For the past few years Rolf Ekroth has been going it alone in more ways than one, working solo in a small studio in Helsinki and trying to get his nascent brand off the ground without backing. Spring finds the designer ebullient, having very much enjoyed the company of his four collaborators. Matilda Diletta is responsible for the prints, Santeri Valtanen for the “freehand embroidery” on a top, Ildar Wafin for the nature-inspired silver jewelry, and Heidi Karjalainen, a former Aalto University classmate, for the no-waste sleeping bag reinterpreted from Ekroth’s last collection.
Leaning into the personal once again, Ekroth built on his memories of childhood summers this season. The wooden butter spreaders that hang from pants were based on a typical craft project. A woodshop teacher’s kit inspired a nylon jumpsuit, and so on. In terms of evolution, the collection seemed to take the easy pace of summer; there wasn’t much forward movement here. The silhouettes and prints were familiar and the larger proportions worked well. You can count on Ekroth for a ’90s reference, and this season it was delivered in a long plaid shirt, grunge 2.0.
Though there were plenty of utilitarian pieces, the collection didn’t read as outdoorsy as it has in the past. The loops on an army jacket held flowers, not ammo. Russia abuts Finland, so the threat of conflict is existential. But Ekroth, who has served in the Finnish military, said, “I wanted to stay away from the serious topics as much as possible.” He’s also increasingly drawn to dramatic materiality. The hand-frayed technique he introduced last season was back and buzzing in bee-like yellow and black. This time it looked more like fringe than fur and took the form of an A-line skirt and bag. The pièce de résistance was a jacket-and-pant set appliqued with handmade friendship bracelets. “We started in late February and we finished it just one day before the shoot,” he said. “It has 230 friendship bracelets on it, and I think over 500 hours of work, so that was a labor of love—[and] very painful fingertips.”