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 designers and new companies to create an active testbed for new solutions and innovations in the fields of fashion and textiles in Helsinki. 

“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 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 responsible products.* 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.

The Sisterhood brought Helsinki´s diversity to international catwalks 

The 2020s have 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 values. The Sisterhood does not, for example, differentiate between male or female models many of whom identify as LGBTQ+. ”I do casting according to my 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 modeling 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.

thesisterhood. fi

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 interesting. Many Nordic labels work with issues related to gender in one way or another, whether it’s a unisex, fluid, or 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.”

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 and 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 an 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

fluffstuff. fi

Other brands to follow:

About Helsinki Partners

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 a “Transformation Conference” every May. More information is here.

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



SOURCE: Helsinki Partners

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Betty Tűndik
Betty Tűndik
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