Weekly Mix: Ilari Laamanen

Ilari Laamanen has co-curated the fashion after Fashion exhibition in New York. The long-distance runner compiled a playlist for running by the East River.

Ilari Laamanen has co-curated the fashion after Fashion exhibition in New York. The long-distance runner compiled a playlist for running by the East River.

Ilari Laamanen has co-curated the fashion after Fashion exhibition that recently opened in New York. He says that Finnish design, art and research stand out in the United States because of their originality.

What is your background and how long have you lived in New York? 

I’ve lived in New York since the beginning of 2013. Before that I worked as a freelance curator and producer in Helsinki. I’ve also lived in Reykjavik and Copenhagen. My background includes interdisciplinary Master’s Programmes: I’ve studied media studies at the University of Turku and curating at the Aalto University.

What kind of projects have you been involved with?

The most extensive recent project by the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York is a mobility programme MOBIUS, which enables cross-Atlantic work periods and collaborative projects for Finnish and New York-based curators and visual arts organizations.

You have curated the fashion after Fashion exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design together with the professor of fashion studies of the Parsons School of Design, Hazel Clark. The exhibition features New York based Eckhaus Latta, Lucy Jones and Ryohei Kawanishi, Danish Henrik Vibskov, as well as ensæmble and SSAW Magazine from Finland. How did you end up selecting these two from Finland?

SSAW Magazine and ensæmble have uncompelled, stand out practices that resonate in various ways with our exhibition concept. Their work is based on cooperation. It is long-term and artistically ambitious and questions the gender roles – and for these reasons very important.

Where did you get the idea for the fashion after Fashion exhibition and cooperation with the other curator, Hazel Clark? 

The first ideas for the exhibition emerged already in the end of 2013 when we were working with another fashion-themed project. We realized that fashion exhibitions often follow a stereotypical pattern and that many things happening in the fashion context have never been addressed in a museum. We started to work on an exhibition that would focus on contemporary phenomena and on completely new, commissioned installations.

Artnet has listed fashion after Fashion as one of the must-see exhibitions in the United States. What kind of reception are you expecting?

fashion after Fashion has aroused plenty of interest in advance, which means that time is right for this kind of exhibition. I hope that it stimulates discussion about fashion related phenomena and ethical questions and that it will be noted in various media because of its multidisciplinary approach.

Ilari Laamanen moved to New York in 2013, and started to work on the fashion after Fashion exhibition soon after.
In INSIDE, ensæmble draws attention to the inside of garments, studying their hidden structures, volumes, and details—not just their external appearance. © SANNA LEHTO

ensæmble, from the series Relætion Studies, 2016

What is the purpose of the exhibition? What is Fashion after Fashion?

The exhibition consists of immersive installations that emphasize process and conceptual thinking. It questions luxury products, the myth of the star designer, unrealistic body images, and life styles that fashion culture generates at its worst. The exhibition emphasizes the sense of community, and it pays attention to slow, socially aware practices. With zero mannequins on display, it looks very different than typical fashion exhibitions.

What does fashion mean to you personally?

Fashion and style denote creative self expression and communication with the surrounding reality. Professionally, I am motivated by questions related to identity and corporeality.

Working in New York, how do you see the Finnish fashion trend and our success at, for example, Hyères? 

I am happy that the fashion programme at the Aalto University encourages students to develop a strong and bold visual language and encourages them to think internationally from the early stages of their education.

What kind of possibilities do you see for Finnish design and fashion in New York? 

Finnish design, art and research stand out with their originality. Multidisciplinary practitioners who question typical categories have a chance to succeed in New York. I think it is important to support talented individuals and collectives and to enable them opportunities that match their specific professional profiles.

What are the most effective ways to promote Finnish design and fashion in New York or more widely in the United States? 

It makes sense to strengthen the visibility of Finnish design and fashion through projects like fashion after Fashion that feature Finnish designers as a seamless part of the international context through their work, not their nationality.

SSAW challenges norms of body and gender, and ideals of beauty. And ensæmble explores the intimate relationship between the body and clothing.

Lucy Jones, from the Seated Design collection 2015. © LUCY JONES

Your playlist is a truly versatile collection of everything from grunge to world music and some new age stuff by Adiemus. How would you describe your taste in music? 

My interest in music varies according to my life situation. The playlist I made for Helsinki Design Weekly is customized to suit my evening runs by the East River. I have practiced long-distance running for years. To me, running means meditation while moving; I often develop an idea for a project while running. 

What does music mean to you?

Having fun!

What else is new regarding your curating career?

I am co-curating the Momentum Biennial, which opens in Moss, Norway in June 2017. The biennial introduces alienation as a cultural phenomenon, and brings together around thirty artists or collectives around the world, including Finnish Jussi Kivi, Jenna Sutela and Museum of Nonhumanity; Mediated Matter, which creates progressive work by bringing together the disciplines of design and research; and H.R. Giger, who created the Alien.


Harmonic Mouth by Henrik Vibskov.

The fashion after Fashion exhibition is open until 6 August at the Museum of Arts and Design at 2 Columbus Circle, New York.