aalto is fashioning a new view on finnish youth and culture

As we enter awards season, the wave of Finland-born, Paris-based Tuomas Merikoski’s Aalto is rising. Here are 10 reasons why...

by Steve Salter
30 May 2016, 3:39pm

Tuomas Merikoski's world may have changed when he left his native Finland to study fashion at Paris' Institut Français de la Mode, but fifteen years on, and his homeland is still very much on his mind. After gaining valuable experience inside the studios of Givenchy and Louis Vuitton, he launched Aalto in 2014, with the aim to combine Parisian expertise with what's always been close to his heart: sharing Finnish culture with the world. Delighting in duality, Tuomas now plays with ideas of feminine and masculine while shape-shifting and time-traveling through Finnish design's past, present, and future. Two years on and Aalto is a finalist for both this year's LVMH Prize and Andam award. As we follow Johan Sandberg's lens into Aalto's fall/winter 16 world, count the reasons why 2016 could belong to Tuomas Merikoski ...

1. He was born in the "Manchester of Finland."
"I come from Tampere, it is an old industrial town between two large lakes, in central Finland. It is pretty vibrant old labor feel town, very 'Finnish.' Many creatives and artists grow up there."

2. His love of music led him to fashion.
"My first fashion memories were the hang-out summers mid 90s when I got into trip hop and hip hop. I began dressing in vintage hip hop or other crazy stuff. All that was very related to the music I wanted to express at a time. I don't have fashion designer upbringing in a classic sense; I didn't really have design heroes until I really decided to study and make it as a career. Then Margiela, MiuMiu, Prada, and Alaia really became my heroes."

3. He changed career paths after dozing off in lectures.
"I was studying polytechnic university and after couple of months of sitting there, I realized that I was unable to stay awake the lectures. I mean I just couldn't do it. So I quit and understood that I needed to follow a creative future. I took a big leap in deciding to pursue fashion. I was more familiar with music and graphic design; I didn't know anything about fashion and really ended quite alone with this choice. The whole time I studied fashion in Finland, I think I was the only guy on the course. But everything really started when I decided to go on an exchange in Paris.

4. Finnish design means both everything and nothing to him.
"I have always been attracted by doing differently things and in a way I always looked for an escape to typically Finnish design. But I have realized that my culture and thinking is very Finnish, and I cherish it strongly. Aalto mirrors my spirit. It is truly Finnish but is grounded to be international and having a point of view of Finland very different that anything else before.

5. He wants to help share the narrative of Finland today.
"From its youth culture to how ordinary people live, I'm drawn to the story of the real Finland, I mean the real way, not like the public polished modern image that it communicates. So name is essential on this: firstly, Aalto is really common name so it represents banally the people. Secondly it is one of the most recognized Finnish names abroad (as Aalto is only international), and third reason is that my name Merikoski, as Aalto, has a relation to water. The meaning of it is the most important for me."

6. He can smell teen spirit.
"I consider that youth has the purest expression of society. It mirrors perfectly the moods I want to catch -- its sense of rebellion, how it is questioning things constantly, and is hungry to learn. It seeks limits, tests boundaries. And it is pure, direct , and raw. It can be naïve but it is not fragile. I wish I could remain like that forever and I hope that to Aalto as well."

7. He's proud to be part of Paris' new design wave.
"For a while it felt it was impossible to do new things in Paris but look at it now. It can be only good for Paris and for the people living and working here. Today, I am pretty much a real Parisian, so it has had a big influence in me, for sure. It has given me so much, from career perspective but also in private life. In some ways it has also helped me to understand better my own Finnish culture, and to embrace and to be proud of it."

8. He sees the awards as an opportunity.
"I feel proud to have been recognized for creating Aalto and for understanding what I'm doing. It is a big deal for a new brand, it permits visibility and access to a lot new things which could help the brand. If successful, it would boost our operations, help us do more in presenting our universe and aid interaction with our clients, the press, etc. The list is long…"

9. If life has taught him anything, it's...
"Learn what your passion really is and let it guide you. There is no right or wrong way. Then be bold to do it even if it wouldn't be considered in a right way. And last but not least, work even harder you would ever expect."

10. He's excited about what tomorrow might bring.
"Fashion will always exist if there is free speech and society in the world. Not worried for that. The future will show even more different ways doing things, to even exist in different ways. Locally and globally, virtually and non-virtually. I would like to see the industry taking an increasingly educational role on how we consume -- more quality than quantity -- and finding ways to become more responsible; necessity shouldn't be a restraint creatively. I hope creativity will be afforded the necessary space to express, try, fail, and succeed. I dream to be able to concentrate more time on creative projects and find new unexpected creative projects. Tomorrow is uncertain, full of opportunities, that is exciting."



Campaign Photography Johan Sandberg

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