This Finnish brand is here to challenge price transparency in fashion.
By Evelin KangurRead More
This Finnish brand is here to challenge price transparency in fashion.
By Evelin KangurRead More
I accidentally travelled to Paris one March weekend, only to discover that in addition to the buzz and bravura of another frivolous fashion week prevailing the city the attendance of which I (despite my rigorous attempts) failed to escape, there was an opening event of BMA (Brand Management Agency) showroom in the upbeat Le Marais district one Friday night. Further to my amusement, two dynamic Estonian brands had already been picked up by the new agency! Sustainable, yet immaculately classy Studio August, bringing together GOTS-certified fabrics and blissfully harmonious, symmetrical lines, among them. So, I sat there (with a glass of Savignon Blanc in one hand), carefully caressing and admiring these elegant Nordic designs from Studio August's new mindfully-crafted collection, communicating the very essence of 'Parisian chic'. The pieces that had travelled all the way from Nordic Estonia to our favourite fashion capital, of course. That encounter passionately fueled my genuine interest in Estonian sustainable fashion, let alone, I immediately yearned for an inspiring one-to-one with the head designer, Äli Kargoja, to keep myself on the pulse of the diligent and humble, yet rapidly evolving and incredibly sought-after Nordic sustainable fashion scene.
How did your journey of becoming a designer take shape?
This journey was a rather natural one for me, I knew for a long time what I wanted and everything I did was shaped towards this vision – creating my own line of clothes. My first experience in the industry started as a model, doing shows, showrooms, photo shoots, fittings etc. I had the opportunity to move to Paris and I didn’t hesitate even once on wanting to study there. I enrolled in Studio Bercot fashion school, and these were the most important years of me becoming a designer. My creativity bloomed incredibly during these 3 years. To this day, I am very grateful to my teachers for all their work and support. Life then took me under the talented hand of Nicolas Andreas Taralis and from there to an internship in sales team at Maison Martin Margiela. I designed my first collection for August in 2014.
What were the main cornerstones August was based on? What was the main outlook for you since its inception?
The main outlook was firstly rather selfish - to express myself creatively and do what I love. As an admirer of minimal aesthetic, I definitely saw lack of that style in my home country. That’s one of the many reasons I decided to base myself here [in Estonia] in the beginning. Another reason was lack of mindfully made sustainable clothing lines in the world in general, to this day.
Also, sustainable fashion is clearly something quite novel in the Estonian market. How did you find your way to sustainable fashion?
I find that it’s a strong value for a clothing brand, definitely something to stand out with. It's also good to have a more meaningful mission, rather than just starting another clothing label – to give people the choice to consume consciously.
Who is the woman August is meant for? Wrap it up in a sentence.
August’s customer is a confident woman, who expresses her being, choices and way of thinking/consuming also through the way she dresses. A woman who appreciates comfortable everyday classics with an edge and to whom sustainably made clothes and certified organic fabrics make a huge difference.
How did your brand find its way to be represented by BMA in Paris? What are the larger goals and opportunities being part of this project brings?
We were contacted by BMA agency about 6 months ago. It brought us a lot of useful feedback from the buyers all around the world. It will surely play its role to help August reach more customers eventually.
What are your prospects on the international marketplace? How does this idea of 'Parisian chic' tie in with your brand and collections?
As I mentioned earlier, the most important growth for me as a designer took place in Paris during my school years, so it must have injected a fair amount of Parisian chic into my designs as well.
What would you like to bring out as a highlight of your journey as a designer? What would you still like to improve?
I'd like to think I am improving every day. The highlight was the decision to stay true to what I love doing the most, to have the courage to take the beautiful challenge of creating my own line.
At BMA opening, many of us went like, 'Oh, this is like COS, but better'. What's your viewpoint on that comparison?
COS has beautiful designs. I like their pure Scandinavian aesthetics. But I do try to stand out with my selection of fabrics and also with the sustainable idea behind the brand.
Is there anything you'd like to see changing in the Estonian fashion system?
I hope to see changes in the behaviour of the consumers, not only in Estonia. To choose well, there has to be willingness to pay more money for quality that lasts, and avoid fast fashion chains that provide shirts for 7€. A change in consumer behaviour will force changes up on producers and, further along, the ways our clothes are created.
