FOLKLORE FOR NEW DESIGNS
Saana and Olli, designers who have been awarded the 2016 Design from Finland mark, are a couple and an award-winning textile fashion design company that specialises in its very own hemp textile collection.
As inspirational designers, they will display the design emblem they have received in various projects throughout the year. Both textile design graduates, Saana and Olli have already published several collections and have also engaged in cooperation with many international clients. Frequently their work leads the couple to fly from their hometown of Turku to take part in design projects and fairs throughout the world.
Nevertheless, Turku is an important base of operations for Saana and Olli. In particular, the city’s genuine atmosphere and short distances appeal to the couple. Immediacy, authenticity and transparency are often emphasised whenever they talk about the way they work and their design processes.
“The transparency and long-term durability of a product are important for us. We want to challenge ourselves in terms of how products can be made to really last – both in terms of quality and aesthetics,” Olli relates.
As a material, the innumerable benefits of hemp have long been known to these two designers, and the more they have familiarised themselves with its properties, the more clearly they have noticed that there is room in the market for gracefully contoured, Scandinavian hemp textiles.
Where does your fascination with Finnish folklore come from?
“Since my youth, my parents have been interested in Finnish art history, as they are both visual artists and appreciate aesthetics. We’ve always had quite a dominant rustic atmosphere in our home, and our interest in folklore was already piqued in childhood,” Olli explains.
“When we started to think about what kinds of products we would like to make, it was quite clear that we wanted to combine modern materials and old-style aesthetics,” Saana states. “Actually, the imitation of history doesn’t interest us: instead, it’s more about the channelling of the rustic spirit,” Olli continues.
“What Saana and I have in common is the same sort of organic working method. Initially, we segment our ideas on our own, and after that we sit down together and draw,” Olli says, shedding light on the design process. “And before the drawing stage, we consider the theme which we’re embarking on developing very carefully,” Saana declares.
In a short space of time, your design firm Saana and Olli has attracted wider attention in the design field, and your collections have also garnered appreciation in the form of a large number of prizes.
What’s the best feedback you’ve ever received for your products from consumers?
“Above all, it’s been great to see that people are interested in us on a wide scale, even if we originally set out to design our products on a do-it-yourself basis. Personally, I think the best thing is if people sense, through our products, what good design is, whilst seeing our ideological perspective in the background,” Olli declares.
“Otherwise, from the very start we’ve wanted to preserve immediacy, and our products are easily approachable. It’s really great that many people send us photos of their homes and how they put our products to use. Just a little while ago, we received a thank you message all the way from Japan that contained some nice photographs. That sort of thing makes us feel good, of course!” Saana says, with gratitude.
Even a very productive designer may sometimes come up against a situation where the ideas just don’t take off. How do you get over that?
“In that case you’ve just got to roll up your sleeves and put your shoulders to the grindstone – basically, just make yourself sit down and draw. Generally, things always start to roll,” Olli asserts.
“Or then you can give yourself a moment, pick up a book or go and watch a good play. It’s important, though, not to let taking some distance go on for too long!” Saana continues.
According to Olli, working together is another big benefit, and the long-term working relationship they share in design is no disadvantage – quite the contrary.
In their leisure time, Saana and Olli are inspired by the building of their future home in Toukolaakso, and for the first time they are now trying to grow asparagus, eggplant and Chioggia beet in their garden. The harvest they are looking forward to next summer (for the asparagus it’s a few years away) is already an exciting prospect.
You’re both friends of vegetarian cuisine and are enthusiastic cooks. What’s your most recent culinary success?
“Saana just made a really good creamy fennel soup based on quite an easy recipe. It’s a rich combination of fennel, onion, garlic, oat cream and well-balanced spices, that’s cooked and blended until it’s silky smooth. Really delicious – well worth a try!” Olli enthuses.
What about your favourite places in Finland?
“No contest: Uusikaupunki, with its 15,000 residents, in the summertime. My own inner landscape is reflected in the islands there, facing the city. You can find great things that are almost in your own backyard,” Olli reminds us.
“For me, an important place is our cottage in Padasjoki. Actually the whole trip there is a story in itself. Road trips across Finland in general inspire me,” Saana says.