Representing the creative future

AALTO BA & MA 2024: Revitalizing fashion as art

Discover the collections and sketchbooks of this year’s AALTO class of 2024

Fashion is often separated from all other art forms. Closely associated with its capitalistic purpose, clothing as a medium is often stripped of any artistic significance. AALTO’s graduating class is overturning these misconceptions one collection at a time. Both the BA and MA graduate classes share a common thread: the use of garments as a means of self-expression. From Enni Lähderinne’s reflections on her diagnosis to Nhung Huynh’s delicate exploration of identity, the Finnish school’s 2024 class reclaims fashion as art.

Inspiration isn’t the only way in which artistic intent manifests itself. Materiality, design rubrics, and the act of making a collection are questioned by AALTO’s most recent graduates. These innovations, ranging from the development of innovative knits to the total abolition of design prototypes, are not just made in the name of art; they serve a wider purpose. Concerned with the state of the industry, the young designers manifest their concerns through the search of its solutions. The corruptive power of money and the speed of hype culture are cited as sources of uneasiness. But instead of cowering in despair, the 2024 class faces them head-on. Lähderinne summarizes her class’s feelings perfectly, “I am hopeful for the future, and I am excited to be part of it.”

Apollo da Costa Doria

Creating a collection is a process that can be streamlined. Apollo da Costa Doria refuses this notion. “In real life, there is no prototype; we are born into this world facing its raw reality.” Aiming to replicate their process of self-discovery, the young designer transmutes artistic expressions into a starting point for their collection. “I approach my design as a musician; both my thesis and my collection consist of poetry and song.” Musical inspiration is not merely a rubric for its conception; it’s an essential element of its materiality. Doria says, “I was inspired by the vibrant rawness of ’80s hardcore punk.” With a sustainable approach in mind, the designer built shoes out of salvaged military boots, hammering them with rusty nails. Beyond its unique aesthetics, Doria’s collection stands out for its musicality. “Each shoe has a different element of percussion, creating a rhythm step by step.”


Eemil Halme & Eetu Saarentausta 

“I like to compare this way of almost overanalysing a piece of clothing to the act of repeating a word until it either loses all its meaning or the meaning kind of twists,” Eemil Halme summarizes his and Eetu Saarentausta’s collection perfectly. By abstracting themselves away from its functional purpose, the duo creates clothing that extends beyond limited definitions. The result is an intentionally confusing display of fashion’s limitations. Elegance and trashiness are malleable definitions the duo plays with; expensive textiles are fitted awkwardly on the body, and accessories are practically nonsensical. Both Halme and Saarentausta agree that their collaboration was essential to achieving their collection’s result. “The kind of trust our working method draws from is peculiar: for us, it’s obvious and seamless, but its nature is tricky to put into words,” Saarentausta states.

Lauri Greis 

Lauri Greis’ collection is all about his Finnish identity. “The idea came to me when I received my grandmother’s old Antrean national costume.” By intertwining traditional Finnish national costumes with modern athleisure, Greis contrasts the past with the present. “The sportswear element represents contemporary Finnish identity, suggesting that it’s the modern version of the folk dress.” The young designer seamlessly blends this odd mix, alternating between the industrial knitting of functional wear and the craft of jacquard weaving. “I studied woven structures, tassels, and pleats used in folk dresses to achieve traditional handcraft techniques,” says the designer. The time spent studying was worth it; Greis’ collection is an intellectual show of craftsmanship.

