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On the Isle of Capri in Italy, there is a villa where it is traditional to greet the sunset with an aperitif and evening attire. The holiday destination favoured by movie stars and other socialites was recently visited by Sami Sykkö, the fresh Professor of Practice at LUT School of Business and Management.
“Ceremonies are important in life, just as they are at universities. I’d say that dressing up for the sunset elevates the mood while admiring the spectacle in swimming pants does quite the opposite,” Sykkö laughs.
Sykkö spent several weeks in Italy over the summer. During the trip, he made the acquaintance of a local bag designer after spontaneously complimenting his outfit in the street. This gave spark to a lively discussion about style. Some people are bonded by their love of dogs or horses and some by their passion for fashion.
Sykkö wants to bring the same straightforward curiosity with him to LUT University. He has already developed a number of plans for his term as Professor of Practice, but he does not want to reveal all of them just yet. For instance, we can expect Professor Sykkö’s Q&A, a series of dialogues with management representatives from Finnish corporations. The Q&A sessions will be realised as events open to students.
“As I’m not a CEO, I’m not familiar with the bureaucracy that CEOs have to handle. I’m interested in creativity, marketing and influencing people more broadly. Our future is with university students, and for my part, I’m trying to give them food for thought. Thinking back to my own studies, it’s not the theory classes I remember, but the real-life examples, business world topics and guest speakers.”
In addition, Sykkö aims to reach the younger generations through the social media and plans to take on the mantle of Finland’s first TikTok Professor.
Sykkö explains he likes to seize new opportunities that pique his interest, inspire him and feel like his thing. The professorship of practice is exactly one of these opportunities.
“I never thought I would be offered such an intriguing position. But when I was asked to take the job, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. The professorship of practice gives me endless opportunities to teach and learn, give, exchange and receive.”
“My ideas were never turned down, instead, I was encouraged”
Sykkö is a man of many mantles: a reporter, TV host and commentator, consultant, author. Nevertheless, he considers himself, first and foremost, a reporter and performer.
“I studied a business degree because in my twenties, I did not yet know what I wanted to do with my life. During my studies in Vaasa, Ninni Myllyoja, Editor-in-Chief of the student newspaper Ylioppilaslehti, asked me to write a story. I wrote her the story, and it didn’t take long until she asked for another one. I realised I enjoyed writing, and so, by chance, my career as a reporter took off,” Sykkö recounts.
Soon afterwards, Sykkö started to write articles for the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat.
“Myllyoja’s request proved one of my life’s major turning points. I’m truly grateful to her for giving my life a new direction.”
Nowadays, Myllyoja acts as Managing Editor at Alma Talent Market News.
Another life-changing opportunity occurred already in Sykkö’s childhood. Raili Suhonen, a former model who lived in the same housing cooperative as Sykkö, asked him if he was interested in child modelling. As it turned out, modelling was so lucrative that 15-year-old Sykkö booked an appointment with his bank to negotiate a mortgage for his first apartment.
The way Sykkö sees it, his life has been marked by turning points where someone has opened a new door for him. His family was always one of the most important enablers. Sykkö was born to a janitor and a cleaner. There was a time when Sykkö’s parents had two jobs to enable his expensive hobby. However, at the age of 13, Sykkö won the Finnish Junior Figure Skating Championship.
“I was fortunate to be born into a family where the children were allowed to pursue their interests. My ideas were never turned down, instead, I was encouraged. I believe that my parents’ approach helped me develop a healthy self-esteem.”
According to Sykkö, life has given him plenty of lucky opportunities.
“I love people and my life that has developed into a fascinating adventure and experience. Many unexpected opportunities have come my way, such as this position at LUT, and I value each and every one of them. All in all, I have practically never been presented with a boring job opportunity.”
Like many other milestones in Sykkö’s life, the opportunity at LUT was presented by a woman. Through his work as Business Director at Fashion Finland, Sykkö engaged in cooperation with LUT School of Business and Management Professor Anni-Kaisa Kähkönen and Assistant Professor Jenni Sipilä. Their purpose was to study the responsible consumption of fashion. The project never progressed, but Sykkö made an impression.
“Likewise! I was in awe of the LUT professors’ attitude, expertise and academic viewpoints.”
“It’s hard to find a megatrend more intriguing than responsibility”
As a LUT Professor of Practice, Sykkö will focus on responsible business and the turning point of customer behaviour. Responsible business not only comprises responsible manufacture and transport of products, but also the company’s operating culture and treatment of customers and personnel, for example.
“It’s a hot topic that gathers more and more attention. Speaking of trends, it’s hard to find a megatrend more intriguing than responsibility.”
“I also keep an eye out on new developments in customer behaviour. What directions do customer flows take and how do they fragment? How do consumer needs, patterns and demands develop? Both business and the life of all humanity are at play.”
