Young designers reshaping fashion

What does the future look like seen through the eyes of promising young designers? And what is it that they are aiming for with their work? We sat down to talk about these topics with designers Juha Vehmaanperä, Krista Virtanen and Hanna Hanhela.

“Through my work I aim to inspire people to make their own fashion”

Juho Vehmaanperä

Clothes are a powerful means of expressing oneself and one’s values. Clothing plays a major role in the way people perceive you. Clothing and unconventional looks still provoke unusually strong reactions.

I don’t think clothes are recognised for the value and importance they carry in certain contexts at societal level. My outfits attract a lot of attention. What I wear is like having a dialogue with my social environment.

Fashion is always used to create some sort of utopia. It has the possibility of building scenarios and it can be used to shift from conventionality to something different, to a stronger sense of expression – away from the social construct of good taste. Fashion challenges societal thinking that dictates the way things should be.

Fashion is often thought to be only for the wealthy, but, through my work, I especially want to bridge the gap between fashion and ordinary people. My work is artisanal-based. I concentrate on making unique pieces and explore new ways of doing business. I am interested in the idea of how to make fashion more experiential and immaterial.

My work is largely built on a sense of self-expression and willingness to try things. I want to shake up the fashion scene and its hierarchical structure. I want to diminish the role of the designer in my own work and I want to inspire people to take part in making fashion. I want people to grasp the opportunity and get inspired and excited about doing things themselves. I don’t want to produce a lot of items. For example, I design knitting patterns to activate consumers and users who are interested in fashion and self-expression. I want to encourage people to make their own clothes. You can apply instructions and patterns, and make things your own way.

I would like people to use fashion to find interesting aspects in their lives. It is about self-expression and everyone has the right for fashion. You don’t have to think that it’s something that is determined from above and that there is only one way of doing things.

I want to blur the lines between high fashion, handicrafts and artisanal work. I feel it would be important if people learned to make clothes. This could be one solution for the excessive consumption of clothes.

Currently I am working on a project supported by the Kone Foundation. I am conducting a research on how to combine 3D printing, crocheting and knitting. What could be the next step in crafts? Will we be combining artisanal work with digital technology? I find this fascinating.

Juha Vehmaanperä was chosen as the Young Designer of the Year in the autumn of 2022. Vehmaanperä, an Aalto University graduate, won the fashion design competition that was organised for the 28th time. Vehmaanperä combined crochet technique and industrial surplus leather in his victorious outfit making a statement addressing the global climate crisis. With his collection, Vehmaanperä was also one of the finalists in the Hyères Fashion Festival competition.

 

Collection: Juha Vehmaanperä | Photos: Mika Kailes

I want to change the notion that a piece of clothing cannot change in use

Krista Virtanen

For me fashion is about breaking established boundaries, and examining, questioning and changing the world and trends. It’s a way of expressing oneself, art, and embodiment.

Fashion cannot continue to exist like this in the future. There are new innovations emerging and our patterns of consumption are changing. We, the designers, have a big responsibility in what we bring and produce to this world.

It feels like the fashion business is about being exceedingly strong and elbowing your way past others. I wish you could succeed also by being kind and warm to one another.

As a designer my goal is to change what can be changed in order to have a product that is as recyclable and sustainable as possible. My objective is to achieve a fully closed loop in my work, which means that every detail and choice of material is valid. I always design a product by taking into account the entire lifecycle of the textile till its last day of use. I try to maximise the number of times of use as well as the need of the product.

I am inspired by the pictorial representation of the phenomena of the world and studying the future. What the world will be like in the future and how it can be changed. The fashion industry is like the Wild West where anything is possible – the good and the bad.

My inner world has so much what I want to share. It is colourful and abundant. I would like to see more colour and abundance also in responsible fashion. Responsible is not the same as boring.

Painting is another form of art that I have always loved. I began looking into the origin of different pigments. That is how I ended up researching plant dyes and making better colours. My design process starts from the very beginning: the material itself, where does it come from, and can it be done in a way that makes it recyclable.

The change that needs to be conveyed to the consumer is that a garment can change over the years. Plant dyes do not last like synthetic colours, and we got used to the fact that a product remains unchanged. Why would the product or its colour not change over time?

My role in the world of fashion is paving the way for change. I promote responsibility matters and research development. Currently I am working on my Master’s degree in fashion: my studies provide an opportunity for science-based work and for delving into topics on a deeper level. As a designer I am interested in ethics – the role of women in fashion and how it could be improved.

Krista Virtanen graduated as a designer from the LAB Institute of Design and Fine Arts. She has developed natural dyeing methods for textiles. In her thesis collection she utilised onion peel waste, a food industry by-product, in cooperation with Natural Indigo Finland.

 

Collection: Krista Virtanen | Photos: Valtteri Nevalainen

The potential of fashion competence remains unutilised outside the industry

Hanna Hanhela

For me fashion is doing something concrete. It’s about proportions, fabrics, clothes and self-expression. I am not as interested in fashion as a phenomenon that much, but it’s interesting to see how different designers interpret the same things in different ways. I am inspired by men’s tailoring, big coats, wool fabrics and structures. I don’t want to follow too eagerly what others do. I wouldn’t want that to influence my work.

The most problematic aspect of fashion is mass manufacturing even though fashion aims for quality consciousness. My attitude towards this industry is that I try to make better choices. If I work independently, I can have better control over decision-making. On the other hand, it’s not fair to put small brands or individual operators under a huge pressure when the underlying problem is structural. Still, I strive to do better every time, but I don’t demand perfection from myself. There are a lot of companies and designers that operate responsibly – they should be heard and their best practices should be implemented more widely.

Currently I am inspired by the visual research technology that I have been able to concentrate on
during my traineeship. It is new and uplifting. I have also loved being part of a team because there is no need to take everything so personally. You can even put some of the bad ideas to the test and, with team effort, you can develop those ideas into something. I can work according to my particular strengths, yet I get to try something new.

My skills are valued and it feels good. When I won three awards, I realised that my intentions and what I wanted to say was conveyed through my collection. The story behind my collection is very personal.

My work has been influenced the most by the teacher of tailoring, who taught me traditional tailoring techniques and the roles of different pieces in an item. This person inspired me to design through these techniques and this became part of my working methods. My friend Arnold also inspired me in terms of attaining an uncompromising attitude – no shortcuts at any stage of work, you do every single thing properly from the beginning.

In Finland, technology and quality are highly valued. I hope that Finnish companies would recognise the potential of fashion competence in the creative sector more widely. An interesting example of this is knitwear designer Janni Vepsäläinen who was hired as Iittala’s Creative Director.

I would like to contribute to shaping the image of Finland and, eventually, return to Finland. I have been away for 10 years now. Since I studied during the pandemic there were no opportunities for me to build solid networks in Finland. But first I want to gain experience and build credibility abroad.

Hanna Hanhela, an Aalto University graduate, was the most awarded of the students participating in the 2022 fashion show. Hanhela received three of the four awards presented at the show: the main award for the Näytös22 fashion show, the Finnish Textile & Fashion Award and the Marimekko Award. 

Hanhela’s grandmother was the inspiration for her collection Strength of Body – Fragility of Mind. She was the one who inspired Hanhela to take interest in clothes and fashion. Now her grandmother has Alzheimer’s Disease. This is reflected in the collection: it has been designed from the point of view of a tailor who suffers from memory loss.

 

 

Collection: Hanna Hanhela | Photos: Hugo d'Alte (portrait) & Bernhard Forstén

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