Mette Wik 

Titled “60/40: Lost in Translation,” Mette Wik’s collection offers an interesting take on fashion as a communication device. “Both language and clothing are part of the image we build, contributing to our communication and polished exterior.” Basing herself on this assumption, the young designer utilizes her collection as a diary of her academic journey. “My collection explores my experience of the language barrier encountered during my studies at Aalto University as a Swedish-speaking Finn. I feel like I can communicate up to 60 percent in Finnish, whereas the remaining 40 percent gets lost in translation.” Her source of inspiration is cleverly manifested. “Finnish has become my verbal school uniform at Aalto, leading me to examine communication problems and misunderstandings through the lens of classical school uniforms.” Aiming to emphasize the vulnerability and frustration of being misunderstood, Wik’s design is playful, awkward, and, above all, theatrical. “I deconstruct and mix the tailored with the draped, the mature with the childish, in the pursuit of an expression lacking uniformity and collective consensus. By adding a zipper to the back of a blazer that allows insight into the body, or by wearing the blazer as a skirt, the uniformity of the garment disappears along with its previous associations.”

Nhung Huynh

“My collection, Risteyksessä – At an Intersection, is about my personal experience living at the crossroads of two unique, beautiful, and inspiring cultures: the Vietnamese and the Finnish,” Nhung Huynh summarizes her collection perfectly. As a second-generation Vietnamese-Finnish immigrant, the young designer creates garments that reflect her identity. “I take elements from Vietnamese folk art and traditional dress and combine them with everyday objects through bold material exploration.” With a colour palette inspired by her family’s photo album, the collection reads as a deeply personal exploration of identity. “All the materials in my collection are handmade or recycled, following the traditions of both Finnish and Vietnamese handcrafts that aim at sustainability through clever material reuse.” For Huynh, sustainability is not just a matter of preserving the future; it is a process of looking back at our past.

Ema Uršič 

“The materiality of garments has always been the most important aspect of clothing to me. I find creating endless variations and experimenting most exciting and rewarding.” Ema Uršič’s collection, PLANIKA, reflects both her design interests and personal identity. “I explore the theme of identity and belonging, especially how the intersection of personal history and cultural heritage narrates one’s design process.” Drawing inspiration from her nostalgia, Uršič arrives at an intriguing design language. “My grandfather collected Edelweiss flowers on his hiking trips, and I began to combine the idea of the flower with technical elements found in hiking wear. This led to the development of a 3D-printed cord stopper that shapes a cord into a flower-like form.” Just like these chords, which served as “garment construction maps,” the young designer utilized her life memories as starting points for technical interplay. “The interaction between the surface, tensions, and gatherings created a three-dimensionality in the garments, inspired by my childhood memories of playing and adapting oversized garments borrowed from my parents’ closet.” To achieve her collection’s unique colour palette and textures, Uršič worked with Pinori Filati, an Italian yarn spinner. “The colours and textures of the yarns evoke nostalgic memories of the mountains: the gradient of trees disappearing on a mountainside, and a soft, felted-like flower nestled into the rocky landscape.”

Enni Lähderinne 

Drawing on her childhood experience wearing medical support braces, Enni Lähderinne’s final collection reveals the synergy between garment and wearer. “Central to my vision is a zero-waste pattern system developed during my master’s studies, highlighting the delicate equilibrium between the body’s form and its clothing.” To achieve her desired goal, the young designer was meticulous, carefully selecting garments that “retain the memory of the body’s touch, emphasizing how garments acquire significance through the wearer’s imprint.” “Knitwear crafted from monofilament challenges conventional notions of softness, seamlessly integrating with the body, inspired by the imprints left by medical braces.” By Lähderinne’s hand, denim and knitwear mutate, transforming into delicate armours. “My work challenges traditional fashion analysis by focusing on the experiential dimensions of dress.” Her experience with Scheuermann’s disease, a diagnosis she shares with her father, is central to her design language. “The collection features garment-sized jewellery designed in collaboration with my father, encapsulating the essence of our shared journey with Scheuermann’s disease and symbolizing our empowered connection.”

