Kirsimari Kärkkäinen wins Ornamo Award 2015

Ornamon toiminnanjohtaja Salla Heinänen ja Ornamo-palkittu 2015, vaatesuunnittelija Kirsimari Kärkkäinen.

The winner of the Finnish design prize Ornamo Award 2015 is clothing designer Kirsimari Kärkkäinen. The winner was selected by the team behind the Slush startup event – Miki Kuusi, Atte Hujanen and Jenni Kääriäinen – from among seven candidates. The award is 5,000 euros. The award was presented at the Design Day 2015 event in Helsinki on 20 March 2015.

Kirsimari Kärkkäinen (born 1967) has designed practical and elegant uniforms for corporations representing a variety of sectors. These corporations include the ABC service station chain, Neste Oil, VR and Viking Line. Kärkkäinen has also designed the official attire of the female ministers of Finland’s Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Kärkkäinen founded an accelerator named TELAKKA® in 2014. The accelerator offers designers skills and support in investor relations and in obtaining financing as well as in developing sales, production and logistics. The accelerator also helps designers to grow internationally. The current number of designers associated with TELAKKA® is six.

Kärkkäinen: “Designers should learn to speak the language of business and investors”

By the time Kärkkäinen was finishing her fashion design studies at the Wetterhoff school in the 1990’s, the fashion business had undergone a powerful shift towards the mass market. Her dream to produce clothing for particular purposes and meaningful for their users encouraged her to design uniforms. Her focus on uniforms proved successful. The Finnish fashion industry has not earned much international recognition, although globally fashion is one of the largest industrial sectors.

“We are far behind even our Nordic peers. The value of Swedish fashion export is six-fold and that of Danish fashion export ten-fold compared to Finland. Designers should learn to speak the language of business and investors. We definitely have creativity, perseverance and skills, but we do not know how to build brands,” says fashion designer and entrepreneur Kirsimari Kärkkäinen, the winner of Ornamo Award 2015.

“The Finnish music, gaming and film sectors share many similarities with fashion. We should have the courage to look for examples outside our own fields and to apply best practices in our operations. It is a surprise that such a technology-driven country as Finland has not produced a single giant like,” Kärkkäinen continues.

Ornamo’s Heinänen: “We must take the export market by storm”

The reasons for the strength of our neighbouring countries can be found in the industry itself and in governmental action.

“For example, Sweden has made a clear national selection of the sectors emphasized in export, and this is seen in the results. The fashion industry is one of those sectors. Denmark has done the same. It is not a coincidence that Filippa K. and Tiger of Sweden are internationally recognized and successful brands. These brands definitely rely on strong design talent and, above all, top business skills. But when the know-how is combined with a strong role of the public sector in export promotion, the outcome is success,” states Salla Heinänen, Executive Director of The Finnish Association of Designers Ornamo.

“However, the public sector cannot compensate for lack of private investments. There are simply not enough private investments in Finland and for the Finnish design sector. Sweden and Denmark actively attract foreign investments and surpass Finland,” Heinänen continues.

A uniform promotes corporate competitiveness

In addition to being a talented designer, Kirsimari Kärkkäinen possesses strong business and marketing skills. She studied textiles and materials at the Tampere University of Technology and entrepreneurship at the Helsinki University of Technology in Otaniemi (now part of Aalto University), and she specialized in responsible business at the Helsinki School of Economics (now also part of Aalto University).

A good understanding of business and different industrial sectors strengthens Kärkkäinen’s competence in uniform design. She has an engineer-like and analytical approach to uniform design, be it for heavy industries, the transport sector or the service sector. If uniforms for construction and asphalt workers are regulated by occupational safety factors, the service sector emphasizes distinctive brands and clever visual elements, which are manifest in details. The clear guiding principle of uniform design is to generate success for the customer.

Winner picked by the Slush team

The team behind the startup event Slush comprising Miki Kuusi, Atte Hujanen and Jenni Kääriäinen selected fashion designer and entrepreneur Kirsimari Kärkkäinen as the winner of the 5,000-euro Ornamo Award 2015 from among seven candidates. The award was presented at the Design Day 2015 event in Helsinki on 20 March 2015.

“Kärkkäinen’s strength is her comprehensive way of thinking, in which uniforms are seen as a part of corporate competitiveness,” the Slush team states citing their arguments for selecting Kärkkäinen as the winner.

“We also evaluated the candidates against the principles of Slush. A far-reaching and goal-oriented approach is of key importance, and so is service-centered and functional design,” says Miki Kuusi of Slush.

About Ornamo Award 

Ornamo has awarded designers since the 1980’s. The winner of Ornamo Award is selected by an external jury from among several candidates. The candidates for Ornamo Award 2015 were: textile artist Katri Haahti, designer and architect Seppo Koho, designer and entrepreneurKirsimari Kärkkäinen, ceramic artist and designer Nathalie Lahdenmäki, design manager Kari Malmén, fashion designer Anna Ruohonen and user insight lead Simo Säde.