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Friday's papers: Independence Day ball and demonstrations

The main story on Friday is who wore what to the Independence Day gala.

Näyttelijä Jasper Pääkkönen ja avopuoliso Alexandra Escat.
Actor Jasper Pääkkönen and his partner Alexandra Escat were among the most-watched guests at the annual gala. Image: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva

Most of Friday’s papers focus on Thursday's gala at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki where Finland's movers, shakers and honourees were invited to celebrate the nation’s 101 years of independence. Traditionally, media attention has centered on the best-dressed guests and this year was no exception.

According to tabloid Ilta-Sanomat, among the most elegant invitees this year was MP Jaana Pelkonen, who wore a bright yellow sleeveless dress by French designer Roland Mouret. In the paper’s online poll for the belle of the ball, the National Coalition Party politician received more than a fifth of the votes, and thereby beat First Lady Jenni Haukio, who donned a white dress made of tree-based loncell fabric.

The IS fashion critics Mirva Saukkola and Juri Silvennoinen selected singer Anna Puu’s red futuristic dress as the most stylish outfit, followed closely by model Alexandra Escat, who wore a shimmering golden gown by Finnish designer Mert Otsamo. Escat and her partner actor Jasper Pääkkönen were among the most-watched couples of the evening, IS writes.

Pääkkönen, who most recently starred in Spike Lee’s film BlacKKKlansman, broke rules of etiquette by donning a tuxedo instead of the preferred tailcoat and white tie, points out daily Helsingin Sanomat. Many other male guests also wore bold and original suits, HS said, with Vaasa Youth Council Chair Antonio Teca choosing a lion-embroidered coat and a man-bun for Finland's most-watched party.

Meanwhile, in a more critical assessment of the evening's outfits, tabloid Iltalehti calls some dresses as bordering on bad taste. For example, Iltalehti stylist Vesa Silver says journalist Anna Björkroos took the gala's theme of sustainability too literally by choosing a gown made of newspapers. The dress was not respectful enough for the occasion, said Silver. Also, what would happen if drinks were spilled on the dress, Iltalehti asks.

In addition, while trendy, boxer Elina Gustafsson's white sneakers were much too ordinary for the Independence Day gala, Iltalehti said.

14 protesters held

In other news, 14 people were arrested at a nationalistic gathering at the Finnish Parliament Annex (Pikkuparlamentti) park in late evening, IS said. An event organised by the Suomen kansa ensin (Finnish people first) movement and Reform group was supposed to end at 11 p.m. but 14 participants failed to leave, IS writes. The police took them into custody and cited them for refusing to obey authority.

Several protests took place in Helsinki on Thursday, with Helsinki without Nazis attracting the largest crowd, about 2,000 people while approximately 250 people participated in the neo-Nazi Toward Freedom demonstration. The Finnish chapter of the Nordic Resistance Movement, which was banned in November 2017, also marched on Independence Day, as the order to disband the group has not gone into force yet. Four neo-Nazi demonstrators were taken into police custody for flying swastika flags in downtown Helsinki.

According to Ilta-Sanomat, actor Jasper Pääkkönen was embarrassed to tell his partner Alexandra Escat about the racist protests.

"Alexandra has both Asian and European heritage, and she has considered Finland a country that the rest of the world can look up to. That's why I felt ashamed to tell her what's happening out there, behind this gleam and glamour," Pääkkönen said.

"As a Finn, I would like to think that we live in an exceptionally open and progressive society," he added.

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