KÄRSÄMÄKI, with its approx. 2500 inhabitants, is a typical Finnish town located on the Pan-European Route E-75. Basically it consists of three roundabouts where life takes place around them. A petrol station called Juustaportti serves as the main meeting point for people.
When I arrived nature was covered in snow with freezing temperatures down to -30°C and with just a few hours of daylight. Well, the perfect conditions for the opening of an arty fashion store!
People say the Finns are introverted and shy. Well, it’s true. But you can’t say that about the people’s winter clothing. Most wear bright neon yellow winter-proof work clothing with light reflectors. I guess it’s practical! You have to be clearly recognizable, in a snowy landscape during the day or in total darkness at night.
I got in touch with Toimintakeskus Rantapääsky, the social center in Kärsämäki, which had well-equipped workshops. I spent weeks sewing bags, curtains, pants, sweat-shirts.
I found an empty retail store that was perfectly located right at one of the roundabouts. The store’s interior had to be covered in sheer neon so that you wouldn’t miss it. Also, the mood in the store was supposed to mimic sophisticated stores in metropolises around the world. As if you suddenly entered a fancy store in Paris or Barcelona.
On the great opening on February 21st, 2019, the people of Kärsämäki were confused – although everyone was talking about the store, people didn’t dare to go in. Some people entered, froze for a few seconds and left the shop speechless.
But after a few days, the ice broke and people’s curiosity was stronger than their shyness. People even got a bit excited (the Finish way tho)! The local press published a story on my work and the vice mayor showed interest in some items. Entire school classes came to visit. I even got a job request for a sales assistant in the store.
And thus I had brought a bit of the shrill, somewhat insane and overwhelming lifestyle of the big cities to sleepy Kärsämäki, and gave the provincial backwaters of Scandinavia some design glam to brighten their winter.