Impacting the design of a house and everything in it has become a way of life in Finland. Elegant, functional design is the key driver of its national, creative impulse, so Helsinki has become both a national & a design capital.
It began with Fiskars. Founded in 1649, Fiskars in now Finland’s oldest company. Since this century began, it has gained control of Iittala, the glass and kitchen ware experts, and its holdings now also include Arabia.
Since 1951 Marimekko–Finnish apparel, accessories, bedding, home decor, etc.–has gained international renown and, just in the past few years, traction in the United States as a brand name. In partnership with Crate & Barrel, Marimekko products are available in both C & B shops and in stores from Boston to Seattle.
Angry Birds. They’re scowling everywhere. Often called the largest mobile app success the world has yet seen, Rovio Entertainment’s Angry Birds is probably the most recognizable design triumph of the 21st century.
Helsinki’s main tourist attraction is now its design scene, and there are 4 must-sees–Arabia, Stockmann’s, Design Forum, and Design District Helsinki.
Since 1873, Arabia has been making fine kitchen ware, decorative pottery, etc. on the northern outskirts of Helsinki. Arabia still employs about 300 and operates a couple of 282-feet-long kilns that create cups, bowls, etc. Offering pre-arranged tours, the Arabia factory outlet, according to Lonely Planet, is “worth the trip”. They mean the trip on tram 6 0r 8 from city center, but, in Ruth’s opinion, this means the trip to Finland. She loves Arabia. However, Ruth wants me to warn you that outlet here at its factory doesn’t necessarily mean cheaper. The outstanding Finlayson, Pentik, Artebia, Arabia, and Iitalla stuff for sale in the beautifully updated factory are expensive compared to, say, Stockmann’s. Recognizing its tourist potential, Arabia offers upscale retailing and a museum on its top floor (the source of the pictures above).
Ah, Stockmann’s! This historic emporium is a complete department store in Helsinki’s’s very center. It’s the way department stores used to be before Macy’s and the like decided they could only sell clothes, accessories, and kitchen ware. You can find everything somewhere in Stockmann’s.
The Design Forum Shop run by the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design at Erottajankatu 7 is rather hard to find but worth the effort. It features the creative output of lots of young designers with big futures. Entering DF is like going into a museum where everything is both appealing and for sale.
The Forum is in Design District Helsinki, an entire neighborhood devoted to Finnish creativity. There currently are 53 interior design shops, more than 50 clothing stores, etc.
Helsinki may be coming to the end of its Design Capital year and more than 130 events featuring Finnish design genius, but its international recognition and leadership is just beginning, especially if the Karma reaches the Finnish line.