Kareoja Iris 

Kareoja Iris took an interdisciplinary approach for her graduate collection. “In the collection, I have employed techniques such as sublimation printing, embroidery, and engraving to create prints. Usually, the prints are based on images I have taken with my phone, which I then digitally edit and arrange in a collaging manner before scaling and transferring them onto garments.” This complex process yields an interesting product. Through the young designer’s collection, fashion becomes a semiotic tool through which social standings and aspirations are communicated. “By drawing inspiration from existing clothing items and fashion imagery, I aimed to explore what happens to the meanings and interpretations of visual signs when they are endlessly reproduced, repeated, and recontextualized.” Iris sees fashion as a medium for exploration. “For me, emphasizing the societal role of design justifies what I do.”


Jere Vilo 

A fashion collection can start from a variety of sources, from personal experiences to social issues. However, despite the infinite array of inspirations, Jere Vilo’s collection is unexpectedly surprising. “My collection’s starting point is an imaginary hot dog stand called Nakit Silmillä (Hot Dogs Over the Eyes).” Behind the apparent silliness of this statement, the young designer conceals an honourable intention. “After my BA studies, I felt overwhelmed by the ethical and ecological issues in the industry and started dreaming of owning a hot dog stand instead. When I returned to do my MA, I decided to combine these two so if fashion did not work out for me, I would always have my hot dogs.” The potential comedic value of Vilo’s designs is a tool the designer wields beautifully. “I focused on humour as a way to address the serious topic and incorporated it into the woven, knitted, and printed textiles I designed for the collection.” Drawing from his working-class background, the designer uses garments to reflect on how his socio-economic class has influenced his identity as a designer.

Johannes Puxel

Johannes Puxel deconstructs the notion of a finished product. “My collection explores the idea of prototyping, questioning what distinguishes a prototype from a finished product, and whether a product ever needs to be considered ready or finished.” To achieve this idiosyncratic goal, the young designer employed peculiar methods. “Some pieces I draped on myself in front of a mirror, while others were slowly handcrafted from scrap pieces. I also experimented with technical solutions such as cutting a leather t-shirt with a puzzle closure straight into the front pieces or creating an embroidered 3D ‘zipper’ that functions as a closure for the tailored wool bomber.” Puxel’s collection poses an intriguing set of questions: What defines a collection? Is homogeneity essential for a collection? Is fashion a product or a process? “I aimed to leave marks of uncertain exploration on the garments themselves. Different experiments were mainly conducted on the ‘final’ products themselves, as I wanted the actual exhibition pieces to convey as much of the creative process as possible.”


Joona Hakala 

Joona Hakala’s collection explores sports through a homoerotic lens. “As a queer man, the world of sports has always presented itself to me in two contrasting ways. On one hand, it embodies an overtly masculine environment that often excludes people like me. On the other hand, its display of a certain kind of masculinity has become a stable part of gay iconography and a somewhat fetishized ‘look’.” The young designer rejects cliché representations of sportswear; instead, Hakala focuses on volumes and silhouettes. “The silhouettes and cuts in the equipment became the starting point for pattern making.” Traditional athleisure textiles are completely avoided, replaced with wool and cotton twill. Homoeroticism is explored in witty ways: knitwear mimics jockstraps, and leather is prominently featured.

Minerva Skyttä is a designer whose knitwear collection draws inspiration from her great-great-grandfather Hannes Sjöblom, the first Finnish missionary in China. Her work captures the fragility and texture of historical letters through innovative knitting techniques and materials, evoking the sensation of embarking on a long journey. During her studies at Aalto University, Skyttä enjoyed creative freedom and access to world-class studios, learning advanced knitting, weaving, and dyeing techniques. Despite the challenges of continuous creation, she values the experience. Post-graduation, Skyttä aims to merge fashion with art and collaborate with fellow artists, while also addressing industry issues such as exploitation and rapid collection turnover. She advocates for environmental taxes on clothing to promote slower, higher-quality fashion and hopes to eliminate fur from the industry. Skyttä is driven by the artistic expression and creativity that fashion allows, striving to balance ethical practices with her designs.

