Weekly Pics is a peek into the visual diaries of designers and design professionals. The Communications Director of Juni Communication & Production, Martta Louekari, prepared the Guest Nation Finland project for Pitti Uomo for a whole year. This week we see what happened behind the scenes of the menswear trade show, held in Florence, Italy.
9 January at 08.00 The plane takes off among sleet darkening the sky. Above the clouds the sun shines; the sun that I haven’t seen in months. It feels like I’ve woken up from a long dream.
At 10.00 A familiar beanie sways before the Treno Italia ticket dispenser at the railway station in Milan. Julia Männistö and Kasia of the Männistö brand are buying tickets to the same train. Jani Niipola of the Kauppalehti paper and his photographer were on the same flight. Jani has been a lovely tour guide for us in Florence during the whole year. He has lived in the city and is an experienced Pitti Uomo visitor so that he is able to show us the best restaurants, the best views over the city and the tastiest Aperol Spritz drinks. Commercially thinking, Jani is probably the number one specialist of men’s fashion in Finland, and it’s been a great pleasure to work on the Guest Nation Finland project with such a professional.
We’ve been to Milano Centrale so many times that we’ve nicknamed it Centu. The Bistro serves heavenly lemon cookies, but right now we need something stronger. Coffee and prosecco!
At 14.00 I arrive at the Showroom. My business partner Miia Koski and interior architect Linda Bergroth are finalizing the space, and the designers are steaming and ironing the clothes. I love this space. Linda has been passionate about the project since the very beginning, which is typical for her. The main element in the space is Italian marble. While other stands use cheap carpeting, tape and temporary solutions, Linda has leased tens of thousands of tonnes of marble from an Italian quarry. A piece of Italy, the material of Michelangelo and other renaissance masters, feels wonderful and festive – and authentic.
At 16.00 With Huuko Koski, who has agreed to help us ad hoc, we’re assembling the Guest Nation Finland publication and finishing up the space. Huuko is a dream apprentice: efficient, proactive, self-reliant, and he doesn’t complain for having to carry 60 kilos of magazines around Helsinki and Florence. The publication is one of the cornerstones of the project because it’s an easy way for us to tell about Finnish designers, their backgrounds and collections in more detail. A Finnish super model known for his Prada campaign is featured in the cover: Kerkko Sariola. In the sign on the roof of the Pitti main pavilion, as rainy clouds dim the light towards the night, Kerkko looks like an angel.
At 20.00 Dinner at Palazzo Pitti. Pitti Uomo always kicks off with a huge dinner. And what a splendid dinner it is! The Sala Palatino at Palazzo Pitti provides a spread for 300 persons, and its crystal chandeliers sparkle so as to dazzle the sore eyes of a Finnish hibernator. Although the space is extremely festive and the Italians are dressed to kill, the atmosphere is kept laid-back and fun. Later I glance down at the garden from a dark balcony. Italy is at its best where it combines its centuries-old understanding of beauty, space and colours with nature.
10 January at 09.00 Showroom opening day. Thank goodness for Miia. And the Pitti team. Miia is perhaps one of the most lovable people in the world and luckily also my business partner. She has taken responsibility of the whole enormous production, all details and to-do items great and small. Once again all I can do is admire the amazing skills, good will and tranquility with which Miia takes care of everything. Finnish journalists and bloggers come by to greet us and wish us good luck. I’m really happy and impressed with the reception of our project. Everybody is complimenting the space and the collections. I am extremely proud of the collections.
Opening at 15.00 Suddenly the venue is filled with people and I’m about to be pushed out the door. Italian photographers pack to us, Vogue reporter Sara Maino comes to hug and congratulate, and Pitti’s Francesca Toccini looks like she’s about to cry; she’s so impressed with the assembly and the publication. Foreign journalists are grabbing me and the designers by our sleeves to get interview quotes. It almost makes me laugh. Kyrö Distillery is whisking Gin Tonics all around, and our lovely Aapo aka Proper Pies is mingling with a cute scarf around his neck serving world’s best Karelian pasties. The ambiance is happy and excited. Representative of the Ferragamo shoe empire that rules Florence, Leonardo Ferragamo, is also an honorary consul of Finland and speaks warmly of our country. The ambassador Janne Taalas and Pitti Immagine’s CEO Francesco Napoleoni also give speeches. Suzy Menkes is perhaps the most important fashion critic in the world, and her assistant is emailing me for the fourth time.
At 20.00 we’re having dinner with the reps of Finnish media, the Ministry of Education and Culture and Business Finland. Sometimes one is given a project that is bound to turn into something amazing. Guest Nation Finland is definitely one of those. I’m extremely thankful and honoured by the trust and enthusiasm that the sponsoring parties have expressed towards the project. The fashion field is creating many opportunities for Finland. In addition to hopefully creating jobs and significant income in the future, fashion will brand Finland in a unique way. How does one brand quietness, shy romance, reliability, innovation capacity and melancholy? It’s funny, but Finnish fashion designers have succeeded in branding these features better than any Swedish advertising agency.
