As the finalists were announced for this year’s Hyères Fashion Competition in the South of France—probably the most prestigious competition for graduating and semi-professional fashion designers—no one could have been prouder than the parents of Rolf Ekroth. Given that mom and dad spent a mind-boggling 250 hours helping stitch 35,000 Swarovski Pearls and Beads by hand (it’s true), then it goes without saying that they are every bit as dedicated to their son’s career in fashion as he is. Once the excitement of the shows was over and the stardust had finally settled on the Hyères runway, we went backstage to find out more about this talented young menswear designer from Finland—and to learn what his collection has in common with a game of golf…
Your parents helped you crystallize the pieces—do you come from a creative family?
Not at all! Mom and dad are super-hardworking, but their professions have little to do with creativity. I learned a lot from them about work ethic, and I use it as an inspiration and a guideline for my own work.
It must be hard to maintain discipline when beading for so long. Did you employ any special methods to keep your focus?
I listened to a lot of comedy. I have a dark sense of humor, so old ‘Opie and Anthony’ clips from YouTube were on constant rotation. It keeps your mood in a good place and you forget that you’re working. I also listened to music, because it helps to find a rhythm when sewing. The beginning was the hardest, but by the end my efficiency had improved by at least 50 per cent.
Aalto University has an impressive history at Hyères. What do you think has made it so successful?
Our teachers, Tuomas Laitinen and Pirjo Hirvonen: Over the last ten years, they’ve worked out a program that breeds incredible new designers. We also have great studios to work in, and the studio masters are equally fantastic. Studying under Laitinen has given me the best years of my life. There’s an atmosphere of healthy competition at our school—when other students do well you try to see what they are doing right and then find your own way to succeed. Ever since Laitinen-Raaslakka-Siren won the competition in 2012, it’s been my goal to get into the finals.
Why did you use Swarovski Pearls and Beads?
I had never worked with Swarovski products before this collection, but I was interested in creating something spectacular for the final. I looked through “The Bible” (as I’ve heard your catalogue called) and found that the Pearls and Beads were a perfect match for the holes in my netting. The inspiration for my collection was a golf tournament featured in the documentary film, ‘June 17th, 1994’, so I used them to represent golf balls. And golf clothes are seen as a bit boring, so I decided to inject some glamour, playing with ideas to do with the features of a golf course: the putting green, sand bunker, water hazard, and the rough. Now I’d love to use crystals in my next collection.
Can you share any advice for young designers entering the Hyères competition?
This might sound like a cliché, but believe in yourself and just go for it. Each year the ten finalists present a totally different point of view. Do your own thing, but also heed the advice of others, and use it wisely. And remember that winning isn’t everything. I’ve been offered so many opportunities and made important contacts, so I’m just massively grateful for my place in the Hyères family.
What’s your next move?
Completing my next collection; I’m continuing to collaborate with my friend Yuki Kawakami, an amazing textile designer from Japan. Then I’ll look for a fashion house internship to learn how they work and what it takes to succeed in this industry.
Credits: PHOTOGRAPHY BY SOFIA OKKONEN, MODEL IN STUDIO PICTURES: OSKARI NYYSSÖLÄ