HAMK’s footwear design students at the MICAM trade fair in Milan


In February, five HAMK footwear design students headed to Milan for the giant MICAM footwear fair. The students had their own stand, called Vivid North which they had designed themselves. Students’ participation in the fair was made possible by the Emil Aaltonen Foundation.

Who was involved in the project?

Our team included five students. Two of them were second-year students (Elli Hoviniemi and Niko Räsänen) and three fourth-year students (Laivi Koit, Nelli Nurmi and Jenny Kuortti). Our mentors Anne Ala-Mattinen and Janne Lax, hired by the Emil Aaltonen Foundation, were also present at the fair. Anne Ala-Mattinen is a brand consultant at EIGHT AM AGENCY and Janne Lax is a shoe designer at Saint Vacant.

HAMK students and mentors at the exhibition stand.
Students and mentors at the Vivid North stand. Photo: Janne Lax.

Where did the project start and how did it relate to your studies?

The project began when the Emil Aaltonen Foundation contacted HAMK’s footwear department. The project is not directly related to any studies, but we get some credits from it for optional studies.

What was the project about?

Emil Aaltonen Foundation wanted to help HAMK’s footwear design students to enter the international markets. For the foundation, internationality is very important. Our goal at the fair was to make contacts, gain visibility, gather feedback, get to know our competitors, get internships and jobs, and gain experience at the world’s largest footwear fair.

How did the project progress?

Footwear students had a open application for this project. Our mentors Anne Ala-Mattinen and Janne Lax made the final choice and choose five students. First, we decided the roles in the project and started planning how our stand would look like, what its name would be and how we would market the stand and our group at the fair and beyond. After that, we met with the members of the board of the Emil Aaltonen Foundation and presented our ideas to them.

Students who participated in MICAM
The team getting ready for the event. Photo: Sanna Viljakainen.

Once the stand was in order, we made the final designing with our shoes and made them. The project started in October and the fair itself was on February 16-19.

What did the project teach and what results did it produce?

We learn that the world of shoes is huge, but this has been a great opportunity us to internationalize. We learn both about the design of our stand and the practices of the fair, as well as about branding our shoes and making contacts. This opportunity required a lot of money and courage. There is much that has not yet been done in the footwear industry that opens up opportunities for us students. This has been a really positive experience.

Our stand was in a luxury hall where we stood out clearly from other hall brands and got a good reception. The press, buyers and factories were very interested in our shoes. Our reused materials and recycling topics raised interest among the fair guests. It was instructive to talk with the professionals of the field. The fair also brought certainty to our own design philosophy, information, on how to order and sell our own shoes in the future to and lot’s of contacts. It was awesome to see how we received a positive reactions with our shoes at the fair and saw different opportunities for the future as a footwear design student.

Students at the fair.
Glimpses from the fair. Photo: Janne Lax.

The most memorable moments about the project?

Definitely, the most memorable experiences were with our mentors Anne and Janne. Anne, for example, taught us about branding, which was infinitely interesting. In Milan, we went to the shops of different fashion houses and learned a lot about the fashion business from Anne  Janne gave us very valuable advices on the designing and manufacturing of shoes. Mentor support was really important throughout the process. Encounters and discussions at the fair have also been very well remembered. Thanks to the Emil Aaltonen Foundation, we had such a wonderful opportunity.

We wanted to give a different image of Nordic design through our stand. We wanted to emphasize courage, and that is why we selected the red color. The mirror material reflected various things, such as sustainable development, which is a very important thing for us. It also reflects the ice in Finland. With all this and the shoes we designed, a nuanced Vivid North was born. Our stand stood out very well from other stands at the fair

Vivid North Department
Our Vivid North booth at the fair. Photo: Janne Lax.


Also read the career story of shoe designer Minna Peltomäki:
Shoe designer Minna Peltomäki : “As a designer, you are a brand”

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