11 January at 9.00 The morning of the Guest Nation Finland Party. Sitting in the breakfast room of my hotel, I gaze over the rooftops of Florence and the cupola of the Duomo at the mountains shimmering far away. Florence is enchanting. While holding some of the most valuable treasures of art in the world, it still represents a hint of the vigour and humanity I imagine existed in the times of the Medici family. Freedom, joy, love, exploring new ideas and empathy. Particularly touching ideas in these times. The warmth and friendliness of the people of Florence and Pitti have impressed us greatly.
At 12.00 we’re having lunch in the Pitti Uomo press room restaurant with PR Consulting and American journalists. Being included in this enormous international media machine of the fashion industry has been one of the definite advantages of participating Guest Nation Finland and Pitti Uomo.
At 14.00 Guest Nation Finland Showroom. The showroom is not crowded at the moment but every single visitor is an important agent in the industry. They’re trying on and admiring the clothes. Showroom would not work without our smart and quick-witted Ines Kalliala, who greets the guests and takes care of the errands of the showroom. Suzy Menkes arrives. Gin Tonics and pasties galore. Vanity Fair pays a second visit to the showroom because “it’s so lovely to see a brand with a story and a collection with a message.”
At 19.00 we’re having dinner at Trattoria Anita with Tuomas Laitinen, Chris Vidal, Jasmin Islamovic, Miia, and Alban Adam. Tuomas and Chris are responsible for the overall artistic content of the project, and the project couldn’t have happened without them. It’s awesome to enter Tuomas and Chris’s world. They have stunning knowledge of the history and current state of fashion, and in general they have an exceptional way of seeing the world and understanding esthetics. Their style is best displayed in the Guest Nation Finland publication that has been largely created by Chris.
At 20.00 Just before the Guest Nation Finland Party starts. I’m looking for Miia inside the Palazzo Borghese. I wander across dark salons, hearing the echoes of the catering staff’s banter. Chandeliers, sculptures, marble, and mirrors, mirrors, mirrors. I’m thinking that if there are any ghosts here, they must have a good sense of humour. It’s a fun place. Not too sleek, suitably dramatic and worn. We reviewed five palazzos looking for a venue. Florence has incredible places to offer.
At 21.00 The Guest Nation Finland Party. Who are all these people? That’s the question occupying my mind. Palazzo is packed with people in no time. 90% of the guests are Italian or international fashion influencers. We were advised not to organize a special programme. “Show us how Finns party.” That’s a challenge because Finns are hard to find in this crowd. We’ve only imported two things: drinks by Kyrö Distillery and DJ’ing by Jasmin Islamovic. Definitely a good choice. Jasmin fills the 16th century hall of mirrors with techno music that for some reason seems a perfect match in the space. Three hours vanish into thin air. We hug, dance and feel merry. A voice of reason tells me to reject all after-party invitations and call a taxi.
12 January at 14.00 We’re all quiet at the Guest Nation Finland Showroom. The party last night has consumed our forces. Apparently the designers still have energy to talk with people and show their collections. Suzy Menkes visits us AGAIN. That makes me smile.
At 20.00 Undercover and TAKAHIROMIYASHITATheSoloist
This is the show I’ve been waiting for. The Japanese only present their collections at Pitti Uomo. I’ve heard designer Takahiro is so shy he only said “Hi” and “Thanks” at the press lunch. The runway at the old station is long, and the space is plain and dark. I’m tired. The Day When World Went Away. The Japanese show is the first fashion show that ever made me cry. It is so well executed; modest yet powerful, appealing but not too suggestive. It is about the end of the world but also the new age we’re about to face that we know nothing about. The change we’re going through must be one of the major ones in the history of humankind. It touches me and speaks to me because I have a two-year-old child through whom I’m starting to consider the future in a new way. Fashion is blamed for its vanity and superficiality. During the year at Pitti I’ve witnessed so much more. One of the soundtrack songs of the show is Everytime I Fall in Love by Cigarettes After Sex. As we were walking the streets of Florence last night, a designer told me that he falls in love every day. With things, the weather, colours, everything. I’m thinking that we should all do the same.
13 January at 10.00 I’m taking pictures on the roof of the hotel with Elina Simonen. It’s windy and sunny. A meeting at the Pitti office. We’re pondering how to continue. The project has been a success, both for Pitti and us. Both parties want to continue. The Finns on our stand also tell it’s been good. Lunch, train ride, “Centu” of Milan, airport, Finnair. At home I wonder how dark and quiet it is in Lauttasaari. I usually feel a bit depressed after major projects. Was this it? What now? I feel very different this time. Energetic and happy. I know this is just a beginning.