Aalto University: PatternLab set an all-time sales record

The PatternLab pattern design project of the Aalto University Fashion, Clothing and Textile Design (FaCT) Master’s programme has sold altogether 92 patterns designed by students, which marks the highest sales record in the history. The course, which has a strong brand, will also be renewed.

The new record came as a surprise to Maarit Salolainen, professor of textile design and director of the FaCT Master’s programme, who runs the annual pattern design course and describes the current group as “absolutely exceptional”.

‘Neither I nor anyone else could have imagined that we could achieve such a result.’

The excellent result can be explained by several factors. The students themselves speculate that after the pandemic, people now have put on their “shopping pants”.

The covid19 pandemic had some impact on the group’s activities.

In previous years, PatternLab has participated in sales events abroad. This time, travel was hampered by restrictions: for example, Europe’s biggest textile fair Heimtextil was not held this time. 

Restrictions foster creativity
So, students have been looking for new, creative ways to organise events and approach customers. Remote access made it possible to meet regardless of the covid situation. 

‘Maybe the pandemic encouraged the students even more, and made them sell a lot outside the fair’, says Salolainen. 

One key factor, however, behind the success, was the team’s genuinely active, enthusiastic and diligent sales work.

The students are a multidisciplinary group, each bringing their own expertise to the table. This has also been reflected in the marketing and the way companies have been approached. 

‘There have been some outright sales gurus in our group. This has certainly contributed to the fact that the sales work has been done in a smooth manner and companies have been actively contacted’, says course student Edith Kankkunen.

‘And with courage!’, adds her fellow student Anna Poikonen.

The patterns have a story to tell
As is typical of PatternLab, the new patterns are topical. The aim of the design has been to find themes that are in line with trends, but different from each other. 

The students began their work with a common overarching theme, which this year was mind travel. 

‘The designers have been able to travel in their minds despite the travel restrictions’, says Kankkunen. 

The end results reflect the earthy, Finnish romanticism, Mediterranean and tropical. There is an emphasis on storytelling, which has certainly increased the interest of companies in the pandemic era. 

Some of the course clients are still confidential. One of the companies that has already launched its new collection is the Vimma Company. 

‘We have been praised both by the school and our customers. They say you can see from the designs that we have gotten really into the theme’, says Poikonen.

Maarit Salolainen is full of praise for the team’s handprint: ‘The designs are in touch with the current times in a fresh, new and young way.’ 

Business cooperation is key
Kuosi: Aida Matuseviciute / PatternLab
Print by Aida Matuseviciute/PatternLab
The pattern design project was launched in 1999 by Helena Hyvönen, then Professor of Textile Design and later Dean of the School of Arts, Design and Architecture. Over the years, customers have ranged from large central stores to smaller fashion companies. Alumni work in Finland and abroad, including at Marimekko, Finlayson and H&M, to name a few.

PatternLab’s brand is strong and respected. Companies trust the students’ professionalism. 

‘It is important for our students to learn how to work with companies in terms of production techniques, their possibilities and limitations. We have been working with textile company Lapuan Kankurit for a long time, and prototypes have also been woven in the school’s own studios’, says Salolainen.

Yet, the cooperation is not limited to textile companies only. The students have also gained valuable knowledge from working with paperboard mills company Metsä-Serla, for example. For years, PatternLab has been designing the company’s Deko stationery collections, and the students have found it interesting and instructive to learn about the printing aspects.

However, PatternLab is not just about pattern design. The three-course minor has provided young designers with the opportunity to deepen their surface and textile design, but also marketing and sales skills, which together with the delivery of the finished product to the customer are also key. It is important to make contacts already during the studies.

For the students, the course has been an inspiring and unique opportunity to acquire skills for the work life. They have become familiar with the whole cycle of the pattern and textile design process. The group has worked in teams to develop the mood maps into printable patterns.

‘Pedagogically, the most important content of the course is to strengthen the students’ self-confidence’, says Salolainen.

Textile design will be emphasized
Record sales, significant clientele and international interest over the years show that the PatternLab project has become a strong brand.

Along with the education portfolio renewal at the School of Arts, Design and Architecture, which will come into force next academic year, also PatternLab is undergoing a transformation. It will be transformed from a minor subject into a project linked to the textile design and studio courses of the FaCT Master’s degree programme.

‘Working on PatternLab has been very close to graphic design. However, as a major, we have to make sure that we keep textile and materials and manufacturing skills at the heart of our teaching’, says Maarit Salolainen.

The aim is to continue to offer design that is increasingly linked to textile and materials skills. But that does not prevent students in other majors and programmes from choosing the minor. Visual communication design students, for example, have been important members of the PatternLab team as strong storytellers.

Salolainen emphasizes that it is important for education to adapt to the demands of the current times, with a focus on content that is needed in the work life. The reform also means that education is being pruned, but the aim is to be able to teach flexible skills for the future work life.

‘It is up to the future PatternLab designers to think about where the patterns may be involved.’

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