Hailing from Estonia, textile designer Mare Kelpman creates thick blanket-like wool coats that warm up even in the coldest nights of Nordic winter. Kelpman Textile’s latest collection Sophy combines sustainable design, architectural elegance and Nordic simplicity. Her unique patterns laced with asymmetry and artistic colour combinations are beautifully eye-catching. What inspires such magnificent design?, we ask.
Words: Johanna Raudsepp
We love seeing designers with an eco-friendly approach cropping up in the Scandinavian region, but we must admit this way of looking at design has not conquered the world yet. Why have you chosen to pursue sustainable approach in textile design?
For a while I taught at the Estonian Academy of Arts and I always urged my students to think what to do and how to execute it. [I’ve always advised students that] if you don’t have a sustainable idea, then seriously consider, if it’s worth creating at all. Following this path is pricey, which is why it’s marginal – the profit won’t be great nor happen fast. The way I see it, for me there is simply no other way – the joy from creating is far more important than the profit you make. I don’t see any reason to overwhelm the world with even more synthetic things.
What are the setbacks you have experienced following the sustainable route?
I can’t say that I have. More or less so, I have encountered the expected issues of having a small business and finding the right partners, who are flexible to fulfil orders of all sizes. In Estonia, my products were initially received with jaws dropped– what do you mean you’re making wool clothing? Where’s the glamour and affluence usually en vogue in the local fashion scene? I exhibited my products at many foreign fairs and finally got the reassurance I’m doing the right thing. Now I’ve realised that small businesses emphasising natural textiles are emerging, too.
What inspires you in creating different textiles?
Primarily the people who I create for in my head. I feel like I know my potential client quite well. However, focusing only on the commercial side doesn’t work either. I am inspired by rhythms and colours from nature and architecture. What really drives me is conquering technological challenges. You can dream of different fabrics and structures all you want, but it really comes down to the technical ability of the partners. Creating textiles requires a compromise between dreams and reality.
“The joy from creating is far more important than the profit you make.”
What material do enjoy working with the most?
Right now, my favourite is wool, as you can see from my product range. But every material can be challenging to work with, if you choose the right approach. For example, in the summer season I reach for linen and a little bit of silk as well. Wool is a material for which you don’t have to kill or exhaust dry land, as sheep require shearing. Since I only work with European materials, I know where and how the yarn is created, in what conditions and I can be sure that it’s also certified. I produce all my products and fabrics in Europe and I know those small factories well.
“Creating textiles requires a compromise between dreams and reality.”
If you had to compare your design to a natural phenomenon, what would it be and why?
Perhaps the refreshing morning dew before a hot day. Freshens the air.
What can we look forward to in 2017?
Hopefully great execution of some fresh ideas. A year ago, I didn’t even plan on having my own store. Now that has been set up and gotten a lot of positive feedback. I like to let life surprise me and am open to new challenges on the way.
Find Mare Kelpman's designs in Tallinn, Estonia, at the Kelpman Textile store, or online at www.marekelpman.eu.