This Paris Men’s fashion week kicked off by a showroom presentation of Helsinki sibling duo Tuomas and Anna aka Laitinen – a collection that proved to both functional and poetic. Founded in 2006, the brand focuses today on menswear only – although it is finding a customer base amongst women too, for its androgynous details: dropwaists, wide collars, belted waist punctuates the sharply tailored pieces. The line also appropriates contemporary uniforms that it reintroduces into a novel sartorial universe: leather hockey shirts, fisherman jacket in dark three quarter sleeves and, football jersey in silk and silver thread.
Dazed Digital had a chat over coffee with Tuomas and talked dandies, androgyny, and Helsinki vs. Stockholm.
Dazed Digital: You’re now only doing menswear, how do you feel about that?
Tuomas Laitinen: To be honest, the men and women’s line were always very close, the only difference is that the women’s line had a few dresses in it. But both borrowed elements from each other, and girls wear our men’s clothes anyway.
DD: Talking of menswear, where do you draw the line between the feminine and the masculine then?
Tuomas Laitinen: When it starts to get silly. It has to look natural, not costumy. You should be able to wear it simply, by pairing an intricate pair of shorts with a simple white t-shirt for example.
DD: Is that what some would call an urban dandy?
Tuomas Laitinen: God no! These clothes are the exact opposite of ‘the urban dandy’ – there is nothing I can’t stand more than this look with a bow tie, suspenders, colorful socks and loafers. No, no, not this dandy cliché. But an Edwardian touch…perhaps.
DD: Your collection seems to have a lot of reference to uniforms…
Tuomas Laitinen: Yes, that’s true – menswear is much more limited than womenswear and tends to always reference certain archetypes: whether in a suit, a basketball outfit, or punk clothes, these are all uniforms too. So what we tried to do is, rather than reference high fashion, look at highly functional uniforms, say a cleaning lady from the 20s or a Russian soldier, and take it somewhere else.
DD: How about your treatment of fabric? There is a mix of fine and thicker knits and intricate cotton weaves.
Tuomas Laitinen: Yes, we pay a lot of attention to the fabric, because it is the actual garment, not just the look we’re interested in. One of the knits we do is a knit and a loop that gives a sort of fish scale effect. Otherwise, we work with a 200 year old textile company in Northern Italy, which hasn’t changed its technique since its creation, so we get a very old school menswear fabric to apply to more modern lines.
DD: Scandinavian countries are currently taking over the fashion cosmos – do you view your work as inherently ‘Scandinavian’?
Tuomas Laitinen: You can’t generalize Scandinavia, because each country is so different from each other. As for Finland, well, it’s cold, so we knit a lot. The Swedes tend to be trendier, whereas the Fins are more product led. In Stockholm, you’ll find all the New Yorkers, Proenza, Philip Lim etc., but in Helsinki you’ll tend to see Antwerpian and Japanese designers. We want to look different, generally by going for dark, underground designs – which can be good but can also be bad…