What are your personal tips for consuming less and being a more mindful shopper-consumer?
Listen to your conscious! Buying a T-shirt for 7€ means that someone in that production chain has suffered one way or another. In some unfortunate cases even passed away because of tragic accidents, like Rana Plaza in 2013.
Who have been your main influencers in your journey as a designer?
I can’t point out a particular person of influence. All the people dear to me have a part in it one way or another.
Share a thought with us about the future of responsible fashion.
I am convinced that responsible fashion is not a passing trend, but something permanent to stay. Consumers have a growing interest not only towards the clothing, but also towards the values and identity behind the brand. It is important that conscious clothing brands put more emphasis on creating clothes that are stylish and pleasing to the eye to change the stereotype of sustainable clothing being something only for yoga lovers.
In Finland, radical transparency is making waves in the clothing industry. With their seasonless style and Nordic grace, as a new brand in the market, iluut aspires to make ethical design more accessible to all customers. Who would deny introducing a pinch of minimal elegance into their wardrobe? iluut is comprised of a female trio, with their feminine enigma focused on building awareness of affordable slow fashion. Having just launched their web shop in early 2017, we wanted to know more about their journey towards the brave way of entering ethical fashion industry.
Describe iluut's debut collection in 3 words.
Timeless, traceable and affordable.
What are the attitudes circulating about sustainable fashion in Finland?
The Finns are paying more and more attention to making sustainable purchases, especially people living in major cities today show interest in buying clothes from smaller sustainable brands. However, iluut aims to expand further in Europe, and it’s great witnessing sustainable supply increase; there is something for everyone nowadays. We also think we have a great duty of educating people and building awareness of the difference between fast and sustainable fashion. We can’t wait for the day when sustainable brands really make a breakthrough and get a bigger market share. We are working hard for that.
What are the main complications you've faced when setting up iluut?
At the very beginning, it was very surprising how difficult it was to find high quality, sustainable woven fabrics that have been made in Europe. We wanted to find fabrics that are fully traceable; meaning they come to us directly from the farm. We truly appreciate full transparency, because we believe it could decrease fashion’s biggest ethical and environmental problems, such as use of child labour, unsecured working conditions, dangerous chemicals and industrial pollution. In summer 2016, we made a European tour and visited a family-owned Italian fabric manufacturer, Albini. We are proud to say that our customers have so far been very happy with the quality of iluut clothes. Currently we are looking for new sustainable fabric options for the dresses we are developing.
What are the benefits of a minimal capsule wardrobe?
Minimal style looks fresh from year to year, and it’s very easy to combine. That means you don’t need so many garments, because with less pieces you can create many different kinds of looks that last throughout the years. It cannot be a conscious choice to produce something that people won’t wear anymore in a couple of seasons, and that will turn into more waste.
Who and what were the main influencers and influences iluut took note of since its inception?
Our whole team of three ambitious women loves fashion, but thinks that making beautiful things shouldn’t harm people. Last summer, we were fortunate to meet a pioneer designer in sustainable fashion, Marina Spadafora. She has been designing for high-end Italian brands, such as Prada and Miu Miu, before deciding to become a sustainable fashion advocate and a part of the Advisory Committee of the Fashion Revolution global movement; always including a strong social and environmental focus on her work. We take inspiration from people like Marina; people who have started doing things differently to really make a change.
How does iluut differ from many other Scandinavian brands trying to conquer the ethical fashion market?
There are only very few fashion brands that open the whole process of each garment: where the clothes were made and who actually made them. This is something iluut focuses strongly on, and we encourage others to do the same. We have also recently started designing two Spring/Summer dresses together with our Instagram and Facebook followers. We believe people will appreciate the clothes even more, if they can contribute to the process. Our aim is to be an open and collaborative brand that brings joy and value to its end customers.
Choosing an angle to improve social or economic conditions in Third World is widely cherished by brands to make a change in the fashion industry. What's your social mission?
