Anthology of Finnish Fashion at the Design Museum in Helsinki

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A couple of years ago, my friend Suvi, the chief curator of the Design Museum in Helsinki, decided that a comprehensive museum exhibition about Finnish fashion needed to be developed as soon as possible: the Finnish fashion has made a striking entrance in recent years, and the scene is flourishing with young, talented and internationally potential designers. It has even been said that Finnish fashion has not had such a moment since Jacqueline Kennedy fell in love with Marimekko’s cheerful prints during the ’60s. And there has never been a historical exhibition on this theme before.

Suvi asked if I would like to help with the curation, and of course I said YES!  As a former student of museology and history, curating an exhibition was a dream-come-true for me. As a result of that conversation, the exhibition “Finnish Fashion: An Anthology” opened on June 5, and closed one week ago.

First, we proposed the following questions: “What is Finnish fashion?” “What does it look like?” and “Why does it look like it does?” Based on these questions, we developed the nine themes around which we built the exhibition: Change, The Economic Boom, The Engineering Mindset, Equality, Folk, Globalization, The Millennium, Modernism, and Winter. We wanted to learn how the development and conditions of Finnish society have been manifested in fashion through the post-war decades.

The Design Museum has an extensive, marvelous fashion and clothes collection, which naturally formed the starting point for the curation work. Approximately one-third of the exhibits come from the museum’s collections.

We started working on the exhibition after I had moved to San Francisco, so I was unfortunately unable to meet and interview designers and visit the museum archives. On the other hand, working from such a long distance gave me a new perspective on a familiar subject.

After any project I think it’s good to ask, what lessons did I learn?

Firstly, some of the most iconic pieces of Finnish fashion do not exist anymore, or they are too worn-out to be exhibited. Therefore, some key pieces were missing from the exhibition, such as the Lee Cooper parka jacket by Irja Leimu and Mic Mac jeans.

Thirdly, it’s super expensive to create museum exhibitions. You need to insure all the exhibits, post them back and forth, and do loads of paper work. This takes money and time. When we began working, we dreamed of publishing a catalogue or book in conjunction with the exhibition. We also dreamed of showcasing photos and videos in addition to outfits. This time these dreams did not come true.

In a way, I agree with the cultural critique from Aino Frilander at Helsingin Sanomat: our exhibition was a missed opportunity. This could have been the most perfect opportunity and timing to gather and publish more information about the history of Finnish fashion in a form of a comprehensive publication. The Design Museum is able to publish only one printed catalogue per a year which means not all exhibitions can have one.

However, I think this is just the beginning! After all, this was the very first historical exhibition on the subject. I’m sure there will be many more opportunities for books, articles, exhibitions, and conversations about Finnish fashion.

The final conclusion: I’m super happy with the end result. The exhibition looked like we did it: it’s positive, colourful, multifaceted. It also questions the traditional definition of the ‘fashion’.

PS: I just learned that there were 28% more visitors to the Design Museum this July than there were last July. Yay!

Interior Architecture by Linda Bergroth. Photos by Paavo Lehtonen


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Pre Helsinki Street Style III

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Pre Helsinki street styles for Bullett Magazine. All photos by me.


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Pre Helsinki Street Style II

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Pre Helsinki street styles for Bullett Magazine.. All photos by me.

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Pre Helsinki Street Style I

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Pre Helsinki street styles shot for Bullett Magazine. All photos by me and more to come!

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Attack Your Wardrobe Story with Sunru

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Attack Your Wardrobe Story for Cracker with my friend Sunru! All photos by me.


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SF Looks on Instagram!

Go follow! I think it looks pretty good! Thanks to all lovely Sanfranciscans who let me take their photos.

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Attack Your Wardrobe for Cracker

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Something I did last December for my favorite magazine ever, the Korean Cracker. A wardrobe story with David. All photos by me.

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Business Looks for Kauppalehti Optio

DSC03845 DSC03840 DSC03622I was asked to hunt for some business looks for the Finnish magazine Kauppalehti Optio. Took a while to spot the styles but as I love challenges I would love to do more of this!

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Secrets of My Style – Tyylisalat for Olivia Magazine



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I had to say goodbye to Tyylisalat – The Secrets of My Style column of the Finnish Olivia magazine, because I moved to San Francisco. This is the last piece in the series I did 2009-2014. Casting, styling, photography and texts by me = dream work. I photographed my friend Ulla at her home in Palo Alto.

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SF Looks is the new Hel Looks!

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Hi from San Francisco! I moved here in June, because. The new home town means I had to put Hel Looks on a break. But I didn’t want to stop street snapping, so I launched a new site, SF Looks. It’s the sister site of Hel Looks so the principle is the same: to document individual, unique street styles without any age, style or other limits. Some small things have changed, though: I will update the site more often than before, even several times a week (!). And the site is more easy to browse with your mobile or reader. I hope you enjoy SF street styles as much as I do!

All photos by me.

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  • Liisa Jokinen

    Liisa Jokinen

    Freelance Writer, Street Style Photographer
    mobile: +358 50 538 3530
    +1 (415) 802-3230