Nothing makes you step up your aesthetic quite like moving to the Nordics. Known predominantly for their furniture and glass design, the Finns are an intimidatingly stylish bunch. So when I moved to Helsinki two years ago, I was ready to update, well, everything I owned. Here are all the things I bought in my first year.
In case you’re unfamiliar, Fiskars is the oldest business still operating in Finland. It’s widely beloved for its practical kitchenware and best known for its orange-handled scissors. My Finnish grandparents had a pair of these when I was growing up, so when I saw them on sale and immediately felt nostalgic, I had to buy a pair.
I first came across Samuji when I walked past its flagship store in Helsinki. Samuji is a statusy Finnish brand that’s been around since 2009. Specialising in timeless clothes and minimalistic homeware, it’s a haven for people like me who hate fussy design. I bought its chunky beanie in black, which is made from a 50 percent mohair blend making it incredibly soft. It’s an oversize, chunky fit, so pre-pandemic, I wore it to beer and movie nights at Riviera and fit right in with the city’s artsy types. Now I’m fantasising about getting it in orange for the spring.
Founded as a glassworks in the 1880s, Iittala’s early designers — think Alvar Aalto, Oiva Toikka, and Tapio Wirkkala — are considered bone fide celebrities in Finland. The brand is so popular that you’ll find a piece in pretty much every Finnish home. The design of the Kastehelmi range is based on dew drops, and I got the jar as a birthday present from a friend. I use mine for tea lights, but it would make a gorgeous sugar bowl too.
I could have bought one of everything when I first set foot in Finlayson, Finland’s favourite textiles manufacturer. This duvet set is made from 100 percent organic cotton and — even better — it’s reversible. I’ve had mine for over a year and the colour hasn’t faded in the wash at all.
R-Collection is Finland’s answer to a more outdoorsy Uniqlo. I bought the classic anorak after months of eyeing it up. After trying it on in every colour, I settled on moss green, but I wish I’d gone for the honey. It wouldn’t be Finnish if it weren’t exceedingly practical, so you’ll be pleased to hear it has an aquatx coating, making it stain-, water- and wind-repellent. I wear mine on weekend hiking trips, with a thermal layer underneath, and it keeps me toasty warm. Now I’ve got my eye on its Tilda velvet blouse, which, paired with black jeans and chunky boots, would be perfect for late-night drinks in Vallila.
If there’s one Finnish brand you’ve heard of, it’s probably Marimekko: It’s so popular that Finns take suitcases to the outlet store whenever it announces a sale. I treated myself to the Eppu backpack last year, and it’s still going strong. Marimekko is best known for its poppy print Unikko design, which is iconic and instantly recognisable. While I can appreciate its louder prints, I love that the Eppu backpack is a little more understated and goes with pretty much anything.
My favourite thing about Finnish fashion is that grannies and teenagers often wear the exact same items — and R/H’s Mickey square dress is the perfect example. It comes in one size and, paired with leggings and trainers, is the comfiest outfit I own. R/H was founded by two Finns, Hanna Riiheläinen and Emilia Hernesniemi, ten years ago. They’re big into local and sustainable production, so all their clothes are designed in Finland, and their materials are sourced and manufactured within the E.U.
No one really needs fancy pot stands, but I couldn’t resist these Majama ones. Made from birch plywood, they come in black, white, or plain, and I’ve yet to serve dinner on them without receiving a compliment. The pot stands, which were designed by Jani Martikainen and inspired by the Aalto vase, are so popular that they were awarded a prize in Alvar Aalto’s centenary-year competition. I picked mine up from Stockmann, an upmarket department store in the middle of town.
If you ever find yourself in Helsinki, pop into Karhu. These Synchron Classics are a perfect ’90s throwback, and the shop assistants will gladly tell you the story of how Karhu sold its three-stripe trademark to a little-known brand called Adidas in 1952, for the equivalent of €1,600 and two bottles of whiskey.
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