Interview by Katja Räisänen | Photographer Johan Sandberg, Art director Simon Rivero, Stylist Mauricio Nardi, Casting Alexandra Sandberg | Artwork by Inka Bell | Copy Editing Matthew Jones
Tuomas Merikoski courtesy of AALTO International

What led you to become a fashion designer?

TM: I was originally very much into the alternative music scene, DJ culture and the lifestyle around it, albeit coming from a very normal middle-class background. I was not at all into fashion. Being very much into something creative, like fashion, was actually a very distinct choice in the Finnish scene. It was really a coincidence, driven by curiosity and an attachment to the lifestyle that I have always been into.

What is special about being a designer today? What does the team mean in today’s fashion designing work?

TM: I find it is less special being a designer now than before in general terms, but today we are in a really strong junction of creativity and business and this brings a lot of outside pressure. In a highly developed society such as ours, design is one of the most valuable assets – as valuable as engineering in its own way. Design, service and added value product are the industry drivers for success in most things.

Teamwork is essential today. A designer has to cope with much larger aspects of things compared to how it was before: social media, communication, PR and overall image creating. It is not easy – maybe not even human in some levels – to cope with it. So the team around you, the collective, and working as a team is super important, even at a small scale.

From AALTO International SS17 -collection, Photographer Johan Sandberg

What do you think about ready-made versus made-to-measure-concepts, will the made-to-measure concept be more emphasised in future?

TM: Like in many things today, I believe the barriers between ready-made and made-to-measure will blur. If the industry reforms itself, as it should, small series, semi made-to-measure services etc. will be a part of the luxury consuming more and more in the future. So will it be more emphasized? I am not sure, but the uniqueness and customization will be strong values.

From AALTO International SS17 -collection, Photographer Johan Sandberg
From AALTO International SS17 -collection, Photographer Johan Sandberg

You started with your brand AALTO International 2014 and from the first collection you have emphasized among other things the value of artist collaborations, for example the collaboration with Jouko Lehtola Foundation. Also in AALTO International’s presentation After Nature One during Pre Helsinki week you have collaborated with celebrated choreographer Ima Iduozee. What does visual art and other art forms mean to you in relation to your own designing and work?

TM: I am a designer, not an artist. So from time-to-time it is great to collaborate with an artist who can extend the idea I have in a very free way.

I am, before anything else, a creative person and art is the holy grail of inspiration and expression for me. I also think art is the purest way to understand what and who we are. Art as an implement helps to show what my DNA is and what Aalto’s Finnish origin DNA should be. The collaborations are there to highlight this relationship and also my aim is to support art that has a strong voice today. So I am devoted to respect art and also express its importance to me and for AALTO International. I believe also that a good idea will deepen if there is a connection with art or with a similar narrative approach.

From AALTO International SS17 -collection, Photographer Johan Sandberg

As part of the Pre Helsinki fashion event, three artists have been given designers’ looks to draw inspiration from. Three unique art posters have been created and visual artist Inka Bell made her interpretation from your collection’s look. What do you think of her artwork inspired by AALTO International?

TM: It respects us while respecting her own work. It is very clean and minimal which I also see AALTO International being a bit, more architectural and progressive, than for example decorative. I think she has also well expressed our strong, unusual take on colour.

Artwork by Inka Bell, Serigraphy, 2017
From AALTO International SS17 -collection, Photographer Johan Sandberg

What inspires you most?

TM: Life, identities and a specific essence in an environment. I’m equally intrigued of AALTO International as a Finnish DNA brand in Paris and the points of views and thoughts it procures. Also the current sociological feelings are thought-provoking, this chaos around us. Fashion is supposed to be a kind of sponge, reflecting time.

I am very motivated in trying to express an idea, or a strong artistic concept in our current reality. Telling the story in a real day-to-day grasping way is what makes me really feel the excitement and relevance of it.


A selection of AALTO International’s products are available at Pre Helsinki Pop Up Shop at ARTEK, Keskuskatu 1 B until May 20.

AALTO International’s presentation « After Nature One » May 17 at Valkoinen Sali was part of the fifth Pre Helsinki fashion event, May 13-20, 2017