Rolf Ekroth Spring/Summer 2023 Camp Broken Arm
Rolf Ekroth revisits the summer camps of his childhood for Spring Summer 2023. Memories of ice-cream booths, friendships formed hastily in the height of summer and clothes that carry the smell of campfire smoke, even long after the camp is over, manifest in a sentimental yet sharp collection of wearable keepsakes.
Having fallen into listening to the Beatles again, Ekroth suddenly came across Let it Be. The song flooded him with vivid childhood memories of listening to a camp counsellor playing it on a weathered acoustic guitar. A nostalgia for the long summers of his childhood became the foundation for a collection that feels like an intimate trove of souvenirs. Shapes and colours borrowed from his father’s early 1990s wardrobe and the ragtag outfits of children sent to faraway summer camps to learn new skills and collect new tan lines mesh together to form a tangible anthology of memories. References to American popular imagery of summer camps are peppered in through small details like pins and collegiate typography. Camp Broken Arm, the collection's name, is a warm nod to the carefreeness of boyhood summer camps: no matter where or when, one child always broke an arm jumping into a lake or falling from a tall tree.
In a way, the process of creating Camp Broken Arm mirrored a childhood summer camp. Seeking to build a multidimensional collection, Ekroth invited a group of artists to revisit their personal histories. A collaborative endeavour, Camp Broken Arm is the sum of all artists' parts. Matilda Diletta, a longtime collaborator of Ekroth’s, designed the collection’s prints. Ekroth asked Heidi Karjalainen, his old schoolmate from Aalto University, to reimagine his signature sleeping bag look, produced using a zero-waste method. Santeri Valtanen, known for his skilful freehand embroidery and woodwork, took woven slabs of small wooden spheres, often used as car seat covers, and reimagined them as aprons and bags. Ildar Wafin, a Helsinki- based jewellery designer, chose to interpret echoes of his childhood summer camps as delicate silver jewellery that replicates organic shapes found from Finnish nature.
In addition to being a compilation of different artists’ memories, Camp Broken Arm is a conversation between contemporary cuts, nostalgic shapes and Finnish handicrafts traditions. Many of the pieces in the collection show a direct lineage to precise recollections from Ekroth’s boyhood summers. In Ekroth's hands, his father’s striped summer shirts become tailored coats with zipper details. Summer dresses with silhouettes borrowed from 90s icon Kurt Cobain, demonstrate a genderless approach to summer garments. The waistlines of wide trousers are gathered with belts to imitate how kids that inherited clothes from their elder siblings had to find ingenious ways to make them fit. The collection’s main pieces, a jacket adorned with 230 handmade friendship bracelets that carry naive symbols and colours that imitate Finnish rag rugs, and a pair of trousers decorated with traditional Finnish wooden butter knives, act as an homage to Finnish handicrafts and quintessential summer camp arts and crafts projects.
In line with the collection’s optimism and warmth, prints show a distinctly upbeat direction. Recollections of mint and chocolate chip ice cream—a reward for good behaviour at Ekroth’s childhood’s summer camps— inform a camouflage-like print that carries the three-dimensionality of a perfectly round scoop of ice cream. With the help of Diletta, Ekroth morphs his florals into a more realistic rendition. Yellow flowers, a universal symbol for friendship, bring a strong graphic element and backbone to the collection.
With Camp Broken Arm, Ekroth’s signature-like approach takes on a decidedly optimistic tone — as the world has turned into an increasingly darker place, Ekroth wanted to throw all unnecessary cynicism out of the window. This era, for Ekroth, feels like one flushed with bright reminiscence.
Rolf Ekroth is an independent Finnish fashion label that champions utilitarianism, nostalgia and the power of sustainably produced clothes. Built upon observations of youth and life in Finland, it harnesses the subtle nuances of its Finnish roots but applies freedom to reimagining history and old crafting traditions. Comfortably perched between superficiality and profundity, it is an homage to the transformation that well-designed clothes elicit: a newfound will to walk through the world without hiding.
Matilda Diletta (b. 1994) is an award-winning Italian-Finnish designer and creative. She sources inspiration from her teenage years’ obsession on manga, Nirvana and fantasy literature. She is currently working as an art director at the oldest Finnish creative agency SEK, part of international digital design agency AKQA.
Heidi Karjalainen (b. 1986) is an Aalto fashion graduate (MA 2020) with an affinity for sharp patterns, tailoring and deconstruction. Her design practice relies on a deep knowledge of pattern making, cutting and imaginative manipulation of fabrics. In addition to embracing a minimal aesthetic, timeless elegance and abstraction, her work celebrates the beauty of all forms of being.
Santeri Mortti Valtanen (b. 1993) is an artist and designer specialised in woodworks, embroidery and illustration. He holds an MA in textiles and BA in design, both from Aalto University. His practice is rooted in an Arts and Crafts philosophy and the cross-pollination of traditional crafts and fine arts expression. Whether working on a design task or an artistic production, Valtanen emplyes an arbitrary and playful approach.
Ildar Wafin (b. 1995) creates one-of-a-kind jewellery pieces in his Helsinki-based studio. Wafin’s body of work is influenced by the pristine rural landscape of Finland. He imbues his pieces with a sense of narrative that transforms the themes of identity, cultural heritage and folklore into the tangible form of haute jewellery.
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Rolf Ekroth Creative director, Aalto University
DESIGNER’S NEST FIRST PRIZE Denmark, 2015
YOUNG DESIGNER OF THE YEAR Finland, 2015
HYÈRES FASHION COMPETITION FINALIST Galeries Lafayette prize winner, France, 2016
CAPSULE COLLECTION ROLF EKROTH X GALERIES LAFAYETTE IN STORES France & Germany, 2017
ROLF EKROTH X HALTI COLLECTION SHOWN AS A PART OF GUEST NATION FINLAND AT PITTI UOMO Italy, 2018
ROLF EKROTH AND TERINIT LABELS LAUNCHED AT PITTI UOMO Italy, 2019
ROLF EKROTH AND TERINIT COLLECTIONS SHOWED AS AN OFFICIAL PART OF MILAN FASHION WEEK Italy, 2019
FUSION EPSON AWARD FIRST PRIZE Norway, 2019
Articles & Media Exposure
VOGUE TALENTS featured
L’UOMO VOGUE n.4/19: Designers from the edge
Rolf Ekroth: Finnish designer found his calling in conceptual streetwear with historical narratives.
MEN’S FASHION MONTH REPORT:
Rolf Ekroth: ”I couldn’t be happier with our first presentation”