May 1, 2008
A More Perfect Union
An international cast of talents orchestrates one Finnish couple’s trip down the aisle.
It would have cost Ulla-Maaria Mutanen’s family a fortune to pull off such a fantasy, but she and her fiancé, Jyri Engeström, lucked into a dream wedding. Each of the appointments, from the dress to the corsages, was bestowed upon the couple by an all-star design team whose aim was to invoke the expression, “It’s a beautiful day.”
The phrase served as the theme of last year’s Alvar Aalto Design Seminar, organized by Finnish designer Ilkka Suppanen. While wrapping up his presentation, Dai Fujiwara, creative director of Japanese fashion label Issey Miyake, said he wanted the seven-member panel to create a wedding. “I wasn’t sure what Dai meant at first,” Suppanen admits. “I thought, Should some of us get married?” The suggestion caught on, and by the close of the seminar the designers had a concept but no couple. Fortunately, Mutanen and Engeström heard about the proposal from a friend who had attended the conference. Having a newborn son, Eliel, they were eager to tie the knot, and—designers themselves—they were game for the experiment.
Finnish illustrator Aimo Katajamäki, who created the graphics for the seminar, got the ball rolling by adapting his design into a snowflake motif for the winter wedding invitations. Inspired by the illustrations, Fujiwara sent sketches of a crystalline hexagonal-patterned gown to the other participants. Some of the panelists customized previous work—like Dutch designer Hella Jongerius, who adapted her Polder Sofa buttons into corsages—while others created original pieces. Suppanen, for example, contributed rings of gold thread that must be retied by one’s partner each time the knot loosens.
A month before the ceremony, the designers gathered their contributions to present to the brave couple. “We hadn’t even seen photos before the fitting,” Mutanen says. “They also created a little outfit for Eliel, which was a complete surprise.”
The unconventional wedding took place February 29 at Studio Aalto, in Helsinki, the setting of the seminar six months earlier. “Of course, you had members of the family who didn’t get it,” Suppanen recalls, “but at the reception they conceded that everything turned out beautifully.” Unique as Mutanen and Engeström’s experience may have been, the formula is available for another spin around the floor. “If we could pass the baton to a whole new team of designers,” Fujiwara says, “it would be wonderful to see the beauty in every day expressed again and again.”