Finnish designers shine at Pitti Uomo

There’s something special going on in menswear, and if you look closely enough, you’ve already absorbed it into your wardrobe. At Pitti Uomo, the men’s fashion week based in Florence, Finnish designers brought new energy to the occasion. From the phenomenal collaboration between Rolf Ekroth and Fiskars to the much-talked-about debut of Finnish brand VAIN, Finland has proven it has a lot to offer and we’re paying attention.

Humanity’s focus on survival and protection from a turbulent reality run as common threads through Rolf Ekroth’s collection. Ekroth stepped into the real world and recognized its chaos. From this came garments designed to protect, comfort and transform their wearers. The collection’s title, Galen Värld (Swedish for “crazy world”), reflects Ekroth’s observations about the political, economic and environmental changes that are reshaping our world. “I came across James Balog’s documentary ‘Chasing Ice’ ten years ago and it never crossed my mind,” explained Ekroth, “I became extremely interested in the rapid changes our environment is going through and the chaos these changes create. Working on this season I felt it was time to reinvent the themes of the documentary, something I have already mentioned in my previous work.”

The main element of this collection is the ingenious collaboration with Fiskars, the leading premium lifestyle brand in the categories of gardening, cooking and creation. Each of the survival suit’s stitched squares is a pocket that holds Fiskars orange-handled folding scissors, a nod to the classic tool Ekroth has used throughout his career. The suit is a visible manifestation of the transformative power of clothing that Ekroth advocates: once cut open with scissors, the padded layer of the protective suit reveals a carefully curated collection of fabric samples that the designer has saved. This interplay of protection and revelation is evident throughout the collection, from soft knits to protective macrame weaves that mimic chainmail. “For me, creativity is a method for creating order in chaos, for exploring and understanding the world,” states Ekroth. “Working with mostly scraps and supplies found in my studio, Fiskars folding scissors proved to be an excellent partner in the creative process. Almost every fashion designer around the world uses Fiskars scissors.”

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Initiated by creative director Jimi Vain and executive director Roope Reinola, VAIN (the Finnish word for “only”) is an interdisciplinary design project defined by its subtle cultural references. In November 2022, the brand’s collaboration with McDonald’s went viral, with 13 looks made from old McDonald’s work clothes and given to McD’s employees in Finland. With its debut collection at Pitti, VAIN takes a look back at rural Finland in the early 2000s – a time and place before the internet and social media ruled everything. “As a child growing up in Finland in the early 2000s, information was not readily available compared to today. My first exposure to global pop culture, art and music was largely filtered by how my older brothers felt about themselves,” said Vain. “Now we are children of the Internet. We are building our brand and vision in this digital jungle, where everything is everywhere, non-stop. Reminiscing about those earlier years, which were so strongly influenced by my brothers, seems even more valuable now.”

Vain was particularly attracted to the aesthetics of rap, metal and new metal culture. His main influences are Jonathan Davis and Slipknot, which are also the main references and motifs of the entire collection. Leather and denim are prominent fabrics that exude a gothic yet elegant aesthetic. Dark colors, metallic materials and strong silhouettes, everything comes together as an ode to the dreary and gloomy ambience of rural Finland.

“At the end of the day, I’m a romantic at heart,” Vain said. “VAIN and our Fall/Winter 2023 collection are all about love. About the music I love, the art and culture I love, the people I love. It’s all in my work.”

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