MODEM: Scandinavian fashion is well-known for its minimal and functional aesthetics, but Finnish designers really seem to think out of the box. In your opinion, what elements make the "Made in Finland" label truly unique?
Elina Määttänen: The Finnish cultural heritage is different from the other Scandinavian countries. We share a land border with Russia, and the Eastern part of the world therefore influenced us throughout the years. When you look at Finnish interiors or Finnish fashion you can easily spot some elements that appeal only to our ethos, such as the bold prints and the vibrant colors, which have a certain “ethnic“ feel that does not really exist in Danish or Swedish minimalism. Also, because of their geographic position, Finns never had easy access to primal materials, which means that we were pushed to find creative solutions to supply our needs.
MODEM: Among the group of 10 finalists, you, Elina Määttänen, and the design duo Elina Äärelä and Heini-Maria Hynynen stood out at the prestigious Hyères International Festival of Fashion and Photography 2015. Another Finnish designer, Satu Maaranen, was awarded with the Grand Prix at the 2013 edition of the Festival. How would you explain this recent interest for Finnish fashion design?
Elina Määttänen: Well, the Aalto University in Helsinki, where we all studied, gave us a solid background, not only shaping our creativity but also teaching us the manual skills that make for the quality and of our fashion products. Many renowned fashion schools tend to focus only on one of those aspects, either developing the “artsy“ side or the crafts, so mastering both it’s something that truly empowers Finnish designers. Since the 60s Finland has been a pioneering force for fashion and design, people today seem to be more aware of it. Pre-Helsinki has definitely a major role in this acknowledgement, because it has put Finland under the spotlights by promoting Finnish up-and-coming designers on an international level.
MODEM: Could you tell us more about your Hyères experience?
Elina Määttänen: Hyères was a wonderful experience that influenced my approach to fashion on a personal and professional level. I found it very inspiring. It gave me the chance to meet other young designers from all over the world and it led to a creative exchange within a relaxed yet professional environment. The only issue is that the media and the general audience often refer to you as “the Hyères finalist“ or the “Hyères winner“, without really paying attention to your own identity as a brand, or as an independent designer.
MODEM: Speaking of Finnish fashion heritage, how do you relate to iconic Finnish brands, such as Marimekko?
Elina Määttänen: I cherish and respect their heritage but I keep my distance, as I seek for innovation. I think that my capsule collection Elina Määttänen for Marimekko perfectly embodies this approach. I used classic Marimekko leftover fabrics, which I re-worked through my own design language. The result reflects my personal vision and my experimental style, without being completely detached from the brand’s timeless appeal.
MODEM: With the Aalto University supporting new talents, year after year, Helsinki became a dynamic up-and-coming fashion hub. Do you believe that the next "fashion movement" will come from there?
Elina Määttänen: It’s hard to tell, Helsinki is still far from being an internationally recognized fashion center, but it could be. Differently from other cities, here we all work together. Students mutually help each other with their collections in order to do a good job, promoting creativity instead of meaningless competition. We know that if one designer succeeds, the others will also benefit from it. This productive and pro-active way of working might set the basis for a new fashion movement.
MODEM: How do you plan to develop your brand? What are your upcoming projects?
Elina Määttänen: I am still competing for the ITS 2015 Prize, which will announce its winner next month, so I won’t make any plans before the results. I feel that I need to experience more before launching my own brand, but you never know what the future will bring…