Inside Helsinki Fashion Week’s First Leather-Free Season

Visiting Fashion Week has always been an experience of opulence, ostentation and showing off. Known as the place where new trends are born, the international runways of Fashion Week have never been synonymous with sustainability. Until the arrival of Helsinki Fashion Week, an event born five years ago from the mind of millennial entrepreneur Evelyn Mora. Helsinki Fashion Week is a Fashion Week like no other – its commitment to innovation, new talent and sustainable design makes it a truly singular event in the otherwise opulent world of fashion catwalks.

Burlesque Tsunami

Mora, who started her Fashion Week story by working at Paris Fashion Week – and then returning to Finland eager to work at Helsinki Fashion Week, only to find that no such thing existed. So Mora did what any trailblazer would do – she started one of her own. And what she started was far from your generic Fashion Week: possibly the first entirely sustainable Fashion Week in the world, Helsinki Fashion Week has become known for its dedication to material innovation and its championing of new, exciting creators.

Patrick McDowell

Already known for its ground-breaking approach, Helsinki Fashion Week took innovation one step further when it became the first Fashion Week to completely take leather off its catwalks.

We just simply cannot afford to exploit our planet the way it is currently being done. We must optimise technologies and multidisciplinary expertise to develop more creative solutions to issues like climate change. This is not just animal-related issue but as a bigger picture, terrible issues are found in the agriculture and chemical industry. There would be more sustainable alternative options if only we learn to collaborate and work together. For such reason, we decided to dedicate the Fashion Week platform solely to new material innovations in the upcoming season, aiming to find the weaknesses in innovations and tech-based initiatives in order to find cross-industry solutions.

Evelyn Mora in 2018

After the announcement in 2018, the reaction of the fashion industry was overwhelming – the entire fashion world held its breath to see what the first leather-free Helsinki Fashion Week event would look like.

We at Vilda got a chance to observe the event from the front rows – and it not only lived up to expectations but exceeded them by far. A vibrant, contemporary atmosphere enhanced the creativity of forward-thinking designers that had already garnered buzz in the industry, such as Patrick McDowell, Shohei and Sanikai.


Read More: Helsinki Fashion Week Goes Leather-Free


Materials and solutions of the future had prominent places in the event – such as mushroom leather, which was showcased at one of the event spaces (as was a bioreactor!), alongside vegan leathers from material supplier Ultrafabrics (also used in the catwalk show of designer Shohei), to highlight the decision to go leather-free.


Memorable moments include the Talent show, presenting the winners of the Sustainable Design Award by FAD International Academy – an Indian organisation for showcasing and encouraging sustainability in fashion. The winning designers, Graine and Roma Narsinghani, showed just why Indian fashion needs to be placed firmly on the sustainable fashion map.


Showcasing internationality is one of the many things that make Helsinki Fashion Week such a perfect reflection of the contemporary – and future – fashion industry: a melting pot of global designers, this is an event that welcomes diversity and celebrates creativity in all its forms.


Another highlight was seeing Sanikai, a mostly vegan Swiss brand, in the beautiful Palace of Nobility show space. With its breezy silhouettes, designs that translate effortlessly to everyday life and predilection for materials such as organic cotton and linen, ramie, and recycled plastic bottles, this is the brand for the contemporary vegan consumer (just be careful when shopping there is the winter season, as some wool is present).


Shohei is a modern eco-conscious brand by designer Lisa Pek, blending directionality with durability – and their leather-free commitment came from the collaboration with Ultrafabrics, whose high-tech materials were used in several outfits showcased on Shohei’s catwalk. A relaxed take on a pencil skirt and an oversized jacket in Ultrafabrics material were two of our favourites.

With extensive use of creativity, attention to detail and a forward-thinking attitude, Helsinki Fashion Week and its many designers managed to prove that using animal skins is unnecessary to create on-trend fashion and put on an exciting, timely and inspiring event that will transcend the short appeal of traditional Fashion Weeks. This is the leather-free future, and it’s here to stay.


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All photos courtesy of Helsinki Fashion Week

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Sascha Camilli

Founder and Editor

A passionate changemaker, Sascha Camilli is the founder and editor-in-chief of Vilda Magazine. Born in Moscow and raised in Stockholm, she has also lived in Los Angeles, London, Milan and Florence, before landing in her current hometown of Brighton, UK. She was selected as one of GLAMOUR UK's Most Empowering Nu-Gen Activists and is a frequent public speaker on the topic of vegan fashion and material innovation. Her book Vegan Style is out now on Murdoch Books.

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Vilda (Swedish for “the wild one”) is an international digital vegan fashion magazine. Our aim is to inspire elevated compassionate living. For info and media kit:


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