Typography

Abandoned houses, polar bears roaming the streets and arctic regions threatened by global warming - Mieland speaks out against negative news and clichéd images of Lapland through modern design filled with humour and political satire.

IN 2006, four students at the University of Lapland’s Faculty of Art and Design got together within the Arctic Pearls competition for innovative design concepts. The designer team of Katariina Imporanta, Marjo Remes, Erja Tuhkala and Ilkka Väyrynen did not win, but the foursome received an honourable mention for their fresh take on traditional Lappish elements. From that initial cooperation, Mieland was born.

Their products have been designed for life in the north, but they are also meant to warm both the bodies and the minds of their wearers. The designers seek to create a positive image of Lapland without forgetting some of the realities: negative migration, high unemployment and poor public transportation to name a few. But instead of just complaining about it, Mieland takes a stand on delicate issues with tasteful humour and a hint of satire.

“Our notion is to make durable products that put you in a good mood,” Remes states. In contrast to traditional Lappi clichés, the young design team wants to showcase their region in a meaningful way. It is the stories weaved and printed in the garments that are the soul of Mieland products.

Design with a meaning

Stories can have surprising effects. For example, Mieland’s Kemijärvi Night Train collection of train-patterned print underwear played a central role in winning back the rail service between Helsinki and Kemijärvi, which was due to be discontinued.

“We wanted to bring out the train as a modern and trendy means of transport, and in this way to support this little northern town, whose vitality is highly dependent on a regular train connection.” The Kemijärvi long johns were modelled by none other than internationally famous snowboarder Antti Autti, himself a resident of the provincial capital Rovaniemi.

The new Salla collection is a sequel of sorts to the Kemijärvi one. The hooded jackets and skirts are illustrated with abandoned houses and population figures relating cruel facts about the negative migration which this municipality, located in Eastern Lapland near the Russian border, is experiencing.

Where to get it?

The retail network of Mieland includes Helsinki Design Forum Shop and Kiasma Shop in Helsinki, Studio 25 in Tampere and Non Boutique in Oulu, and reaches as far as Paris, Switzerland and Japan.

“We also have a webshop in Finnish, and the English version will open this spring,” say the Mieland girls.

Unique pieces, however, can only be found in Rovaniemi, at the brand new Mieland shop in the historical Johannes Lauri house.

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“We strongly believe that Salla could become a lively border-crossing municipality if the rail connection was continued from Kemijärvi on to Salla and all the way to Murmansk in Russia,” Tuhkala envisions.

Sustainable development has strong roots in Mieland ideology. The products are made of ecological and recycled materials and the production takes place in Rovaniemi. Rather than a traditional youthful clothing outfit, Mieland sees itself as a comprehensive lifestyle business. Not only do they look good, but the ideas behind the garments make up a large part of their appeal.

“Regardless of age, our products appeal to people who share our view of the world,” Tuhkala believes.

With its latest collection, Climate mates, Mieland speaks out about a global challenge: Climate Change will have a dramatic impact on the arctic regions in the future. The collection includes underpants for both men and women, printed with quotes from politicians illustrating promises over action.

Global Lapland

In February, Mieland attended Ambiente, the biggest international consumer-goods fair held in Frankfurt, Germany where Mieland products received plenty of interest among the German public and Japanese exhibitors.

“It is, of course, a benefit for us that Finnish and Scandinavian design generally appeal to the Japanese. What was interesting (at Ambiente) was that the young and trendy folk especially came asking for our collections. Those who were after something more traditional passed us over,” says Remes, who represented the group at its first international fair.

In the German market, the ethical values and ecological production of Mieland gives a significant competitive edge. “Green ideology is very strong in Germany,” Remes says.

Products included a Recent news from Lapland tablecloth, a wine bottle bag with a kick-sled print and a dress filled with numbers signifying the negative migration from Lapland. Where do all these queer ideas come from?

“We just keep our eyes open and make continuous observations of everyday life,” the team says in unison. Imporanta and Tuhkala are originally from Lapland but Remes and Väyrynen have been “brought in by the train,” citing the local saying. The combination of views from both insiders and newcomers has proved fruitful.

“There’re things to which Erja and I have been totally blind to until Marjo and Ilkka have raised the issues,” Imporanta notes.

Tuija Kauppinen
Photos: Hanna Rosti