Storytelling and the endless search for the Instagram moment have become so prioritized in fashion that sometimes it feels like the clothes are secondary to everything that is built around them. In the past, Rolf Ekroth has created collections around his personal memories of summer camp in Finland or his military service there, but for fall 2023 the designer looked back at what he’s achieved as an independent brand. To be clear, his aim was not to create a lineup of “top hits,” but to edit, refine, and innovate. “Every season has brought me to a new place,” he said on a call.
Ekroth is the kind of designer who evolves ideas rather than wipes the slate clean every six months. It was good to see the active element, present in his early collections, back in play. This time around the quilted pieces were lighter, both materially and otherwise. An aubergine parka and over vest, for example, were rendered in a sturdy houndstooth, inverting ideas of straightlaced, trad tailoring.
Also familiar, and ever appealing, were Ekroth’s layered knits and the intricate macramés made by his talented mother. Among them were fringed poncho-bibs, a balaclava, and, most striking of all, hand-knotted mesh applied over quilting. “I’m apparently obsessed with cord,” Ekroth said in reference to a pair of heavily fringed pants. The collection also features Ekroth’s first leather pieces, which were made from reindeer skins, ethically sourced from Finland.
Ekroth is feeling rosier than in the past, a feeling he attributes to consistency and perseverance. “For some reason, every season gives me some new sponsor. So I guess it also grows my self-confidence that I can do this.” This season it was the Finnish company Fiskars. “In school, every student had Fiskar scissors, and we used to write our names in different ways so nobody could steal [them],” he explained. Ekroth wanted this collaboration to be demonstrative rather than passive, and so he made a survival suit constructed in two layers. You see the top layer—a suit of black squares closed on three sides, with the tops left open—in the first look. Each of the pockets contained a pair of Fiskar’s scissors that the designer’s assistants used them to to reveal the underlayer of the survival suit, which was made from a patchwork of fabric swatches that the ecologically minded Ekroth had in his office.
It’s a concept and design that fits with Ekroth’s design framework. He called his collection Galen Värld (Swedish for “crazy world”). Though some of the prints (inspired by documentarian James Balog’s film Chasing Ice) made reference to the instability of global warming, the survival suit had a sort of harlequin-like appeal, and a childlike zaniness. Ekroth’s not recklessly running with scissors, but he is confidently moving forward and revealing new facets of his talent.