FRENN updates men’s wardrobe for the modern age
This pioneering Finnish fashion house is adapting to changes in daily working life.
You may have heard that a Finn never sugar coats their opinion. If you want an honest appraisal of anything – and don’t mind the sting of reality – Finnish people will give you 100 per cent their truth. And then some!
A very good deed, indeed
FRENN’s originality, corporate responsibility and design as a part of everyday life has been recognised. The Association for Finnish Work awarded the Helsinki-based producer of FRENN clothing for men with the 2017 Design Deed of the Year award.
“Four years ago, we boldly set out to reinvent Finnish menswear, and our hard work is paying off,” says Jarkko Kallio. “Our sales network continues to expand in Finland and abroad.”
In a world polluted by the white noise of political correctness this refreshing approach is very much at the core of men’s fashion designer FRENN.
“FRENN is being honest and real,” explains CEO Jarkko Kallio. “We are from Finland, but most of all from Helsinki and want to show the Helsinki spirit.”
Such enthusiasm is woven into the fabric of a menswear range that draws on Finland’s capital for inspiration, from top to toe.
“You have to tell where you are from,” enthuses Antti Laitinen, the other half of the FRENN duo, himself responsible for the comfortable, casual and tailored designs. “Helsinki is a really interesting place on an international level. The spirit is different from Stockholm and Paris, for example. Here you think a little bit more what you would like yourself and how does it work for you. It is more individualist in that sense.”
Yep, Finns tell it straight, all right.
FRENN emerged in 2013, when Kallio and Laitinen decided the time was right to pool their many years of experience in textiles, PR and menswear. For them the Finnish design scene was lacking one crucial ingredient: young male designers bringing a fresh approach to menswear.
But first, what exactly should they create?
“We interviewed 20 guys who are not related to the fashion industry,” Laitinen recalls. “We asked them what they would like to have and got into the mindset of our potential customers.”
The overwhelming theme that emerged during this process was the changing concept of work in the modern age. As office hours spent chained to a desk becomes less common, the line between work and play is frequently blurred.
“Quite many wanted a relaxed way of dressing for the workday,” Kallio continues. “So that’s the idea that we want to offer: a perfect garderobe for work and leisure. You feel comfortable and look good; not too business-like. We have been talking about relaxed tailoring.”
Ensuring a good fit has been an integral part of their vision. Alterations are available for every one of their customers, both via FRENN’s online store and at their Liike boutique in Helsinki, shared with other Finnish design labels. The company name also reflects this approach, evolving from ‘Fresh Nordic Tailoring’ into ‘FRENN’.
Aside from tailored comfort and style, ethical production is another value that fits for FRENN.
“Humanity, sustainability and personality are very important,” Kallio explains. “We wanted to start nearby with production in Estonia. We know where the products are made; we know the conditions.”
Furthermore, quality fabrics are sourced from suppliers in Italy, Austria, Spain and Portugal, utilising organic and Öko-Tex Standard 100-certified materials as often as possible.
Having already made quite a splash in Finland, this local offering is about to expand its range abroad. Sitting in the midst of their creative space on a Friday afternoon, with racks of clothes, rolls of fabric and piles of paperwork surrounding them, the duo is making final preparations for a month of attending fashion weeks in Berlin and Copenhagen.
“We are opening the international market in Germany,” Kallio explains. “Our vision is to make Finnish menswear known abroad and take something new to the market.”
Text: James O’Sullivan