September 19 2017
Finland has always been at the heart of Tuomas Merikoski’s work for AALTO. After leaving his home country almost two decades ago, he founded AALTO in 2014 inspired by Finnish youth culture. In just three years and having been a finalist for the LVMH prize and the ANDAM prize, Merikoski has become part of Paris’s “nouvelle garde” and each season gives us his vision of a sophisticated and urban woman. Here we discuss the relationship with his homeland and how it influences in his work.
Words by Matthieu da Rocha
Hi Tuomas, first could you tell us what drove you to fashion?
It wasn't an immediate thing, I always wanted to be an actor growing up but I hated rehearsing. I had this thing in the back of my head about wanting to go into design, but growing up in a small city in the North of England it wasn't an obvious path. When I turned 18, was when I really decided and went to study Art Foundation at Kingston University before going on to study menswear at Central Saint Martins. Maybe it came from my Mum taking me shopping with her as a kid and always matching my socks with my tee shirts.
Finland is real “design nation” and home to some of the world’s most renowned architects and designers who defined the Scandinavian aesthetic. How do you think being Finnish influenced your approach to fashion design?
The Finnish identity is a real essence of my approach to design especially in Aalto. Then again, I totally think that this “Scandinavian aesthetic” you mention is only a half, a Yin of the Yin & Yan if I put it that way. I want to bring strongly in the extremes that are an essence in the people in Finland. That makes it modern and fresh, as well as the fact we are focused on future with a quite light baggage of the past.
How often do you travel back to Finland?
Several times a year, every second month I would say, either for business or pleasure to go back and see friends and family.
Is there anything about Finland that you miss when you are in Paris?
The most I miss is the nature with lakes and sauna, and the space and silence. That is very different there than in Paris.
What makes Finland so unique to you?
Uniqueness comes from the evolution of the people that has had strong contrasted influences from both west (Sweden) and east (Russia), unique language making everything peculiar and the social behavior that has evolved into something quite exotic in this land of forest and distances.
Photo credit: Johan Sandberg
Tuomas’s favourite spots in Helsinki
”I would visit Löyly for a great modern architecture, for its sauna (Löyly means throwing water on the sauna hot stones). It’s also the perfect place for drinks at sunset”.
”The legendary Strindberg Café is a great lunch spot. I’d particularly recommend their salmon soup”.
Artek 2nd Cycle
Designed by architect Niko Tiula, Artek 2nd Cycle store offers items by such classic designers as Alvar Aalto, Ilmari Tapiovaara, Yrjö Kukkapuro, Arne Jakobsen, Charles and Ray Eames, including not only furniture but also ceramics, tableware...
”When it comes to art I would recommend visiting Galerie Forsblom, as well as the Kiasma Museum of Contempory Art”.
”When it comes to enjoying the best Finnish specialties, there are many places to choose from. But I’d recommend the Sea Horse and the Savoy restaurant”.
Cafe-restaurant Story is located in the Old Market Hall in Helsinki. It offers straightforward market hall food, using the ingredients found at the market hall and the market square. ”It is the best place to start your day”.