Neža Simčič

Slovenian designer Neža Simčič celebrates her heritage through her latest collection, inspired by traditional crafts like woodenware and basketry. After moving from Slovenia, she gained a deeper appreciation for her culture and aimed to highlight the richness of a small nation’s traditions in her modern designs. Her collection underscores the value of preserving crafts to counteract fast fashion and strengthen cultural diversity. Simčič’s journey in fashion began with her grandmother’s knitting lessons, leading her to blend couture with traditional Slovenian techniques. Learning from artisans in Ribnica, she translated these crafts into wearable designs using natural materials like wood, reindeer leather, and linen yarn. Collaborating with local suppliers, she allowed the materials to shape the garments naturally. At Aalto University, Simčič valued the freedom, support, and technical skills she gained, despite the challenges and solitude of studying fashion. Looking ahead, she hopes for a stress-free future and is eager to work with creatives who cherish and nurture traditional craft techniques, believing this to be her true calling.

Petra Lehtinen

Studying archival science, Lehtinen recontextualizes these stored items, transforming them into new designs that explore the relationship between consumers and their clothes in the era of mass consumption. Inspired by Nouveau Realisme and Duchampian readymades, the collection includes garments sealed in vacuum bags and online marketplace prints. This method shifts focus from sourcing new fabrics to creative problem-solving, emphasizing the importance of details and archival concepts. Lehtinen finds satisfaction in self-made creative constraints, questioning capitalist notions of freedom. At Aalto University, the best part of their experience was the supportive community, while managing overlapping course information was the hardest. Post-graduation, the young designer is open to various projects and job opportunities, aiming to maintain ethical and ecological values in the fashion industry, despite concerns about unspoken rules and hierarchy in large fashion houses.

Sini-Pilvi Kiilunen

Sini-Pilvi Kiilunen presents her collection focused on developing a personalized patternmaking method. Using digital software like Clo3D, she experimented with various pattern-making techniques to enhance her design skills, starting with traditional drafting and draping before transitioning to digital tools. Central to her method is transforming block patterns into dynamic, multi-layered designs. This iterative process separates pattern creation from material and color selection, broadening her creative exploration. Kiilunen emphasizes the tactile sensation of garment making, ensuring each step feels good to execute for a sustainable and enjoyable process. By blending traditional craftsmanship with digital technology, Kiilunen minimized material waste and utilized leftover materials effectively. Her goal is to continue making clothes and see people wearing her designs in their everyday lives.

Venla Elonsalo

Venla Elonsalo presents her collection “I Weave Clothes,” which features multilayered woven garments and accessories made without sewing, using industrial jacquard weaving machines in collaboration with Vanelli Textile in Turkey. The main material is wool, finished before cutting to prevent fraying, with metal fasteners adding balance. The collection visually highlights its four-layered construction, inspired by Maison Margiela, Issey Miyake, and Rei Kawakubo. This approach significantly reduces manual construction steps compared to traditional cut-and-sew methods, aiming to revolutionize woven garment production similarly to industrial knitting. The hardest part of Elonsalo’s academic journey was balancing research with collection work, while the best part was the learning opportunities and new friendships. Post-graduation, she plans to celebrate and seek interesting job opportunities. Elonsalo finds the diverse working methods of different brands both inspiring and daunting, and she is particularly interested in the use of digital tools in the design process.

Yu-Chen Lin

Yu-Chen Lin creates a collection that transforms damaged textiles into wearable art, celebrating imperfection. Inspired by her experiences in Finnish winters and Japanese mending techniques like Kintsugi and sashiko, Lin’s work symbolizes survival and renewal. Her hand-woven and hand-knitted fabrics, along with industrial methods, tell a story from yarn to garment, integrating personal and cultural narratives. The biggest challenge was the language barrier and intense workload, but the supportive workshops at Aalto University were a highlight. After graduation, Lin plans to focus on slow craftsmanship and textile art, hoping the fashion industry will embrace cultural and creative diversity.