Anna-Maija Sunnanmark: Business, creativity, passion: fashion and lifestyle sector to boost Finnish exports!

Growth companies are a key component in the renewal of economic structures and competitiveness, since a major share of new jobs and economic growth are created by a small number of growth companies. This also applies to the creative sectors such as fashion and lifestyle.

The Finnish fashion and lifestyle sectors have the potential to take a major leap forward in terms of business growth. Several Finnish brands and companies already have international sales and exports. The new generation of fashion professionals have gained experience abroad and, having launched their own business, are aiming directly at the international markets. Finland and Scandinavia are still trendy on a global basis.

Our neighbours Sweden and Denmark have been systematically building their fashion sector for a long time. The society as a whole is involved in supporting the growth of the fashion companies and fashion exports are well supported. Such support is not always financial but rather collaboration across different fields. Fashion entrepreneurship is rooted in collectivity, and there are more structures and players to support businesses to achieve success in the global competition.

The fashion and design sector is the fourth largest exporter in Denmark and the country is famous for its international brands. The Swedish fashion sector is as large as the country's food industry and exports account for 62% of fashion turnover. The previous Swedish government launched the Dubbla exporten ("double exports") target, aimed at doubling Swedish exports in five years. Creative industries such as fashion were acknowledged to play a crucial role in achieving the target. In 2013, fashion exports increased by 6.8% while the total exports fell by 0.2% in Sweden.

The Swedish press highlights local brands, the consumers buy them and celebrities promote them. Even ministers consider it important to participate in industry events, which fall within their political remit. The pop duo Icona Pop, which is rapidly grown into one of Sweden's biggest musical exporters, wears only Swedish brands on foreign stages.

By investing in the growth and internationalisation of fashion and lifestyle companies, Finland can rejuvenate its economy, add versatility to its economic structure and increase exports. These sectors can produce products with higher added value with a higher price.

However, mere media visibility or creativity and passion are not enough without business competence and credible team building. Resources must be allocated to business development and internationalisation from the very beginning. Naturally, this is where Tekes and Team Finland can also help.Tekes can fund fashion and lifestyle companies under the same preconditions as businesses in any other sector.

Companies in the fashion sector can distinguish themselves by identifying and monetizing their intangible assets like brand, reputation or organizational culture. This positively contributes to scalability and growth potential. The sector could also learn from other industries and the Finnish flourishing startup scene. The most successful companies are boldly questioning the current practises and continuously seeking new ways of creating value for their networks, resellers and end-users.

Anna-Maija Sunnanmark
The author is Senior Adviser at Tekes Startup companies unit and leading the new mentoring and coaching programme for fashion and lifestyle companies

Growth for Fashion and Lifestyle initiative

Growth for Fashion and Lifestyle initiative, as a part of the Feelings programme, help companies to develop and enhance their business capabilities and make a leap towards international success. Both experienced business development experts and acclaimed professionals from Finland and abroad will act as coaches, mentors and sources of inspiration.

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