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(14): Rolf Ekroth

Finish designer found his calling in conceptual streetwear with historical narratives.

Edited by Robin Douglas Westling Written by Jimmy Guo

Helsinki, Finland — According to Rolf Ekroth himself, his life changed once he enrolled at the Aalto University School of Arts. After years of struggling with sales jobs, psychology studies and even professional poker, the Helsinki-based designer had finally found his calling. His designs are acclaimed by critics and in 2016, he was acknowledged as one of the finalists in the Hyères Fashion Festival which resulted in a capsule collection that sold at the Galeries Lafayette department store. Today, he continues to create conceptual streetwear with historical narratives proving that Scandinavia has more than minimalism to offer.

Rolf, how did you get into fashion?

— After high school, I was really lost. I had no clue as to what I wanted to do with my life. I tried studying social work and social psychology, had a bunch of different jobs and even played poker for a few years. None of those things felt right, so I decided to take some time to figure out what to do. A friend of mine suggested I should do something with fashion because I liked buying clothes so much. I thought about it and then I decided to apply for a sewing course. The sewing course was meant for elderly people, but they welcomed me with open arms and that’s basically how I got started.

You’ve graduated from Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, one of the most prestigious art schools in the world. How was this different from your earlier university experiences?

— When I got into fashion at Aalto University, my life changed 100%. It’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I really have nothing but good things to say about Aalto, Tuomas Laitinen and all the rest of the teaching staff. I’ve met a ton of talented people and I’ve learnt so much.

What made you decide to start your own brand right after graduation?

— I’m still not sure if creating my own label is the best choice for me. But the opportunity landed in my lap and I decided to go for it.

Do you have a fashion memory or moment that you can remember?

— I remember fashion history class during my first year of Aalto, we were taught all about the masters like Margiela, Helmut Lang, Raf Simons, Ann Demeulemeester, Alexander McQueen and so on. That really opened my eyes to what in fashion I had missed out on.

You seem to work with a lot of interesting novelty materials. Tell us about your design aesthetic?

— I’m really drawn to technical fabrics. I like having fun when designing clothes and I don’t want to take myself too seriously, but I don’t consider my designs to be humorous. The silhouettes and colours always reflect the research of each collection.

I’ve read that your parents spent 250 hours stitching 35,000 Swarovski crystals and beads by hand for your last collection. Have they always been supportive of your creativity?

— My parents are the best! We have been sewing Swarovski crystals and laser cut fabrics together now for two seasons. Some of the pieces that I’ve done for my collections are so time-consuming that it would be impossible for me to complete them on my own. So thankfully, I have two very handy parents who “love” to help me out. I think what really convinced them that fashion design was right for me was when I won Designer’s Nest in Copenhagen with my first menswear collection.

You were also one of the finalists for the Hyères Fashion Competition 2016. What did it mean for you as designer being at the competition?

— It was my goal since day one of when I started at Aalto. The trio Laitinen-Raasakka-Sirèn had just won the competition and it gave me a glimpse of what is possible to do. After the competition, I got to work with Galeries Lafayette and create a capsule collection which will be in stores this autumn. Hyères has meant everything, I’m so grateful.

A lot seems to be happening in the Finnish fashion scene right now, with a new wave of emerging talent. Why do you think this is?

— It’s really easy to answer, it’s all because of Aalto University and Tuomas Laitinen. It’s difficult to say what Finland’s role is in Scandinavian fashion is yet. I guess it’s something that we’ll find out in the future. At the moment, it’s too early to say.

What is your opinion on Scandinavian fashion?

— I think the term “Scandinavian minimalism” is really outdated.

What’s the best thing about being Scandinavian?

— Our clean nature.