North Stars

Nordic design always plays an important role in the global lifestyle landscape. Like all evergreen design themes, however, the trend waxes and wanes over time. At the moment, Nordic design and lifestyle properties—especially those hailing from Finland—certainly seem to be on the upswing, especially when it comes to licensing and collaboration:

  • Marimekko has been putting a premium on international growth, achieved through both wholesale sales and licensing, especially in Asia. Collaborations, including a recent one with Uniqlo, have also been part of the brand’s success. The global strategy seems to be working well, as measured by the company’s strong 2019 financial results, although the brand’s home country of Finland still accounts for about half of its revenues. In 2020, Marimekko plans to open 10 stores and shop-in-shops around the world.
  • Finlayson, also a Finnish brand, recently signed York Wallcoverings for a collection of wallpaper, set for a 2020 debut to coincide with Finlayson’s 200th anniversary. Jewel Branding and Licensing represents the property in North America and brokered the deal. The line focuses on peel-and-stick wallpaper under the RoomMates brand. Finlayson IP owner 5th Wave Brands also announced at the beginning of the year that it had signed local licensing agents to boost its activities around the world, including Halo Brands in Sweden, Denmark, and Norway; Brand4Rent in Russia and surrounding countries; Medialink Group in Greater China and Southeast Asia; and Infiniss in South Korea. The last has signed a deal with Homz for home textiles in the region.
  • A lifestyle brand called PURENorway retained King Features as its representative in North America, with a mandate to handle licensing, promotion, and advertising. The announcement marks the entry of the label into the North American market; plans include apparel, accessories, home goods, and outdoors gear. Known for environmentally friendly and long-lasting products for active lifestyles, the brand also recently partnered with MDR Brand Management to launch a globally distributed line of ethical canned water under the PURENorway Water banner, with the deal coming out of its Finnish headquarters. Meanwhile, King Features is going all-in on Nordic properties, representing the character brands Tulipop (from Iceland) and Moomin (from Finland) in North America.
  • Finnish fashion brand Ivana Helsinki, founded by designer Paola Ivana Suhonen in 1998, is known for its prints and has long had a presence on the runways in Paris and New York. It has extended into soaps, notebooks, tableware, and even children’s books, and has been involved in collaborations with Topshop, Uniqlo, Nokia, Specsavers, Angry Birds, Swarovski, and others over the years. It has been offering a collaborative collection inspired by Moomin since 2015. At the end of 2019, the label dropped the most recent collection in its three-year-old partnership with apparel company Tokmanni, encompassing 11 clothing items for women and four for preschool girls.

The Swedish retailer Ikea alone has boosted a number of Nordic brands through its many design partnerships, starting with Ilse Crawford in 2015. Its pairings, which range from a single item to entire collections, have involved Nordic designers and brands including Bea Åkerlund, Sarah and Jens Fager, and Lego, among others. It also teams with global brands such as Zandra Rhodes, Adidas, World Surf League, and Nada Debs of Lebanon. One of its most high-profile examples is also one of its most recent, the collaboration with Virgil Abloh of Off-White in November 2019.

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