Focus Finland: spending the day with Paola Suhonen of Ivana Helsinki

Paola's morning view Affe, always ready to go Ivana Helsinki flagship store in the city center of Helsinki, in Punavuori

By Kate | Women
Posted Apr 10, 2013

The day is never boring with Ivana Helsinki designer Paola Suhonen… it starts with black coffee, stops at her boutique, art gallery talks, film promotion, factory visit, music video editing, snowboarding, and ends in sauna…  (as told to Kate Black).

8:00 a.m. I just woke up here in the Siltasaari, that’s the place where I have my home, it’s by the sea. It’s very close to downtown but it’s a funny little place – there is only one sushi bar and one hotel – but it’s a really peaceful little island here in the middle of Helsinki. From my window, I can see all of the major sites of Helsinki. So this is my morning: I usually wake up at 8:00 or around there, so it’s not like I always have the same rhythm but I want to get up early so that I’m active already from the beginning of the morning. I need to have a lot of coffee. Black, black coffee. No sugar. No milk. Just pure, strong filter coffee. I have my dog, Affe, he’s a mixture of Irish Wolfhound and Airedale Terrier. I rescued him from Estonia and ever since we’ve been never away from each other.  So we rush out after we’ve had our morning coffee, together.

I have a car. I feel really bad having a car, but we have a store, we have the factories on the other side of Helsinki and my parents live on the other side of Helsinki, so I always feel like there is something that I need to deliver, orbiting from one place to another.

9:00 a.m. After we leave home in the morning, we head to the Ivana Helsinki flagship store in the city center of Helsinki, in a little trendy, cool bohemian neighborhood called Punavuori  (red mountain in English if you translate it). I love coming here and doing the window display and whatever little things it is. We just had our meeting, we are planning events for the store. We are planning our next event which will be like a little festival, we will have different bands playing here and we are also launching the new collection of Ivana Helsinki which is called ‘Mourning Sun Motel’ and we are screening the fashion film for that  collection that we shot in 3D, so it’s going to be part of the party that people are going to be wearing 3D glasses.

11:00 a.m.  Heading now to the Finnish Design Museum. It’s the 15th anniversary year for Ivana Helsinki and we are happy to have our anniversary exhibition there. The idea is, because Ivana Helsinki is really much based on the stories, the stories drive the whole design process and they are the core for the whole art project of Ivana Helsinki. So I would say that – it’s more I’m using the fashion or the clothes for my tool to tell the stories and express myself.

So in the Design Museum we have build a path. Almost like an adventure path, because it’s 15 years, so it means that it’s 30 collections together, so 2 collections per year and we have built this little path that people start from the year ’98 and then they follow throughout all these stories and then into the next season. Every collection has their own booth and there is all different kinds of things, because Ivana Helsinki is not just the clothes its a lot about the homewares, it’s about films. That’s actually my other career. I’m also D.P. or cinematographer. I graduated from the AFI (the American Film Institute) last summer. I love film.

I’m going to meet some teachers at the Design Museum and go through the exhibition with them and explain it, so when they come with their students, they’ll have an idea what’s the exhibition all about. I personally really love teaching. It’s one of my favorite things. I feel that it’s sometimes really relaxing and it’s a bit different thing than just being by yourself and designing your own way and sometimes it feels it’s really selfish or a really lonely process to do your own artwork, but when you are teaching you are giving something out.

Noon: I’ve just finished my first feature length film that I directed and shot, called 7 Heaven Love Ways, and I’m going to go and do some promotion for an art film festival. And I’m also going to Skype with Chip Taylor the composer of the film because we’re planning to do a little tour; screening the film and he will playing (live) the score for the film. There’s 20 songs that he actually composed for this movie, so I’m really pleased to have him on board and we are releasing the DVD as well, so we need to plan that.

After this I’m heading from one meeting to another. It’s freezing cold today, it’s like -15 and it’s cold and there’s so much snow everywhere. It’s pretty beautiful actually. That was one thing that I was missing while I was living in California and Los Angeles, I really was missing these hardcore, winter days when there’s a lot of snow and it’s below zero and it’s super beautiful.

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