts as well.'
Merikoski is keen to do away with pre-conceptions of Finnish design as naïve and lively. 'There is a perception of Scandinavia and Finland being very modern and fresh, with bright colours and being very "fun", so I really want to show the real side of Finland, which is more interesting and more exotic,' he says. 'It is a very modern society but at the same time there is something very primitive in it and something very raw, this wild energy, and that's exactly what I want to keep at the roots of the brand.'