At iluut, we want to work with companies that care about their workers and are willing to invest in them more than just on an average, distant level. For example, when we were looking for an atelier, we were convinced of our choice after finding an Estonian atelier with seven seamstresses, who are paid 40% more than the average workers in the industry. We started working on iluut aside of our daily jobs, and our margins are still low because our mission is to offer affordable sustainable clothes for everyone. How to make our mission happen? We need to rise the volumes and we just took the first steps towards that by opening our web shop, iluut.com. You are warmly welcome to have a look and make sustainable purchases.
What's the best season to be seen in your garments?
Fashion world rotates on the basis of seasons. That’s something we’re thinking differently: surely we’ll have clothes for different times of the year, but we don’t offer seasonal collections arriving two times a year. On the flip side, fast fashion brings new clothes to the market every week, which means compromising the quality and generating a huge amount of waste - both because the garments are not durable and get thrown away, and also because of the unsold stock left in stores. To improve the cycle, our goal is to bring something new to the market only once in around a month’s time, without compromising quality or workers’ conditions. Also, making clothes with a slower approach and seeing what sells and producing according to demand, allows us to avoid producing waste.
Finnish NO/AN by Anna Lehmusniemi is an artisanal handbag brand boasting a purposeful, well-executed approach, whereas each bag is crafted by one single artisan throughout the process. Created as a reaction to the reckless speed of fashion industry, Nordic NO/AN believes in honest, detailed design approach and thorough, transparent craftsmanship of patiently dreamed up bags from start to the finish. The collection’s trademark matte, muted colour palette, as well as sharp graphic and geometrical lines, recalling Nordic landscape and architecture, allured us immediately. One true meticulous, quality fashion staple worth having this soon approaching spring season, that's a NO/AN bag.
What were the key concerns regarding the fast fashion industry that turned into values you embrace with NO/AN?
The key concern is the overconsumption of things that do not last and are not needed. If a T-shirt costs £4,99 and a pair of jeans £12,99, there is clearly something wrong. It indicates the quality is not good and the artisans haven't been decently paid for their work. Fashion productions are also often far bigger than the demand, and so much goes to waste, or is finally sold at a very low price. As a designer, I also feel that it is important to give the design process the time it needs to create a product that is resilient. When it comes to fast fashion, this route is not the objective.
NO/AN’s values are built on honesty and sustainability. I want to create bags that can last for a long time, both quality and design wise. For me it is also very important to work with ateliers and suppliers that care about their employees, who are paid fairly.
What's the most unique thing about NO/AN we need to know now?
The most unique thing is that every bag is made by one artisan from the beginning to the end. The bags are also signed by the artisans who made them. For me this is luxury.
Is the leather and other materials you use ethically sourced? Where do they come from?
I use natural grain leather and nickel-free metal zippers in my bags. The leather is a bi-product of the meat industry, and it comes from a Portuguese tannery that prioritises environmental preservation. The zippers are made by the Swiss brand RIRI, which are partly made in Switzerland and partly in Italy. I know both suppliers well.
What's your opinion about the fashion industry turning a degree closer to transparency and honesty? What could still be done differently?
It is clearly a growing trend and I think it is great. If the brands have nothing to hide, it should not be an issue to be open about where they produce and source the materials.
Sustainability and transparency can easily sound like something boring. I think some transparent brands could focus more on the image and to create an interesting, story-telling world around their products. For example, Everlane has executed it very well.
How do your Finnish roots pair with the aesthetics of the brand? Do you feel geography has influenced your art direction in any meaningful way?
Even though I have been living abroad several years, my design style and personal taste is still very much inspired by my Finnish roots. Actually, I think that the more I stay away from Finland, the more I take inspiration from Finland and appreciate Finnish design. Finnish design is often very minimal, but still not entirely boring. These are the same characteristics I want to communicate with my bags and NO/AN's art direction.
The branding of fashion will possibly always be more fast paced — we need new images for products every season, if not more frequently. It's all production, all waste. How could this advertising process be perhaps slowed down — I would bring forward more seasonless campaign images, etc? What's your take on that?
Since I do not work with fashion seasons, I also aim to have seasonless campaigns. From NO/AN’s first shooting you cannot say directly, if it is a summer or a winter collection, because it works for both. For me brands coming up with campaigns frequently is a positive thing. It creates work for photographers, stylists, make-up artist and models. If you create digital marketing content, you do not waste materials. But if you print, it is important not to print more than needed.
