Thoughts of what might have inspired Rolf Ekroth’s very tactile fall collection, which draws on his own 1990s nostalgia: Its title, Zipper Blues, is borrowed from the lyrics of the Smashing Pumpkins hit “1979,” and the designer, speaking via Zoom, is candid about his own melancholy and struggles that come with being an independent designer. You won’t find any of that in the clothes, however; Ekroth says that this season’s lineup is one of the happiest he’s created.

The more carefully you go through the look book, the more there is to wonder at. Ekroth’s love of the craft comes through most dramatically in a hairy pink monster sweater that came about, he relates, by accident. “I had these cords lying around at my desk, and they became sort of my stress toys, so I started to fray them. Then it just hit me: If you saw a lot of these frayed things next to each other, they start to look like fake fur. And that was it; then it was just go time. I think my parents and I frayed cords for over a hundred hours.” Similarly intricate is a crochet sweater that’s then laced by hand; more subtle is the complex patterning of this season’s motorcycle pants that recall fast times Ekroth spent with his cousins.

Ekroth’s focus on functionality and protection is timely, but it’s also extremely personal, drawn from a well of personal experience (the designer came to fashion late-ish after pursuing other interests) and his love of Finland. Both of those come together in a tubular macramé bag that looks like a blanket roll for camping, featuring the colors of the country’s flag. Ekroth served in the military and has firsthand experience of how clothes can be functional and convertible. He called on that experience when creating his sleeping-bag looks, which are basically flat rectangles with a zipper and drawstrings that can be manipulated to create volume and form. Also beautifully shaped is an oversized suit of gray wool flannel consisting of an almost cocooning jacket coat with side zips and full pants.

Every brand has a sort of accessible entry piece; here it’s a responsibly dyed hoodie. It can be frustrating to think that this is what will sell when there’s so much more to this designer’s work. Going forward, Ekroth might think about skipping the graphic text on his pieces, which can feel superimposed rather than integral to a piece. Who needs text when you can have talismans, anyway? For fall, this recurring theme takes the form of glow-in-the-dark pins (see look one) sprinkled on a knit set consisting of a sweater, an of-the-moment balaclava, and a short knit overcape. Calling all superheroes…

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