Aalto rides a wave of inspiration
With some 188 000 lakes punctuating the Finnish landscape, the significance of these bodies of water cannot be understated to locals. In fact, their deep blue surface is said to have even inspired the choice of colour of the Finnish flag.
For Finnish fashion label Aalto, water also is an omnipresent theme. So much so, that the company has taken its name from the Finnish word for 'wave'.
"Waves mean a lot to me; water means life, basically," explains founder and artistic director Tuomas Merikoski. "The name has several meanings which are important; my own surname is also related to water ['sea rapids']."
Another of the main reasons Merikoski chose such a title was to emphasise that the label is inspired by his country of birth.
"We are trying to create a big player in the fashion luxury industry for Finland," Merikoski continues. "That's the aim. We are taking my own purely Finnish roots and combining it with international business."
Since its launch in January 2015, Aalto has sought to emphasise a less explored element of the Finnish identity.
"The public image has traditionally been of a modern society, lots of nature, well educated, minimal and fresh," Merikoski explains. "All these qualities are true, but I feel that the essence of the culture and people is somewhere else."
Merikoski has thus tasked himself with scratching beneath the traditionally calm surface to reveal what lies beneath.
"We are talking about taboos, extremes and excesses that exist," he explains. "All those contrasts create an interesting mix that is particular to Finland."
Needless to say, this fresh perspective has been very positively received.
"It's been amazing," Merikoski enthuses. "People find it very authentic and actual and real. We are doing super well. People realise already now there is a real spot for a brand like ours."
Merikoski's career in the luxury industry in Paris stretches back 15 years, and includes collaborations with big names such as Givenchy and Louis Vuitton. The resultant knowhow and connections he accumulated over the years mean that Aalto already enjoys a worldwide network.
"We are using Paris as a hub to spread everywhere," he states. "We are very visible, especially in Europe, and are also strong in Japan, Korea and the States. We already have distributers in all of the big capitals in the world, all the way to Australia."
Merikoski acknowledges that none of this would have been possible without funding assistance, including the early stage support that Aalto received from Vigo Accelerators.
"It was a good start, definitively," he states. "The process was straightforward. It is very important that creativity and startups are supported by the likes of Vigo."
Receiving this assistance importantly also gave structure to the business, ensuring that costs were monitored and controlled from the very get go.
In fact, following on from the successful boost received from Vigo, Aalto the sought further involvement with Tekes. Now, as part of the Young Innovative Company programme, the label's tidal wave of success continues to grow.
"I'm happy with the results so far, but my ambition is much higher," Merikoski says.
New Aalto International Oy
Year established: 2014
2016 estimated turnover: €1-2 million
Number of employees: 8
Text: James O'Sullivan
Photo: Aalto International