I think it is important to refresh the image of a brand and collection every once in a while, even though it is a slow fashion brand. A sustainable brand does not have to be boring.
What do industrial felt and fashion have in common? A beautiful harmony of effortless and durable design, as honoured by miDeer. Estonian slow fashion brand miDeer creates Nordic-style bags and accessories for every occasion. Their sleek designs are loved by men and women alike, serving as a seasonless and functional must-have for any urban fashion-lover. What’s it like in the world of miDeer?, we asked.
Words: Johanna Raudsepp
How did the journey of miDeer begin?
miDeer stems from our goal to pay homage to Scandinavian simplicity and elegance. We make modern Nordic accessories, interior design elements and have also introduced a line for children. What first started as a hobby of designing meaningful items for personal use, quickly grew into an independent brand — a brand living its own rhythm and life. The whole process has been thrilling for us — a real dream come true! We were thrilled by the idea of curating our own designer label and sparking conversation through what we do. Aesthetics-wise, we’ve always been enchanted by the power of simplicity. The pure lines, clear contours… that’s why minimalism and functionality go hand-in-hand throughout our miDeer line.
The term ‘sustainable’ in design can be confusing. What’s your take on sustainable design?
For us at miDeer, practical, timeless, and slow fashion is super important. With this attitude and the aesthetics, we try to promote buying less, but good quality items that will last you ages. Our minimalist style enables our customer to mix and match with a variety of other styles as well.
How have you incorporated environmentally conscious principles into your work?
All miDeer products are hand-made in Estonia. It isn’t and will never be a mass-produced brand. We value collaborating with local artisans in our design process and embrace the tiny quirks of each single item. Secondly, we always pay attention to where our materials come from. Right now, we use excess pieces from a felt factory. This way we can reduce the amount of industrial material that ends up in the environment — by giving new life to the discarded leftovers. What makes our production unique is that we do not mass produce, but make just enough, so that we get to further reuse the materials by creating fashionable accessories. If we think about the future, then the miDeer’s shopping bags, in particular, can effectively replace plastic equivalents in a stylish manner.
How did you come up with such interesting name, miDeer?
We wanted to create something Nordic and minimalist, inspired by the Northern cold climate and the power of nature. To be honest, the logo came before the name. The deer’s horns are majestic, yet strong and powerful — perfect depiction of a unisex Nordic brand. Our name quite directly comes from ‘deer’. It’s something precious and unobtainable in nature, but you can grasp an equivalent feel via our products.
Unisex looks, felt and paper meet in your design. How did you decide to go down the route of such eclectic mix?
The main source of inspiration for the brand is felt, which already speaks to both men and women. A unisex-look wasn’t our goal on it’s own, it just accidentally turned out that way — our first [laptop] bag appealed to both [men and women alike], and then it clicked for us. Nowadays minimalism and unisex design are often seen side by side. The soft texture, yet stiff form of industrial felt make our products durable and help keep their shape. We felt that unisex was written in between the lines, as felt has both feminine and masculine qualities. We like to think that miDeer wearers are free-spirited, brave, fashion-forward people, regardless their age or gender.
What can we look forward to in 2017?
This year we will definitely focus more on fashion and accessories. miDeer will be creating new designs for people who lead an active lifestyle, yet value comfort. So there are great things coming up for the active urban dweller.
Despite being a small company, we want to become a player on the international arena. Clients in Berlin, London and Vilnius have shown keen interest, and we cannot wait to make our products more accessible all over Europe. We have a few exciting surprises in store, so stay in tuned and keep an eye on our website!
