I spoke to Mari Himmanen. She has her own fashion label called First Crush. Mari creates bags and accessories made of paper. And she designs clothes out of old men shirts. Recently Mari presented her new collection at the New York Fashion Week together with other Finnish fashion labels.
Mari, how did you start your business? I was studying fashion design and we were talking a lot about being ecological and ethical. And in my final thesis I wanted to do something different than I ever did before. So I made a collection of evening gowns made from paper. The idea was, when you buy a pretty evening dress you only wear it for once and after that you can just burn it at the end of the night. So it‘s kind of ecological compared to the normal ones. And I just find it really inspiring to work with that material. That‘s when I decided to develop a bag made from paper. It came clear to me that I really wanted to do something on my own. When I got the courage after a couple of years and there were some things happening in my life that I felt this is meant to be.
What do you mean exactly? There were changes in my personal life. I had to search for a new job and I needed to figure out to do something else. Then I got sick and it really made me think that time is precious and you shouldn‘t waste it. Those were the kind of things that made me decide that now it’s the time and I just want to give it a try.
What is your approach to define ecological fashion? It‘s important to take a closer look at the whole production process of clothes. I try to make everything as ecological as possible. But I am a smaller label. So since I do everything on my own, I can be sure that everything is ethical.
I use old men shirts and make pieces for women. So I know that they will last another life on women. It‘s kind of funny because I try to design my clothes that people wouldn‘t necessarily notice immediately that they are old men shirts and they would just react like „oh, this is really interesting“. And then they find out that these are from old shirts and they are even more surprised.
Where do you get them from and how many hours do you spend on a piece? From flea markets, also people give them to me if they have shirts they don‘t use anymore. Some of them are from my boyfriend. I collect a lot of them. The time depends on the shirt so I have to see what details I want to add. First, of course, when I get the shirts I check the quality and I wash and iron them.
How do you get your ideas? It comes from every day life. I always keep my eyes open. I also need time to just be with myself and after that I will get a lot of ideas. It‘s an ongoing process. I get inspired from almost everything. If something really nice happens, but also when there are some obstacles on the way. But mostly I get inspired when I think about my customers, what they would like to wear and what kind of ideas I can give them that they don‘t find anywhere else.
Do you think Helsinki has a special approach to design? I think we have a lot to offer and we should even more believe in ourselves. We have a special thing for design. Maybe foreign people think that we are really minimalistic and practical but we are also really creative and just full of ideas. I wish that we could it even show more to the world what we can do.