Desert Storm Tiia Vanhatapio’s current spring–summer 2012 collection
Dramatic, sensual and evocative are all terms synonymous with designer Tiia Vanhatapio and her evolving design. From children’s clothes to the glam of high fashion, this designer is making a name for herself against the clean-cut backdrop of traditional Nordic couture. Nestled at the fine balance between the playful and sophisticated, Vanhatapio’s collections evoke a sense of whimsy and curiosity through unique patterns and visually tantalizing designs.
Talking to Vanhatapio, it is clear that design is in her blood. ‘My mother was a graphic designer; my grandfather was a painter,’ says the designer. While studying at the University of Art and Design in Helsinki, Vanhatapio took a liberal arts’ approach through her degree and studied both economics and industrial design. ‘I studied everything but fashion,’ she exclaims. ‘Fashion is just one of my media that I have come out with here in Finland.’
This year, Vanhatapio launched a creative office with graphic designer and friend Miika Saksi. The office, aptly named Mixed Breed, allows the designer to take an even more hands-on approach with her company’s branding and marketing. Through Mixed Breed, Saksi and Vanhatapio are able to create everything from print design and editorial content to television commercials. Vanhatapio’s excitement is audible as she describes her latest partnership: ‘We share the same values, the same kind of design base. If there is something missing we can both see the gap or ask ourselves, “Why hasn’t anybody else come up with a way to make it better?”’
Working with various media is second nature to Vanhatapio and something driven by her own personal mantra. ‘I want to go to the next level, I want to do something more, something else and something bigger.’
This year, Vanhatapio released her spring–summer collection, Desert Storm. Breaking away from the darker palettes of her previous collections, Vanhatapio explores sheer fabrics, muted desert tones, and delicate textures. Juxtaposed against the vibrant design and angles of her critically acclaimed Girls on Film collection, her latest designs signify the metamorphosis and growth of the Vanhatapio brand. ‘[This line] was part of me trying to do things that are user-friendly and chic.’
As with all of her work, Vanhatapio drew inspiration from her own life. ‘The whole line was about overcoming your own fears and how you face the challenges of your own personal events,’ explains the designer. ‘Last summer, I broke up with my boyfriend of seven years and wanted to move forward but was too overwhelmed with which road to take. The collection is about how you have your own personal desert and how you manage to get through it alive and you come up through an oasis and everything is AOK.’
Moving forward, Vanhatapio has big plans for her company. ‘The whole line is undergoing a huge change. People know me most for the cocktail dresses, but I do loads more than cocktail dresses.’ Grounded in her passion for music—a front member of a rockabilly band in the ’90s and currently moonlighting as a DJ for private clubs and parties—the public can expect a boho chic line reminiscent of music festivals like Cochella in the US and Flow in Finland.
Vanhatapio hopes to develop separate accessories that will go back to the basics of black skinny jeans, leather jackets and fur, which she makes explicitly clear will only be lamb or reindeer, which are both by-products of the Nordic tradition and non-scarce. The designer still can’t help but gush over the subtle and velvety reindeer leather: ‘We haven’t even touched the surface of what we can do with our own luxe resources.’
The Vanhatapio brand is a shining star amongst the growing design community in Finland, which, according to Vanhatapio, has really only come out over the last two to five years. The Vanhatapio brand has even larger projects in store as they partner up with a local established clothing company, to be announced in August.
Even after a short conversation, it is clear that Vanhatapio is a rare breed of fashion designer with passions that roam from industrial design to the potential of Finnish fashion to explode on to international runways. When she isn’t taking the fashion world by storm, the designer is creating concept vacuum cleaner designs for Electrolux and fashionable business-to-business materials for the couture-driven car company, Audi. ‘One of my all-time dreams would be to someday design a concept car, because I love cars.’
It is clear that Vanhatapio epitomizes the women she designs each piece for: eclectic and headstrong with just a hint of whimsy. •
‘I want to go to the next level, I want to do something more, something else and something bigger’
Maranda Bodas is a Denver-based correspondent for Lucire’s Nordic edition.