Latvian brand DABBA's herbal cosmetics range led us to discover the magic of its fresh Nordic, 100% natural ingredients. DABBA uses fine, nuanced plant extracts, which are created for different moods and different events. DABBA distilled, natural floral waters and face and body oils are made entirely of certified organic plants, flowers and wild tree leaves, and are qualified to an ECOCERT standard. We went through a true sensory experience testing all this vibrant herbal bonanza…
1. Wild Raspberry Leaf Water — Gentle and Refreshing Toner for Mixed Skin
I’ve been a fan of refreshing, easy-to-use facial spray waters for as long as I can remember, especially due to my frequent flight hopping, which means I often feel the need to hydrate my face and freshen up the skin during the hours spent in air. Dabba’s floral waters, made of the purest spring water and fresh Nordic plants, boast hydrating effects, whilst helping to stabilise skin’s own pH level. On top of natural ingredients, I’m usually the most concerned about their actual effectiveness. Dabba’s Wild Raspberry Leaf Water promises to soothe, tone and balance the skin. It’s a nice change from the more regular rose and peppermint scented sprays available in the eco-cosmetics market. I applied this floral water every morning by spraying it 2-3 times and let it absorb for a few minutes before applying Raspberry Oil Elixir by Dabba. This product brings a calming, soothing experience and leaves the skin soft and even, without any irritation. These distilled floral waters without any chemically added fragrances also help to cleanse and prepare your skin for absorbing your next-step facial care products, such as day-creams and natural oils, whatever your preference. I liked the refreshing skincare experience and it will certainly remain one of my go-to travel must-haves.
2. Raspberry Oil Elixir - Intensive Multivitamin Serum
This intensive multivitamin serum was the perfect pairing for the cold weather we have been experiencing in the Northern Europe. At first, I was a bit scared the texture might be too oily, but it is actually quite smooth and dissolves well. The best impact I encountered was the way it evened my skin tone, whilst giving my face a baby-soft feel. It is especially handy to use in the mornings, as it helps to reduce tiredness effects immediately, and also provides a protective layer underneath make-up, guaranteeing required hydration. The droplet cap is extremely useful, as it helps to measure and apply the elixir in just right amounts, so you your face doesn’t exactly swim in oil all day long… Truly recommend this herbal elixir featuring raspberry notes for winter. The small bottle is nice to carry along, as it fits even the smallest handbag.
3. Revitalising Body Oil with Yarrow and Birch
Another great hydrating winter product with forest-scent nuances. I used this organic oil after a soothing hot bath. The effect was very refreshing and pampering — you can get a lot out of only a few drops. The scent gives a nice energy boost. What I like about oils is that they keep the moisture locked in for a long while, which definitely speaks of their advantage over body lotions. Visible results: smoothness and more even skin complex. Love the nostalgic glass apothecary bottle, which should help to preserve the right consistency for longer. A great organic, more natural equivalent to the infamous Johnson’s baby oil.
4. Peppermint Floral Water/Toner
If you are a tea-lover, like me, you will most certainly love this product. I find peppermint to be very soothing, yet refreshing at the same time — sounds like the perfect toner to wake you up in the morning. It smells of fresh garden peppermint leaves and reminds me of summer. Have you ever tried fresh peppermint tea? Ice it down in the hot summer and it becomes the most refreshing drink. Now that is what this floral water takes me back to! I like having that tiny joy in my everyday. It comes in a regular spray bottle inside a quirky box decorated in fun earthy patterns. What makes it even more unique is its architectural shape.
5. Hydrating Face Oil with Chamomile and Borage
I have discovered the wonderful range of face oils just recently and natural products like this continue to impress me. We had below -20 Celcius weather this past week in the Northern Europe and this Dabba face oil came in handy. I have very dry skin during our crisp winters, so much so that even the best moisturisers cannot fix it for the entire day. This face oil, however, did the trick. After applying it in the morning, it kept my skin fresh, hydrated and oh-so-soft throughout the whole day. I assume that unlike face creams, the oil is not that susceptible to cold weather — which is just fantastic! Tea-scented things seem to be the repetitive theme, because this product reminds me of the fresh chamomile tea my Russian grandma used to make, with chamomile flowers from her garden. You can feel the power of nature. It comes in a lovely small bottle with a droplet cap. Very handy to have with you when you go about your daily business.
6. Calming Body Oil with Linden and Calendula
Another huge hit for me. It does exactly what it says on the bottle — calms your senses. This one takes me to my favourite season, spring, and I can picture the linden trees around my country home blooming and the bees buzzing away in their usual busy manner. I wish I had a bubble bath product that smelled like this. Like the face oil, it instantly absorbs into your skin, so you don’t have to worry about the greasiness. The moisturising effect lasts for longer and you never need to use much. Completely worth it! This one has a regular bottle, nothing fancy. But it’s 100% natural — it does not need all the glitz and glamour. Dabba is pure, honest and Nordic. Perfect for someone who values taking care of their skin and is on the hunt for products that have a youth-restoring effect.
