Focus Finland: Ivana Helsinki, poetic visuality
“The Finnish identity includes a beautiful melancholy undercurrent. Its elements are a close connection with nature and the contrasts of the changing seasons,” Paola Suhonen
Ivana Helsinki is all about telling a story. It is the story that drives the entire design process and is at the very core of the company’s being. The clothing, the fashion, is simply the tool used to tell these stories. What started as a personal art project, 15 years ago by sisters Paola and Pirjo Suhonen, has morphed into a global art, fashion and cinema brand with boutiques in both Helsinki and New York. Ivana Helsinki is the only Nordic brand in the fashion industry that has been included in the official calendar of showings of both the Paris and New York fashion weeks. Collections are supplemented with artistic elements in the form of prints, graphics and films.
Fashion and clothing runs in the family,
“Dad had actually founded the first jeans factory in Finland, in year ’55. We still manufacture most of the clothes there. We have these heavy duty industrial sewing machines and it is a factory, a real factory in downtown Helsinki. And it’s funny, when American Apparel started and they were saying “made in downtown L.A.” I was thinking why didn’t we say we were ‘made in downtown Helsinki‘ because we almost thought it was like, of course we are doing it ethically and producing it in Finland.”
A Finnish snowboard champion as a teen, Paola spent several years traveling, snowboarding and living in an old Volkswagon klienbus before launching Ivana Helsinki. “That was my youth with snowboarding. My huge love back in those days.” This lifestyle and perpetual love for road tripping led Paola to move towards film. She graduated from the AFI (the American Film Institute) in L.A. last summer and has since been creating movies, many of which center around hotels and the loneliness of the road.
The latest Ivana Helsinki collection, SS 2013 titled, Mourning Sun Motel and corresponding 3D film tell the story of people celebrating the midnight sun and summer festival 74 years ago when there is a solar eclipse- a moment of never ending light or eternal darkness- which may be the end of the world. As a reflection of the time and space, the collection consists of mainly floral dresses in patterns similar to that of the drapery in the motel seen in the film.
Films, whether they be part of an art exhibit (BOUTIQUE) or a collection showcase in the form of mood, slides, live lookbooks and catwalk stills, display what a true visionary Paola is. In addition to her work with Ivana Helsinki, Paola Suhonen has designed products, concepts and patterns for many associates, including Nanso, Aarikka, Artek, Google, Topshop, Swarovski, Coca-Cola, Canon, Amnesty International and the Mori Art Center of Tokyo.