Design with a Smile
Out the window with highbrow minimalism – Finland’s emerging designers are putting the fun back into function with disarming humour.
“Wow” resounds through the room every time REDDRESS takes to the stage. This interactive installation by Aamu Song has received rave reviews everywhere it has toured. A singer performs in the dress while the audience snuggles up in its 238 pockets.
The same brand of witty conceptualism runs through everything designed by Song and creative partner Johan Olin: penguin suits, double-heeled shoes, beard warmers, fungus-shaped stools and other quirky items each guaranteed to raise a smile. If not always functional in the classic sense, they are designed to make you think. They challenge puritan Scandinavian tradition by posing a valid question: Isn’t fun part of function?
A similar exuberance is translated into glass by Anu Penttinen, whose eye-popping palette defies both logic and tradition. Best known as the creator of Socks Rolled Down, a collection of surreal tableware for design powerhouse Marimekko, she combines function and whimsy, layering her fluidly shaped pieces with a delectable coating of yummy colours.
The playful appearance of her latest one-off vases belies the intricate roll-up technique used in their production. Few glass designers hand-produce their own work, but Penttinen is a rare exception – she describes glass-blowing as “a really great workout”.
Vampire bunnies meet grinning skulls in Never Mind, the latest collection of contemporary street wear by rising fashion star Daniel Palillo. The collection shows his customary predilection for dark humour and morbid graphics, this time infused with a palette of screaming primary colours.
His unmistakable style features bold cut-outs, patchwork and eccentric three-dimensional structures, which he combines with darkly mischievous anarchic imagery. Palillo adds a playful edge to Finnish fashion – especially for those who like their humour on the grim side.
Contrast is the main ingredient in Finnish cultural life, probably because everything looks and sounds different from our northern perspective.