Pirjo Hirvonen 4 September 2012: Fashion is design, too
Talking about fashion evokes many feelings and images. But what is fashion?
Fashion is an interpretation of the time we live in, a fast reaction. Fashion reflects on
the world around us and anticipates the direction in which we are going. It also gives
us experiences, a means of making our dreams come true and of being ourselves.
Fashion is design, too, and it thus plays a major role in the Helsinki Design Capital
year. Fashion has a particular ability to encounter people. During the Design Capital
year, it has open-mindedly pointed us to a new, compelling direction by making bold
breakthroughs and conquering new domains.
While fashion is mainly associated with clothing and the way we dress, fashion and
manifestations of fashion can be seen in a wider sense, also in other areas of design.
Fashion allows us to express ourselves – to shape ourselves into something that we
are or wish to be. Fashion and clothes are thus an expression of their wearer and
cultural background. Every person is a unique whole that breathes time and the
surrounding world in his or her individual way. Fashion helps us to stand out, or to
blend in the crowd. By dressing in a certain manner we send out and receive
messages of ourselves, of other people, our surroundings, our social allegiances or
our wish to stand apart. A garment is a message.
A garment is like a second skin to the wearer, it designs the person. It follows the
body and its movements in various aesthetic displays and creates the desired form -
a 3D whole that is not limited by the wearer's physical build. A garment covers and
reveals. It also protects us and sets us free. A good garment is user-driven - it
responds to the user's needs and longings, it is functional and it produces aesthetic
pleasure and mental energy – it is different and beautiful. A garment is a functional
object – ”pro arte utili, for useful art” – and it may also be a work of art.
Fashion as an interpretation of its time seeks and offers new solutions. It challenges
us, it will give us no rest. The creators and designers of fashion are also used to
severe criticism. Continuous renewal, questioning the old, offering alternatives are
characteristics of the fashion sector. And this is something we all need at the
moment, both at Aalto University and in the Finnish economy. At European level,
top-class expertise, luxury products and local production as the foundations of
sustainable development will be competitive advantages of the future, and this will
also be true for Finland. The education provided by the Department of Fashion and
Clothing Design, which is based on phenomena and experimental research and at
the core of which is the human being, has plenty to offer as an engine of renewal for
the other disciplines at our university. Similarly, cooperation with other sectors of
education and research at Aalto will give us tools for creating and nourishing new
ideas needed by the fashion business actors of the future.
The enchantment of fashion combined with comprehensive product development,
the latest functional materials and technical solutions will continue to blur the
difference between fashionable dressing and an active lifestyle. Fashion will take
and has taken its place in other fields of design and technology, too, including high
tech and car design. The fashion industry creates new ideas, but it also needs new
operating concepts, new technologies, new production methods, marketing and
sales – new types of business and entrepreneurship. The multidisciplinary Aalto
University has what it takes to respond to all these needs.
The energetic and energising field of fashion has been overlooked in Finland. Its
potential as part of the new economic boom in which the creative sectors will play a
large and central role has not been fully exploited. Over time, and today under the
auspices of Aalto University, in the shade of science and research a new hungry and
international generation has quietly matured that seeks and creates new ideas
attracting international interest. It is ready to prove its worth, willing to tackle our
shared major national challenge of creating new competitiveness – especially in
international arenas. What type of use will Finland make of all this potential?
The education in fashion and clothes design at Aalto University is of a high standard,
as the students’ success in international competitions shows. The students’ courage
to immerse themselves, to dig deep within themselves, to take risks and work hard
and with passion in the guidance of ambitious and committed teachers has borne
fruit. Good examples of this are several consecutive first and other prices in the
Designers Nest invitational in Copenhagen, and the student team that won the
International Fashion Festival competition in Hyères, France. The fashion lines
created at Aalto University and young designers who are Aalto graduates shine
brightly abroad, contributing to building Aalto University's international reputation.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is where it starts. Make the most of it!