Sami Sykkö and his metal-tipped boots in Paris.Photo: Sami Sykkö's Instagram @samisykko
In a recent interview on responsible consumerism with the Anna Magazine, Sykkö admits to being guilty of impulsive shopping behaviour every now and then. For instance, he reveals he once bought an extremely expensive Gucci jacket that he has only worn once. In Paris, Sykkö happened on a designer shop sale where he purchased metal-tipped boots that are, in his words, too sexy to be worn in Finland.
“Or let’s say they may be a tad too much for some people here. But when the right occasion comes, I’m sure I’ll walk in those boots.”
It is not exaggerated to say that Sykkö’s wardrobe holds a new set of clothes for every day for the next 10 years. He even had to buy a larger apartment as he no longer had enough room for clothes. He says there is not too much room left in the new apartment either. On the other hand, Sykkö does not have a car or a driving licence, and he does not use alcohol.
“The more often and longer a piece of clothing is used, the more responsible it is. In that sense I’m a responsible consumer as I try to use my clothes as long as they fit. If I keep in shape, we’ll grow old together, my clothes and I,” Sykkö remarks with a laugh.
During his studies, Sykkö tried the student overalls, but he had an issue.
“Everyone around me made such a fuss about the overalls. They traded legs and sleeves between guilds and sewed patches. I only wore my overalls once because I didn’t want to dress like everyone else!”
Publicity presents new opportunities
Sykkö grew up in a regular family, but his image has a certain sense of luxury and even a touch of stardust. During his stay in Italy, passers-by enquired whether they had seen Sykkö in TV more than once.
He sure has appeared in TV, but not in Italy. Sykkö has acted as fashion commentator in the Independence Day Reception, fashion expert in Say Yes to the Dress Finland, guest judge in music show Levyraati, wedding designer in soap opera Salatut Elämät, host in fashion show Minun tyylilläni and dating show Anoppi and competitor in Tanssii tähtien kanssa, the Finnish adaptation of Strictly Come Dancing. Many Finns know Sykkö by his numerous newspaper stories and articles published in, for example, Helsingin Sanomat and Anna over the past two decades.
“I don’t think publicity has had any negative impacts on my life. Actually it’s the other way around. Publicity has presented me with new opportunities.”
In Sykkö’s Instagram photos, jacket hems flutter stylishly in the wind, colours match in perfect harmony, and clothes made of high-quality fabrics fit exquisitely. Sykkö always pays attention to his attire, and he is often asked for advice on clothing. Nonetheless, Sykkö rejects the age-old stereotype about Finns’ poor eye for style.
“When sitting in a café or walking on the street, I take notice of people’s successful choices and styles and rejoice in them. I choose not to waste energy on thinking whether someone’s style is slightly askew.”
The most recent style to have impressed Sykkö was the summer look of his friend, artist Jorma Uotinen. When they met, Uotinen was wearing an orange summer hat and wide-legged pants. According to Sykkö, Uotinen turns heads wherever he goes, even abroad.
Another thing that impresses Sykkö is his friend’s personality.
“Every time we meet, Jorma utters something surprising or memorable. Generally, I’m impressed when someone says or writes things I haven’t thought of. I find it enlightening,” Sykkö notes with admiration.
Part of Sykkö’s charm is undoubtedly based on his outlook on life which is well characterised by the following Instagram post he made while on the Isle of Capri in the summer:
“Even more than the restaurants, I’m enjoying the sunsets that are free for everyone. Someone I know asked what’s so special about sunsets, claiming they’re always the same. But they are not.
On Capri, every sunset is a sight and an experience. On one evening, the sun sets behind the Isle of Ischia as a large red sphere, while on another, it paints the sky in pastel and on the third in gold. Sometimes when it’s really hot and humid, the sea is covered in vapour, and the entire scenery is so misty that you can barely see the thousands of evening lights in Naples.
On nights like those, it feels as if the streets and beaches of Capri were covered in cotton.”
Sami Sykkö in Capri in Italy.Photo: Sami Sykkö's Instagram @samisykko
- A journalist, TV host, consultant, commentator and author specialised in fashion, interior decoration, design and culture
- LUT School of Business and Management Professor of Practice from 1 September 2022 to 31 December 2025
- Business Director and Editor-in-Chief at Fashion Finland
- Director of Content at the Federation of Finnish Special Commodity Trade ETU
- Master of Business Administration in International Marketing (University of Vaasa, 1996), additional studies at Parsons School of Design, New York
- Former Editor-in-Chief at Gloria Magazine
- Has authored two books on Finnish homes and interior design and edited the life’s work exhibition publication of fashion designer Jukka Rintala for the Didrichsen Art Museum (2017)
- Figure skater, World Championship contestant, won the Finnish Junior Figure Skating Championship in 1984
- Former child model
- In his youth, served as waiter on cruise ships
- Frequents cafés, concerts and theatres in his free time while his dearest hobby is travelling
- Born and lives in Helsinki
The professorship was made possible by the banks OP Päijät-Häme, OP Järvi-Häme, OP Orimattila and OP Kärkölä. The banks have provided a total of EUR 140 000 in funding for the professorship.