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Retro Finnish fashion: This season's must-have item is a yellow Rukka raincoat

Young people are buying up yellow raincoats this autumn, as old Finnish brands and products make a comeback on the fashion scene. Gunborg Lehmus first designed the famous yellow Rukka raincoat in the kitchen of an old Kokkola farmhouse in the early 1950s.

Miehellä keltainen sadetakki
Jan Lehmus, grandson of Gunborg, still uses his original Rukka raincoat prototype regularly. Image: Kati Latva-Teikari / Yle

The unexpected trend took retailers by surprise: in autumn 2017, after years of steady sales, yellow Rukka rainwear was suddenly flying off the shelves.

"We would have sold hundreds more jackets if we would have been better prepared," says Jeri Luhtanen, brand manager for L-Fashion. "We are making more the whole time."

Since 1990 Rukka has been an independent part of Lahti's L-Fashion Group of Luhta Sportswear fame. Luhtanen says the mackintosh craze is part of a wider fashion trend for everything retro-Finnish.

"The old Finnish cult brands are hot again. Karhu sneakers and Rukka raincoats are all the rage this season," he says.

Never out of style

Luhtanen says sales of the iconic rainwear have been steady over the decades, and the product has been manufactured nonstop. Even so, the sudden embrace of teenage consumers this autumn has placed the brand on the must-have list, along with the latest trending shoes and bags.

Ultra Bra aloitti vuonna 1994 ja toimi aktiivisesti vuoteen 2001 saakka.
Ultra Bra rose to cult status on the music scene in the last 1990s. The entire band famously wore yellow Rukka raincoats in a music video. Image: Aleksi Koskinen

The story of the iconic yellow Rukka raincoat began 70 years ago in the western coastal city of Kokkola.

Roger Störling founded a family business 'Sportsbeklädnad Urheiluvaatetus' to make jogging clothes. He got the idea to expand his product line to rainwear after riding his motorcycle 500 kilometres through the driving rain to Helsinki to watch the Olympics.

In designing the coat, Gunborg Lehmus took her cues from a souvenir jacket her mother had given her, a Danish engineer's invention for welding seams and Finlayson's coated textiles. The colour was clear to a native of a seaside town: bright yellow for optimal visibility.

Kuvassa Rukka-sadetakkien suunnittelija Gunborg Lehmus kahden sadeasuja esittelevän mallin kanssa
Designer Gunborg Lehmus models her mackintosh. Image: Gunborg Lehmuksen arkisto

Later the brand expanded to other colours, as parents in the 50s and 60s wanted blue jackets for their boys and red rainwear for their girls.

Timeless Finnish design

The jackets took on the name of Rukka in 1996, when Störling changed the name of his company to his nickname. Sales to the other Nordic countries and Germany were brisk, and it wasn't long before Rukka rainwear was seen at fashion events in Milano and Paris.

Kuvassa Gunborg Lehmus
Gunborg Lehmus Image: Maisa Järvelä

The yellow Rukka raincoat has stayed largely the same over the years. Lehmus says she wanted to keep her design simple and relaxed. The most important elements for her were a good cut, a decent hood and large pockets. Even the original length has stayed the same. 

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