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“I want to share the madness of my country.” Meet Tuomas Merikoski behind the Aalto label and finalist for the LVMH prize

 

Fifteen years ago Tuomas Merikoski left his native Finland for Paris. After a few years in the men’s studio at Givenchy and Louis Vuitton, he launched Aalto, inspired by the young Finnish underground. Numéro caught up with the LVMH prize finalist.

Numéro: You launched your label in 2014 and very quickly Aalto made significant waves in the fashion world. What was the message you wanted to get across?

Tuomas Merikoski: Finnish culture is barely represented on the international scene. After a long time thinking, I felt ready to highlight it and show the other side to the very smooth vision everyone has of my country. Just like its seasons with very short days in winter and very long days in summer, it's a culture full of contrasts. As there are lots of wide open spaces, the young Fins are very free and individualistic, and when the moment comes to express themselves they often become very excessive, particularly with alcohol. 

 

Why did you choose to launch your label in France?

Aalto wouldn’t have functioned in Finland. The country simply doesn’t have the infrastructure or influence that’s required for the fashion and luxury industry. In France there is a technical know-how, specialised factories, and above a real support in commercial and communication terms. And ultimately Aalto is a Franco-Finnish label that combines French expertise with Finnish culture. 

The Aalto silhouettes are very conceptual yet also very wearable. How have you managed to combine the two so effortlessly?

When I start a collection, my first thought is sociological and I draw a lot of inspiration from the Finnish state of mind. I want to show how young people live there and how the society evolves. The silhouettes are very direct, architectural even, reflecting this wearable and functional aspect that’s typical of my country. But I also want to share my country’s madness, as well as our vision of contemporary art. When I choose my colours I always look for shades that are slightly ambiguous and strange, like the pink and yellows of my last show that I associated with the image of urban Helsinki landscapes.

 

 

What’s the story behind the fall-winter 2016/17 collection entitled “Hellsinki” that you’re presenting for the LVMH prize?

With “Hellsinki” I wanted to talk about the young Sami, an indigenous people of Lapland, who for some time now are being forced to become urbanised. The concept of the collection is very rich because the Sami are building a new identity that combines urban life with their ancestral customs. My take is never political, I just observe and re-transcribe. But today with the question of immigration being so ripe, the notions of uprooting and adapting are becoming pretty general. 

You edited the book, Finnish Youth: The Vulnerable & Invincible, by photographer Jouko Lehtola. Does it feature the same youth you want to highlight?

Jouko Lehtola's photographs have been a huge influence on my work as a designer. He caught the Finnish youth in the 80s and 90s and got rid of the superfluous and superficial. The image is very raw and direct, showing a society that's a bit different to todays, very strong but just as naïve. 

 

www.aaltointernational.com

 

By Léa Zetlaoui

 

Check out more interviews of the LVMH prize finalists:

Glenn Martens’ interview.

Brandon Maxwell’s interview.

Christelle Kocher’s interview.

 

 

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