Focus Finland: Minna Hepburn, vintage inspired, bohemian flair
Finnish-born Minna Hepburn has been making beautiful dresses and garments from sustainable, recycled and UK textiles since 2008. Under her eponymous label, Minna, the London-based designer has added a new, ethically produced, affordable bridal line to her collection of womens and childrens clothing. Growing up in Finland, it was common to look after things and mend them if they were broken- these principles have stuck with Hepburn and are woven into the fabric of the business. We caught up with Minna to learn more.
Tell us a little about yourself; what’s your background, and how did you end up in Dorset?
If someone had told me when I was little that I would be a fashion designer later in life, I would have laughed. I hated sewing and anything girly. I was a tomboy and a pony girl. Fast forward 30 years, I live in England, in the stunning countryside of Dorset, we have an office in London, where I commute once a week and a shop in Dorset. I love what I do!
I never studied fashion. In fact, my degree was in War Studies from Kings College London. I got into fashion by accident while travelling around Asia with my husband in 2003. We started a label called SE1 London, that was stocked at Top Shop and I had a busy shop in London Borough Market. We wrapped up the business in 2005, when I had my daughter and took 2 years off putting a business plan together for Minna. Armed with lots of lessons learned from my first business and a strong vision for the new label, Minna was launched in 2008 at the London Fashion Week’s Estethica.
What matters to you most as a fashion designer?
The most important thing that matters is our clients. Whether the feedback is positive or negative, it will help us to become more successful. A happy team also equals success. I value my team very much and think they are doing an amazing job. I could not do this job without them! Lovely press coverage also gets us excited and thank you letters from our clients. For me, that is a job well done!
How would you describe your line?
I think the word “vintage inspired” is so overused, but it totally describes my line. So vintage inspired dresses with bohemian flair.
Why did you start the bridal line?
When our customers started buying our designs for their weddings, it made me realize that there was a huge gap in the market for alternative dresses. Not everyone wants to get married in a traditional bridal dress you only get to wear it once and costs thousands of dollars. It also brought me memories of my own wedding 10 years ago when I struggled to find a dress. We launched the first collection back in 2011 and I have never looked back.
How do you source your fabrics and materials?
I have worked with the same people since the launch of my business. For lace, we use the same suppliers that we have worked with for years. Most of our lace comes from Nottingham and Scotland. For certified organic cotton, we use a supplier in Devon and silk comes from various retailers in London who specializes in selling end of the rolls and discontinued stock. We also have a new supplier on board for certified organic and peace silk. We can now offer our whole range in certified organic and peace silk.
How did you come up with the ides of ‘pimp my dress’?
I love customising clothes and just had this “light bulb” moment of putting a little kit together. I had no idea whether it would work but the feedback has been fantastic! The kit is made entirely from recycled fabrics and I love making the small embellishments, which is truly the “Minna signature look”. You can use the embellishments to customise dresses, make headpieces or like me, use it to customise some old vintage clothes.
What does eco-fashion mean to you?
For me, the most important thing is the life cycle of the garment. I am hoping that our garments do not end up on landfill after one season. I hope our customers will keep them, look after them and pass them on. For me, it was always important that the production be kept in UK. We always try using sustainable or locally sourced fabrics and re-use all our textiles that are leftover from production. It is a complicated business model, but I am happy to say that we have been sticking to the same principles since 2008!
What advice do you have for aspiring fashion designers?
Work for someone else and learn from their mistakes. Work hard and be nice to people. Do a proper business plan and plan your cash flow and invest in PR and marketing or do it yourself. And finally, when you are there, look after yourself and learn to take time off!