Can cities be trendy? Countries? Whole regions even? We think so. Case in point: Scandinavia.
It seems like everybody looks to that Northern part of Europe right now, searching for inspiration. Many things make this part of the world special: the minimalist fashion, the smart furniture design, exceptional food. But also the collective countries’ take on big issues like feminism and culture and welfare.
Dressing, decorating and eating like a Scandinavian is all the rage from Berlin to Brooklyn, and so is visiting the friendly Europeans way up north. The two most obvious destinations that are on everybody’s mind are of course Copenhagen and Stockholm. But a bit further up and to the east Helsinki lays quietly, waiting for you to discover it.
The Finnish capital feels like a perfect blend of Scandinavia in one city. It’s clearly a Northern town, surrounded by wild nature and lots of open water. Citizens have a mindful eye on design and especially architecture. There is a sense of community there that is quite hard to describe. People are extremely welcoming and friendly, and that weird language is no barrier at all, since almost everyone speaks fluent English.
One thing you’ll notice as soon as you set foot into the city is the Finn’s quirky sense of fashion. Maybe it’s the long, dark winters that make them crave color and some eccentricity. Both women and men are very adventurous dressers, but the ladies stand out especially. Colorful tights never seem to go out of style here, you can spot oversized capes, barrel-shaped dresses and funky accessories on women from 18 to 80. It is no wonder then, that one of Finland’s most successful fashion exports is in the business of designing crazy, colorful shoes.
Meet Minna Parikka!
The charming Finn decided at age fifteen that she wanted to be a shoe designer and followed her dream relentlessly. After finishing school, Parikka moved to England to pursue a degree in footwear design, spending the next six years living, working and finding inspiration in London, Milan and Barcelona. In 2005, she finally returned to her native Helsinki to launch her namesake brand.
Minna Parikka’s idea of footwear design is quite unique. She not only cares about how the shoes look when they are worn, but rather views them as little works of art that are attractive even if they sit on a shelf. Making them beautiful in their own right and then having a woman putting them on is Parikka’s goal. ”That’s when the magic happens!” she explains. The results are playful designs that combine elements of surrealism and contemporary design with a fearless attitude towards color. Bunny ears adorn sneakers and sandals, big platform heels are callbacks to the 90ies and cat faces appear on candy colored pumps.
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Minna Parikka only produces women’s footwear and proudly highlights the fact that she is a woman herself – as well as her own best customer. “It’s a strange contradiction that the world of women’s shoe design is dominated by men”, Parikka explains. “I am not prepared to live in a world like that, so I’m on a mission to change that.”
Making her shoes as beautiful and covetable as possible is Minna Parikka’s goal – and she’s succeeding. Her outstanding designs have been worn by celebrities like Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Taylor Swift and are regularly featured in fashion magazines around the globe. There even is an official Minna Parikka postage stamp in Finland.
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Although her shoes are produced in Spain, Minna Parikka’s brand is firmly based in Helsinki. The Finnish capital is also where she opened her first big flagship store in 2012. Aptly called “Minna Parikka Universum”, the beautiful shop on Helsinki’s main shopping street Aleksanterinkatu covers 80 square meters and sells her latest collections. It’s a great reflection of Parikka’s playful Scandinavian personality and combines serious accents like sleek woods and marble with vivid colors and leather. There is even a mirrored kissing booth.
Minna Parikka Universum – The Store
Mon-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 10am-5pm
Helsinki Store: Søren Jepsen/12hrs
Portrait: Kristiina Mannikko