Helsinki has become a hotspot for socially and culturally responsible new brands and material innovations – the legacy of its egalitarian design paves the way for young designers and researchers

Helsinki has become a hotspot for socially and culturally responsible new brands and material innovations – the legacy of its egalitarian design paves the way for young designers and researchers

Helsinki has become a hotspot for new material development companies such as Spinnova, Infinited Fibre and Metsä Spring – but also for socially and culturally responsible new fashion brands. Helsinki Partners, a city marketing, investment and talent attraction company owned by the City of Helsinki, works closely with the designers and new companies to create an active testbed for new solutions and innovations in the fields of fashion and textile in Helsinki. 

Photo: Chris Vidal Tenomaa

”For most of the new brands working in the field of fashion in Helsinki, the key driver is the city’s values, such as equality and transparency,” Annamari Vänskä from the Aalto University explains. ”Our history of egalitarian design helps both the designers and consumers to make sustainable choices. Social and environmental responsibility drives especially Generation Z in Helsinki.” 
In 2022, 78% of 18-25 years old Finns named integrity, forgiveness, helping others, and taking responsibility as their most important values. 48% are also willing to pay more for products that are responsible.* The city, for example, has partnered with the local fashion event, Fashion in Helsinki, to gain global visibility and network with young designers and new responsible brands. 

Photo: Aava Anttinen & Chris Vidal Tenomaa

The Sisterhood brought Helsinki´s diversity to international catwalks 
The 2020´s has seen an invasion of Finnish models to international catwalks. Most of these new models have come from a new boutique model agency from Helsinki, The Sisterhood. Jasmin Islamovic (b.1983) opened The Sisterhood only about a year ago but already their clients include major international fashion brands such as Balenciaga, Prada, Gucci and Celine. For Islamovic, it was important to make an agency, that was rooted in their own values. The Sisterhood does not, for example, differentiate between male or female models many of whom identify as LGBTQ+. ”I do casting according my own view of the world, what I believe in and what I find interesting. It is my vision of beauty,” Islamovic says.  
Islamovic came to Finland in 1996 from the former Yugoslavia area as a refugee. They say that their background has helped them to understand their models who have had similar experiences of feeling different and struggling to find their identity. The Sisterhood´s models don't usually have any previous modelling experience as Islamovic casts them directly from Helsinki´s streets, trams, grocery stores or other everyday places. 
”There is something special about Helsinki, it is a combination of melancholy and a sense of humor that you don't get anywhere else. The background of The Sisterhood’s models may vary, but all of them have been living their youth in Helsinki and the city´s vibe affects their style, values, and general way of being. Somehow you can see that these people are not from Paris or Stockholm,” Islamovic states.


Photo: Hayley Tra My Lê & James Cochrane

Latimer redefines the idea of masculinity 
Latimmier is a high-end ready-to-wear label based in Helsinki and, at the same time, an experimental project redefining the concept of masculinity. It is brought to life through the fashion of designer Ervin Latimer (b.1988). The brand aims to redefine the idea of masculinity and Latimmier invites everyone to examine the masculinity within themselves. The brand received a lot of attention over the past year through events such as Pitti Uomo and Copenhagen Fashion Week. In addition to his work as a designer, Latimer has written and lectured on the intersections of queer-culture, anti-racism, masculinity, and fashion. 
”The fashion scene in Helsinki has gotten really interesting. Many Nordic labels work with issues related to gender in one way or another, whether it’s a unisex, fluid or another otherwise unconventional approach. It has become a part of Helsinki’s fashion scene very naturally. Especially the younger designers have been able to find their own voices around this topic,” Latimer states listing designers and brands such as Maria Korkeila, By Hinders, and Rolf Ekroth. 
”I’m especially happy with the informality of dressing in Helsinki. We don't tend to have, for example, strict business dress codes, and you see amazing, very personal styles in the streets, offices, and cafes.”


Photo: Anette Kinnunen & Henri Salonen

Filled with Fluff Stuff – a new material company provides a natural alternative for unsustainable textile fillings 
Fluff Stuff is a Helsinki based new material innovation company developing climate-positive textile fillings and products. Fluff Stuff replaces unsustainable textile fillings with a natural alternative, such as cattail, and fosters sustainable farming practices. ”Cattail was a common filling material in Finland historically, but was then forgotten.” co-founder, strategist Tea Auramo tells. ”Cattail is completely biodegradable, vegan, non-toxic and works really well as filling material. The Finnish government decided in 2020 to halve the use of peat within a decade as part of its climate strategy, and since then there has been a need to find alternative use for the peat production areas. Cattail grows in these areas naturally and cleans water and soil.”  
Auramo works with a team of researchers, designers, engineers and other professionals. She finds Helsinki an excellent place for startups to grow. ”When you work with innovations, finding a multidisciplinary team is crucial. The Helsinki area has top universities that combine business, design, fashion, and technology really well. It has become a desirable place for top researchers and has a growing international network of different experts, good living conditions help this as well. Because of both the social and physical structure of Helsinki, networking and collaborating is easy here.” 
In the future, Fluff Stuff aims to have its own factory to process cattail on top of the locally sourced raw filling material, the plan is to offer selected textile and fashion products. ”For a company that works with innovations, technology and fashion, Helsinki is a very good place to start,” Auramo says
Other brands to follow: 
Rolf Ekroth 
Maria Korkeila 
By Hinders 
Sofia Ilmonen 
Juha Vehmaanperä 
Jenny Hytönen 
Infinited Fibre 
Metsä Spring 

More information, image requests and interviews
Martta Louekari
Juni Communication
Tel. +358 40 5284818

Leena Karppinen
Senior Manager, PR & Communications
Helsinki Partners 
tel. +358 40 334 6384

Helsinki Partners is a city marketing, investment and talent attraction company owned by the City of Helsinki. Helsinki Partners matches Finnish growth companies with the most relevant global investors and help international startups set up in Helsinki. Helsinki Partners help business to find the best business opportunities in Helsinki and raise the business to new international heights. Together with Fashion in Helsinki and Scandinavian Mind, Helsinki Partners organises “Transformation Conference” every May. More information here

*Terhi-Anna Wilska´s research project ”DigiConsumers”, University of Jyväskylä 2022

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Tea Auramo

Jasmin Islamic


Ervin Latimer

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