Satu Maaranen is a finnish designer graduated from the Aalto School of Helsinki and winner of the twenty-eighth edition of the International Festival of Fashion and Photography Hyères, one of the most important platforms for global gear fashion industry. In this exclusive interview for METAL, Satu speaks from experience, the award-winning collection and much of herself. An interesting woman.
Hi Satu, first of all, congratulations on your award at the last Hyères Festival, everyone was impressed with your work.
Thank you.
How were your vacations in Saint Petersburg, anything interesting over there? I suppose you visited the recently inaugurated Mariinski II, right?
I really like Saint Petersburg, it is so beautiful. I visited the Hermitage and naturally was very impressed. Unfortunately I did not have time to visit Mariinksi II, but I drove pass it and saw a glimpse of it from the outside. Maybe next time...
Let’s go back to Villa Noailles. How was your experience at the festival, was it up to your expectations?
Oh, it was up to my expectations and even beyond! The people were really friendly and helpful, the atmosphere was exciting and it was great to meet same minded people and to see what others are doing who come from different schools and backgrounds than I.
Talk to us about Christo, I understand he was one of your references to create this collection.
What can one say, there's never been anyone like him. The silhouettes, the grace in the shapes amaze me. He was indeed one of the references for this collection.
Why did you transport yourself to the nineteen fifties Haute Couture?
I love how a that time fashion was still about building dreams. How it wasn't only about the garments themselves, but also about the unreachable behind them.
How about the nature theme in this collection? I see you integrated things that are very different from each other and you were able to do so exceptionally.
I'm a typical Finn in the sense that I've spent my childhood near the nature and in the nature. It has a very important part in how we grow up in our country. I've spent summers at our families summerhouse swimming in the lake and picking berries in the woods. So it felt as a natural thing to work with nature, not only by looking at it but also genuinely experimenting with it. I was also inspired by the camouflage phenomenon and camouflage artists - the idea that one can choose either to blend into the environment or step out of it. Therefore I worked with real natural materials like sand, sawdust and grass that I coated some of the fabrics with. I also did some digital prints of these coated surfaces to get some more ready-to-wear pieces in the collection. The spontaneous open silk screen prints are quite unique. I did them by hand to make them resemble even more the reckless movements of the sea and the northern lights.
What does this award mean to you, professionally speaking?
New opportunities, above all. Hopefully, some new doors will open. I got a bunch of new and important connections. And of course, I feel really honoured to get this appreciation from such high established people from the fashion business.
How about on your personal side, what do your parents, your family, your friends, say?
They are all very happy for me and excited too.
How does it feel to suddenly have everyone speak your name and to have the international press speaking about you? Have you had a chance to assimilate this, or not yet?
It feels a bit surreal. Before this I was just a blonde girl from Finland that nobody had heard of - suddenly, my mailbox is full of interview requests and buyers who are interested in my designs.
With the emotional boost that comes along with the award, What do you think will be your future possibilities in the business?
Well, I hope to get a job in a big fashion house somewhere in Europe to learn more and become an even better designer. And then, maybe one day, start my own brand.
Regarding the technical side, has it been a challenge to find yourself working with materials like sand or sawdust, which are often very hard to work with? How was that process? It must be tough, but fun.
I've been very experimental with fabrics my whole time of studying fashion. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I studied art before design, who knows… Working with the fabrics for this particular collection was actually quite relaxing.
Have you began to think whether your art, consciously or unconsciously, have any reference to your motherland, Finland? Many people find this to be a peculiar place, a place that we don’t get much information. How do you see it?
Of course it has. How could it not? This is where I live, these are my surroundings, my everyday environment, my culture. For the collection I showed in Hyères I did some research about the revolutionary print design that was made in Finland during the 50's and 60's. When everybody else was making petite floral prints Vuokko Nurmesniemi and Fujiwo Ishimoto, who both designed for the Finnish textile and fashion house Marimekko, did something abstract and raw, almost primitive.
How is the fashion business in your country? Do you actively participate or do you stay away?
It is actually getting quite interesting. Many young Finnish designers, some graduated from Aalto university some from prestigious fashion schools like Central Saint Martins, have decided to place themselves in Helsinki to start their own labels. And they are good at what they do. Their styles vary from each other a lot, which makes the scene interesting and vivid. I try to do my best to make the fashion business in Helsinki stronger. Infact, I'm part of a group called Pre Helsinki which is now organizing for the first time an event in Helsinki that concentrates on portraying current Finnish fashion to an international audience.
I know it’s a little early, but how do you see the future of your brand now that it’s moving forward. I guess the award, good or bad, would mean a before and after, right?
As I said, right now I'm not thinking about starting my own label. But as designer that's open for new opportunities – well, I guess I have a bigger chance for a brighter future now than what I did before the competition.
How was the awards’ after party? Can you remember anything? [laughter] Or has it been in chill out mode?
Funny you ask that, since me and my assistant actually went to sleep already at 1 am that night. We had been out partying the night before, had not had a good night sleep and were both just so exhausted after the excitement and the relief. So even though the party was great we had to choose to leave early and go to sleep.
What is your opinion on your fellow artists who were aspiring to the award?
They were all really good. Everybody had their own thing going on and their own visions. The technical knowledge was also of very high standard. I was especially amazed by the portfolios that I got a chance to look at during the showroom. The standard and the personal touch of everyone's portfolios surprised me. It's also very interesting to see and hear the stories behind everyone's collections. I believe they will all have great careers.
So, what was the most fun you had at the Ville, apart from winning that award?
Oh well, we had some small funny accidents. Like a cat taking a nap in my garment bag. I panicked for a while because I got scared it would tear one of the silk shirts from my collection. In the end, it just woke up and walked away… And of course just meeting all the finalists and their assistants. They were great people and we had a great time.
Thank you so much Satu.
Thank you Alex.