To reward our readers for their loyalty, we are giving away a refreshing bottle of DABBA Birch Leaf Water for mixed and oily skin and a bottle of DABBA Strengthening Hair oil with Birch and Nettle. Both products for one lucky winner!
To enter our first ever giveaway:
1. Make sure you have liked ‘Savant Magazine’ on Facebook.
2. Simply share this post on your timeline and quote ‘Nordic Plant Magic’.
3. The winner of our first giveaway will be announced on Thursday, January 19th, 2017 23:59 UTC. You are welcome to share until Wednesday, January 18th, 2017.
Our skin health is something we often take for granted in the approaching winter months. Yet we all want to look and feel forever young, and that takes at least some effort. Instead of turning to quizzical chemical-packed serums and moisturisers, treating your skin with natural, organic beauty products can help to boost your skin’s own glow and enhance that desired, sleek au naturel look. Could Estonian cosmetics brand LUMI be the next innovation in skincare, taking you a step closer to preserving your youth?
Words: Johanna Raudsepp
I had the glorious opportunity to test out their new product line called Tundra over the past two weeks. Consisting of the AHA-BHA cleansing milk, AHA-BHA moisturising cream and yarrow mist with salicylic acid, LUMI’s Tundra is a complete skincare routine set. Their natural components, like willow, rosemary and hemp seed oil, form a combination that instantly revives your skin. I have never felt so confident in my own skin — during the test weeks, I didn’t reach for make-up even once!
These all-natural products boast a distinct, aromatic scent — all three products take your senses into the tundra. It reminded me of a mossy forest and I could almost hear a crystal-clear river bubbling away in the background. What’s unique about these products is that the entire range is unisex, suitable for everyday use for both men and women.
Curious to find out more about the products that have given my skin a healthy glow (and even added a pep to my step), I asked LUMI a bit more about their new Tundra range and the secret of beauty, of course.
You have released your new Tundra line. What inspired this product line? What makes it special?
Our aim was to create products for acne-prone skin, which would rejuvenate and be effective, yet natural at the same time. Research has shown that up to 85% of people have to deal with acne at some stage in their lives — 20% of whom experience this in adulthood as well.
LUMI's Tundra is special because of its carefully picked natural ingredients and a wholesome skincare routine set-up. It restores and renews, and battles inflammation. Naturally we believe that great skin starts from the inside. Nevertheless, your skincare routine should work on different fronts.
The metallic green design of LUMI's Tundra symbolises development, growth and the path to becoming someone or something better. Just like the permafrost in tundra rivers hinders erosion, the excess keratinisation of the skin hinders its natural processes, creating a good surface for inflammation. Forget about the scrubs and products with different chemicals — natural moisturising products are what the skin actually needs.
At Savant, we believe that slow lifestyle with all its nuances will slowly but surely find its way to our everyday lives. So much so, that one day people will make educated choices about all their product purchases. How does LUMI envision the future of the world of cosmetics?
We agree – people will definitely be making smarter, more conscious choices about what they buy. We hear more and more about cosmetics that fight skin-stress and pollution. As natural resources aren’t infinite, we think the future will see more sustainable cosmetics. By mixing botanics with safe, lab-made synthetic compounds, we can create a sustainable, environmentally-friendly product. Integrity is also important — the harmony between our body, spirit and senses.
They say that first impressions are everything. If LUMI passed from us on the street, what would she look like? What is LUMI’s beauty secret?
LUMI is confident and sophisticated. She is an educated person, who has seen life, has good manners, but isn’t naive or stubborn. LUMI shares their knowledge and experiences with their friends, enlightening them with fresh ideas and new trends. LUMI is warm, open-minded, and Nordic in their mindset — modern and minimalist. The secret to her beauty lies in scientifically certified natural products, comprising of carefully picked ingredients, which she would recommend to friends or family any day. LUMI is inspiring, encouraging, motivating and enthusiastic, infecting others with their positivity. She is trendy, but always adds a personal touch to everything, making her unique.