I shop without looking at either brand’s Instagram page, as aimless as I can get with an assigned shopping trip. To enter Samuji, I push on a rough-cut piece of Finnish granite fastened to the door bar. Minimal but beautiful, carefully carved to look organic, somehow more the essence of granite than if it were actually just a piece of raw granite — this is the essence of the brand, and you can’t enter the store without being in physical contact with it.
Samuji was founded in 2009 by Samu-Jussi Koski, who had worked as the creative director of the Finnish textile and design house Marimekko. Textiles are a huge part of the label. Of course, I don’t know this when I enter; I just notice that the clothes use a lot of fabric. They’re roomy. Tented with a few well-placed sticks, many of the pieces could easily be actual rooms. I’m tempted to buy a pair of silky rust-colored cupro trousers ($450), truly the most A-line garment I’ve ever seen, just so I can experience wearing them while standing over a subway grate.
I try them on with a matching robe jacket with deep pockets ($460). I’m dressed to give a lecture on lava flows at the University of Helsinki. I also try on another set: a boxy pale green skirt suit that yawns away from my body. There’s something stoic and trustworthy about this aesthetic — clean lines, cut wide, modest and precise. There’s humor in how utterly flappable they are.
The store itself is minimal, and lines are key: Smooth birch panels form the ceiling, and large stone tiles cover the floor. The walls are covered with a clean straw grid. Two shelves in the back of the store are filled with the company’s housewares (called Koti, which means “home” in Finnish). Delicate and handmade, each piece looks special enough to sit alone on a mantel — even a tea towel, a hand-carved wooden spoon or a piece of Kikoi lava stone on a gray rope, which I learn is actually for scrubbing your feet.
Doll-like ceramics by the Finnish artist Jenni Tuominen stare out with black dot eyes ($800). They have an eerie appeal: If your kindergartner brought one home, you would be creeped out, but here, they look as if they summon the kind of specters who open your kitchen cabinets, like in “The Sixth Sense,” except they reorganize your glassware.
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