Finnish fashion – 15 + more minutes of fame in Hong Kong

I brought 10 up-and-coming Finnish fashion designers to participate Hong Kong Fashion Week in January 2015. This, by far, one of the biggest Finnish fashion introductions in Asia was facilitated by the Finland – Hong Kong Trade Association, of which vice chair-person I am.

As I am not a fashion guru, nor am I deeply familiar with the fashion scene, I needed a co-operation partner with a vision how to build an entrance to international fashion fair with 10 designers. Founder team of #INLAND seemed like a natural choice for co-operation since they had just recently presented a pop-up store of 8 Finnish brands in Berlin. Designer Kaisa Riivari accepted the challenge and so we started our journey with Hong Kong as our destination.

There was whole bunch of work to do! Kaisa took the charge in coordinating the designers and I was responsible for arrangements with the fair organizer HKTDC, wheedling sponsors to support our 100 % volunteer-based project and arranging side events, which included opening ceremony, fashion show, media breakfast seminar and fashion cocktail party. You may learn more about our project in the video “Finnish Fashion Designers Made a Successful Debut in Hong Kong” by HKTDC. The video can be seen here: 

We were lucky to have full support from Consulate General of Finland in Hong Kong and Finnish Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong (Finncham) in order to make our events successful in Hong Kong. Annie Wang, a super girl and a previous pr intern in Finncham, showed a great initiative in writing and article about our project and sending press releases and invitations to our events to potential buyers.  Annie’s article can be read by clicking the link “#INLAND Fashion Project in Finnish Fashion”. Also an active, initiative (the characters I really admire in people) and pretty HK exchange student,  Janni, contacted with me and wanted to volunteer in our project. She was a great help in practical things during the fashion fair. Janni also shared some feelings and photos from the fashion fair in her blog writing #INLAND.

Kaisa, Janni, me and Annie

We were also happy to have singer Saara Aalto accompanying the group to bring in extra Finnish flavor to the #INLAND Hong Kong Fashion Project. She has gained fame in Finland for her success in Finland’s Got Talent (2007), Eurovision Song Contest (2011, Finnish national selections) and The Voice of Finland (2012). Currently, Saara Aalto is gaining positive recognition in China as well, being one of the most famous Finnish artists in the country along with HIM and Nightwish. Audience in Hong Kong was totally fascinated by Saara’s talent and her skills in singing Chinese were not left unnoticed!

Consul General Mr. Jari Sinkari, fantastic Saara Aalto and me in an opening ceremony
Saara singing in Finnish Fashion Coctail Party accompanied by talented and sweet Jose Bernardo @FINDS Restaurant

The brands in our #INLAND deparment included the following talents:

  • LUMI – The acclaimed Finnish brand, Lumi, designs clean, pure, timeless handbags, shoes and leather accessories for both women and men.
  • Costo – Costo accessories combine three aspects: quality, ecology and style, which tangle into the unique philosophy of sustainable design uphold by the people behind the brand.
  • Katri Niskanen –  Women’s wear. ELLE Awards Winner 2014 – The Designer of the Year. Finland’s first Project Runway winner.
  • FINSK – FINSK’s unique and modern shoe designs are avant-garde yet supremely wearable. Contrasting leathers and sculptural wooden heels are cleverly used to create truly unique design masterpieces.
  • LIISA RISKI – Liisa Riski aims to create simple, feminine and long lasting women’s wear that is shaped by positivity, joy of life and love. The Liisa Riski handwriting is clean, feminine yet colourful and vivacious.
  • Saint Vacant – Saint Vacant was born out of passion for bespoke shoemaking. That is why the devil is in the detail. From the uniquely designed last and high quality materials to the “one little detail” that completes the design – the shoes and accessories are a perfect fit for the individualist.
  • Nomen Nescio – Men’s wear, which is about simple functionality and contemporary yet timeless pieces. The ambition is to work as sustainable as possible.
  • Viona Blu –  Viona Blu is a Finnish based handbag and accessory brand. Main raw material being used is fish skin. The brand’s philosophy is to honor traditional sewing atelier culture with its concentration on details and excellent quality, and bring it to the contemporary time.
  • Dusty Marjut Uotila – Dusty Marjut Uotila is an avant-garde menswear label known for its presentation of artistic signature pieces without compromising wearability.
  • RIIVARI – RIIVARI is a brand that creates wearable clothing and accessories with a modern twist. RIIVARI´s design is trendy and fresh, the style is always fun.

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Big thanks go to our generous sponsors, especially POLAR that faciliated the participation of Saara Aalto in our fashion team, but also Iittala, Alarice International, Koskenkorva (importer Chiara Ltd.), Valio, Nordqvist, FINDS Restaurant and Visit Finland!! Each of these sponsors shared a valuable input in order to make our trip successful.

Listen to the views of our designers and get introduced to their work by watching the following video by HKTDC:

Finnish fashion gained a lot of positive interest and feedback. Many purchase contracts were also done between the local buyers and our designers. It seems that those brands that show uniqueness in their design or can provide an interesting story behing their designs gain the most attention. It could be the unique material. like fish skin in Viona Blu accessories or ecological, yet fun choices in Costo hats or introducing artistic avant-garde pieces of menswear such like Dusty Marjut Uotila.

We also organized a fashion show during the fair. Even the creative adviser of H&M, Margareta van den Bosch, enjoyed the Finnish fashion with great enthusiasm. 🙂

HKTDC’s representative for Nordic countries fantastic Ms. Julie Borselius and H&M’s creative designer Ms. Margareta van den Bosch @Finnish Fashion Show
Behind the scenes. Guys wearing cool outfits by RIIVARI.
Behind the scenes. A girl wearing Katri Niskanen dress and Viona Blu hand bag.
In the action. This guy was totally fierce and cold chills run through the body by watching him wearing Nomen Nescio.
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In the action. Last walk in the cat walk. Outfits by Katri Niskanen, Nomen Nescio, Dusty Marjut Uotila and RIIVARI.

The Finnish Fashion Coctail Party was aimed at the local blog writers, press and buyers. Saara was singing and Koskenkorva Vodka flowing. The atmosphere was great and the locals got to experience the Finnish way of partying. 😉

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I introduced the real celebrities – our designers. 🙂
Koskenkorva Vodka was enjoyed – with moderation of course.

Hundreds of non-paid hours were spent on this effortful fashion project. However, this has been one of my most rewarding, interesting and inspiring projects of my whole lifetime! I got to know such fantastic talents, work with many professionals and most of all, introduce style, knowhow and vision from my home country Finland!

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