DANSK Loves Henna Lampinen

Inspired by the wartime in England as well as Joan Crawford, Finnish designer Henna Lampinen is the winner of this year’s Designer’s Nest. Now the award-winning designer is working on her master’s degree at Aalto University in Finland whilst staging exhibitions and heading for an international career . The busy Finn took the time to talk to DANSK about her winning collection and professional history.

The Designers’ Nest Jury commented on your winning collection as a, “mature, considered feminism” – what do you think of this?
I was very glad. You don’t have a lot of time to facilitate your message and this message was very important to me. Also, I’m not a very ‘loud’ person. I’m a quiet person and therefore my concepts or messages can be difficult to catch, and this message regarding feminism was important to me.

Your winning collection was inspired by the wartime in England and Joan Crawford. Why?
My research started in my own family’s history. During WW2 there was a war between Finland and Russia where a part of Finland, Karelia, was lost to Russia. So, my great-great-something-fathers had to leave their homes, and therefore that period of time is very important to me and the comprehension of myself. Also, to many this history remains a taboo because of all the anger and sadness that is connected to it. I wanted to perceive this historical period from a new angle and thereby possibly understand it better, so that I could tell it in a way that was bearable.

What did you find in your research?
I discovered the factory workers and was really inspired by them. It was from these I got the inspiration for my materials and textiles. Some of my materials are from old men’s’ blazers that I stitched together. Others are stretched fabrics or just socks turned around and made into shirts. I wanted to see what I could make out of what was at hand, because this was the condition during the wartime. That means that commercially speaking, my work has been very stupid: there are a lot of stitches and I did it myself. It took hours and hours, but it had a certain value in terms of climate, consume, time and quality.     

The collection told a story about a historical period of time – does it tell a story about today?
I think my collection takes its offspring in the late 60’s area. When I do collections based on history, I try to find a connection between history and today. In this collection, I believe there is a lot of common themes in terms of politics and public frustration. There are so many angry voices and they find it difficult to mediate this anger so that it is understood and listened to. There are so many things there are difficult to speak about today and earlier in history.

The menswear was in strong colours and had a lot of street style references. Why?
Besides from the war time, I was also inspired by Hollywood in the 50’s and the men’s collection was a way to mix these two: war and commercial glamour. Both were present and when you do history, you are sort of obligated to get all the different angles.

What more of history is represented in your collection?
I was really inspired by doubt in women, which was a big thing some decades ago and today still. I get inspired not by perfect women, but by eccentric women and people who put clothes together in a way I haven’t seen before. The other day, I attended a hand-spinning course with mostly elderly women, who produced the most amazing handcrafted materials. They made them themselves, and they were strong. Most wouldn’t label their work as fashion, but I was strongly inspired by them and their designs.

How about functionality? Are your clothes made to be worn or to be watched?
My clothes aren’t very functional at first glance, but if you strip it down and look at the pieces alone, they are quite functional and comfortable without being disinteresting. Yes, some of the jackets have very big silhouettes, but you can move in them. I wanted to bring functionality into the more commercial pieces, but interest was first priority.

How about Finland? Does it play a role in your work?
Finland is very important to me as a designer. It has a different atmosphere that shaped me as a designer and person. We don’t have centuries-long history or traditions. When the depression came back in the 1990s, a lot of designers had to quit business. This connects today’s young designers with the past, because it means that we don’t have big funds supporting. Therefore, there is also a a big pressure on us. I applied to Aalto five times before being accepted; had it not been for my parents and closest ones who kept supporting me, I probably would’ve had to quite at some point. In that way I am very privileged compared to others. I can be very stubborn, some would might say that I’m too stubborn, but, hey, it did good in the end.

Who would like to reach through your work? Your ideal customer?
I don’t think that my designs appeal to the popular ‘fashion’ customer. I would like, whomever wears my clothes, to wear it in a way I haven’t thought of myself. As the eccentric women who inspire me do. So that fashion like history repeats itself but in a new context, seen from a different angle and so we can learn from it.

What is your next aim?
I have so many projects going on currently. I am trying to finish my master’s here at Aalto, I am working on a couple of exhibitions and after my masters I would like to get a job abroad. London and Paris are the obvious ones, but I’ve been at an internship in Tokyo and I really liked the city.

Words by Mathilde Nielsen