By Cecilie Jacobsen | Photo: Courtesy of IVANAHelsinki
IVANAHelsinki was founded in 1998 by Paola Ivana Suhonen and her sister Pirjo. It is an independent art and fashion brand and it has today grown to be an international art brand represented in stores all over the world and at the fashion shows at the big fashion weeks in Paris, London and Copenhagen.
The inspiration for the brand is to bring delicacy together with Slavic rough melancholy and pure Scandinavian moods – an inspiration which Paola finds in her native Finland. The “Scandinavian moods” symbolize the nature-orientation and the charisma of Scandinavians whom she calls “The Wild Wood people”. IVANAHelsinki collections reflect both the white arctic summer nights and endless winter sadness and therefore the cycle of seasonal changes.
The latest collection is called “Leaving Circus” and is inspired by a girl who is leaving a circus. She is sad and isolated but it is unclear if she has left the circus voluntarily or whether she has been thrown out. The collection does, in Paola’s own words, reflect the thin line between being free and being lonely.
Scan Magazine caught up with the mastermind behind it all for a chat about beauty, movie-making in the States and why she does not follow the mainstream trends.
How did your career start?
I was in my first year of design school and my sister was just out of business school. I knew I wanted to have my own business with my own line and my own designs, so we got together and started making IVANAHelsinki. I started creating an art project using prints and paintings and that became the visual background for my clothes designs. I wanted to create a timeless design and not something that was in season.
Why do you think you have been so successful so far?
I think the key to my success is that I have never seen my job as work. I am so passionate about what I do and I see my life as an adventure and the world as my playground. I have this saying. Love first, live then and everything will follow. Being successful is all about love, dedication and passion and it is a bit like a relationship: it will never work out if you are not passionate and if you do not put your soul into it.
What is beauty for you?
For me beauty is the inner aesthetic and for me that is a combination of the hippie style and rock and roll. My designs need to have that edge. For beauty is not just about happiness. Beauty has to have sadness and a dark side.
How do mainstream trends affect your collections?
I am not inspired by mainstream trends and I am not interested in fashion. I like to create my designs from my own inner world and my own universe. My designs come from a mood or a feeling that I have. Many designers are inspired by a certain period but I get my inspiration from going on road trips and from Scandinavia. That is why I say that my designs are souvenirs of my soul world and you are invited to be part of a secret club by wearing them. I generally think that charismatic persons wear my designs and I like to think that they make them shine because they carry their own fire.
You are currently living in New York to pursue another passion of yours, film making. What is fascinating about making films?
I have this urge to tell stories and integrating visuals and music into my collections is something I have always done. In many ways making films has been a natural part of IVANAHelsinki because they support the themes in the collections. Film-making has been a natural thing for me and telling a story by using visuals and music makes it a story complete.
What is next for you?
I am moving to Hollywood in L.A. this summer to study moving-making since I have been accepted by the AFI (American Film Institute) cinematic photographer program. I am also currently involved in post-production of some films as well as shooting a music video over here. There is so much to learn and do and then there is of course the job of designing the next IVANAHelsinki collection.
IVANAHelsinki can be bought in more than 20 countries. IVANAHelsinki is run by Paola and her sister Pirjo Suhonen from New York and Helsinki. You can watch Paola’s films, the IVANAHelsinki collections as well as learn more about other projects and collaborations that IVANAHelsinki are involved in at www.ivanahelsinki.com