VIRUxEKA Young Design Export Program is a partnership project between Viru Keskus and the Estonian Academy of Arts (EKA) to offer export training and support to young Estonian future designers. This year it took place for the third time. On December 13 the winner of the export grant of €1,000 was selected on the basis of pitching sessions from 13 students to have taken the programme.
On the basis of the pitching three designer brands created by three EKA master level students were highlighted: Sandra Luks for the LUKScollection dedicated to accessories, David Taylor for the sportswear brand ATMPT and Kristel Jänes for the Crystal Rabbit brand testing the line between clothes and lingerie. The winners will soon get their own pop-up area in the shopping space in VIRU Keskus. The designers will present their brands at the same time as there is an exhibition of experimental shapes in the Atrium of the centre, for a while turning the centre into a genuine breeding ground for future designers.
Sandra Luks won the main prize of the €1,000 export grant. She says about her work that LUKS lights the design world up by using her two-sided leather technique in bold and quirky accessories that aim to make people feel confident and true to themselves without any apologies. “My thoughts were all over the place when I started my master studies, but the course on brand building helped me to sort out my wealth of ideas. During the course we heard many different designers share their experiences and it became ever more obvious that although we might want to do everything on our own and under our control, but business is made above all with partners and you must trust in order to develop. I think it is worth reminding oneself constantly that we shouldn’t get bogged down by our own line of thought, but should be ready to ask for help,” Luks said.
Last year the master level student of EKA fashion design Liis Kalda won the prize with her enchanting hats made of recycled materials. According to Kalda she “gained during the program a much clearer understanding of positioning your brand and implementing the tools shared with us to expand your brand. And that not only in Estonia, but also on foreign markets.”
EKA is committed to foster the cross-border success of Estonian design. Viru Keskus has been contributing to promoting this aim due to the significant development potential of partnerships for young Estonian design. The sooner designers acquire the necessary skills, the faster can we develop the local design scene. The Communication Manager of Viru Keskus Kristel Sooaru explained: “If we aim at eventually offering to Estonian consumers products and services created by Estonian designers, then we are committed to supporting design education by adding the dimension of economic disciplines. Viru Keskus is cooperating with EKA for the whole study cycle by launching the exhibition of experimental shapes by first year students to offer the young designers a platform to express their creative explosion, while at the same time the VIRUxEKA Young Design Export program is focused on shaping and supporting the commercial success of master level students.”
The export program for the master level students of the EKA design department was curated by Fredrika Erlandsson, visiting lecturer of EKA and business mentor with long-term export experience, who has earlier contributed to the internationalisation of several Scandinavian companies like Björn Borg. In addition she has been the chief purchaser of MQ, the greatest retail chain of fashion products in Sweden. Currently she is managing VOCA Mentorship platform for professional mentoring. Fredrika Erlandsson as the representative of the jury says about the winners: “The world of fashion and design is extremely competitive. In order to make it there you need besides a great business idea also the capability to speak about your concept in an inclusive and analytical way, and that is the reason why EKA has launched this program. The students were great this year, because in addition to their awe-inspiring creativity and enthusiasm they have shown keen interest and curiosity about creating sustainable business models.”
Thanks to international mentoring the students were able to enjoy as part of the export program lectures by visiting lecturers like Anni Arela, the head designer of the Finnish knitwear brand Arela, Gustav Linden, the CEO of the Swedish footwear brand Flattered, Vanesa Leporat, chairwoman of Stockholm Fashion District, Peter R. Svensson, the creator of the most famous sustainable plug-in Coninued for clothes brands. The latter were supplemented by overviews of public and private financing possibilities. They also gathered knowledge and contacts from Stockholm, including the creators of the House of Dagmar, Asket and EYTYS brands, and met the chief purchasers of luxury department stores NK and Åhléns City. This tour was made special by a meeting with Sara Winter PR agency to gain an overview of market entry through an agency. This time the export program was supplemented by a separate pricing training carried out by Kaie Kaas-Ojavere and the presentations were curated by the Head of the Fashion Design Department Piret Puppart.
The pitching jury of design brands was composed of Kristel Sooaru, the Marketing and Communication Manager of Viru Keskus, Maria Biederbeck, category manager of one of the greatest online clothing brands in Sweden Nelly.com, Justina Lizikevičiūtė-Grišinė, project manager of Katalista Ventures sustainable business models, and Lesley Pennington, the founder of design companies Bemz and Kinship Collective.
Photoes by brands and EKA