FINNISH STREETWEAR - TIME BETWEEN THEN AND NOW
At the turn of the year a few big names and my own idols, Bobby Hundreds (The Hundreds) and Virgil Abloh (Off-White), wrote about streetwear over the last decade and it's possible death.
Before my own thoughts, I will tell you a little about my background. I have worked with streetwear industry for over ten years. I founded the brand running koala in 2009, and after 8 years I cemented RK in the street in 2017. Since then I founded clothing brand PEXX. About 11 years, about 40 collections and thousands of products. I have also helped, mentored and manufactured products for new and rising brands.
But that's me. Then look at the streetwear in general, and more specifically the Finnish streetwear. Past, present and future.
I would see that streetwear (the term) landed in Finland in the late '00s. It's kind of a branch of skate clothing and culture that has continued it's own path. When I started running koala in 2009, there was not many brands or role models in Finland besides Makia, CTRL and Osuma. The prints and fabrics were large and colorful. In the early 2010s, webshop sales weren't at all what they are today, and there were still a lot of corner shops. However, the problem was to get to the racks of small skateboarding and clothing stores with a domestic brand. Big foreign brands filled the racks. There were, of course, exceptions, and opportunities were given to Finnish brands. In those days the collections were wider and went in a big fashion cycle. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter. In fact, it was even required for small brands to even negotiate admission. Had to be seasonal collections and products had to be presented at least half a year earlier. Sometimes it was really difficult for small and beginner brands. But it's also really instructive that the spirit was supposed to be really professional back then, even for small brands. For example, with RK, every collection had a paper catalog, which is not at all common or even necessary in today's social media era. The quality side was also very variable, especially with regard to print. I printed running koala shirts by myself with screen printing, so the quality remained, but I remember conversations with other brand founders and horror stories about how whole collections and batches were redone when a foreign printing house quality took off with a finger. After 2015, the streetwear phenomenon somehow exploded, and it felt like all small and big shops, artists, groups of friends had their own “clothing brand”. The thing expanded, some of the brands and projects stayed and grew, some were forgotten after one batch of shirts. The biggest problem, in my opinion, was (and still is) that the Finnish streetwear never had a very common and united channel. Someone that would have pumped and raised releases and authors to the awareness of the bigger mass. It would have been important to have a website like Hypebeast or Highsnobiety, which almost daily pushes out information from Finnish brands, authors, artists, designers and publications. Now, there are already enough authors and materials out there. The birth of Hypend, for example, was a great channel for this.
In 2020, Finnish streetwear is living and doing well. We have also lost brands like RCM, Skuxx, running koala, Ludicrous, Wht Moment (hopefully the brands like .TEBIAN and ROTSIAUKI is not included in this list). There are many brands and creators, and every consumer will surely find their own thing. Nowadays, clear seasonal collections have declined, especially from smaller brands. Nowadays more smaller drops and releases are published. Larger brands like Makia and Billebeino offer to the masses a wider choice. Designers own brands like AITO Studios (Eetu Räisänen) and Zouseph's (Juuso Korpi & Alex Vainio) offer the specialized production batches. On the skateboard side we got Cloything. Shops have their own clothes like Beyond and Day-Off. Brands can be found all over Finland from south to north, like Mukisport, PEXX, PAINE, MELLAKKA, LELU, Tatsi and MOAR. Big companies have also started to get more and more involved in streetwear, such as the Marimekko's Kioski collection. Creating your own clothing brand is much easier nowadays than it used to be. Requirements and rules have also changed. Once upon a time, you couldn't talk about your own brand of clothing if a mass production factory's label was found on the neck of the shirt. Today it's okay to print your own print on a Gildan t-shirt and sell it for 50 euros.
So, the supply of Finnish streetwear in 2020 will be wider and better than ever. Brands must to deal with the problems of overproduction and ecology in the global fashion crisis, which will inevitably come in streetwear culture. Colors and bigger prints are beginning to return to the products after a minimalist style and a down to earth color style like Yeezy and Fear of God. People are using and supporting Finnish brands more than ever, and it is happy to see sold out products and long queues in releases.
The future of Finnish streetwear looks very bright. There are many creators and brands, old ones doing their own thing and new ones appearing all the time. Also artists products and their own artist merch will become more common in Finland according to the world trend. For example, JVG/PME, Rähinä, Katin Tavara, M-Eazy Music have made their own artist products for a long time, but clearly the projects of artists and their crews are becoming more common, such as Töis Crew and Vitun Leija. Even Blockfest music festival has its own collections. Clear brands and collections remain, but individual designers and creators are rising with their own projects and publications. Custom and handmade items will also become more common, with creators like JIMIVAIN. Hypend wrote a great text about Archive Fashion. Product customize and single piece manufacturing, as well as flea market and second hand market like Brand Second Hand, are becoming more prevalent under the pressure of a consumer celebration and environmental care. In addition, international awareness will increase due to the current brands and creators mentioned above, as well as the internationally renowned brands such as Sasu Kauppi, Terinit, Nopeet.
To return to the top and the original topic of streetwear's death, I do not believe it. It changes its shape but does not disappear. Urban streetwear with it's ideological prints and attitudes has already become a part of the general fashion and must be accepted. The most radical elements and brands will continue to be under the radar, and those who seeking bigger attention will receive even more attention. For example, rap music, wich is strongly linked to streetwear, has turned from a subculture music to popular music. And the rap hasn't disappeared. So streetwear will not disappear. Streetwear lives forever.
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