If you've been keeping up with April's Japanese Garden Design Challenge with Sprout Patterns (currently open for voting!), then you've already seen the buzz around the launch of the new Asaka Kimono pattern from Finnish indie pattern maker, Named Clothing. Sprout Patterns Director Caroline stops by the blog today to share her fascinating conversation with the duo, getting to know the inspiration behind Named, and what it's like to work at your dream job with your sister!
Caroline: We are excited to introduce Named Clothing, a Finnish pattern label founded by sisters Saara and Laura Huhta.
Named garments are a combination of Scandinavian clean-lined simplicity and interesting details. The aim of each of their collections is to bring a new perspective to making one’s own clothes and to support ethical and ecological consuming in contrast to a clothing industry focused on fast fashion. We asked Laura and Saara for some insight into life running a pattern company in Finland. It is so interesting to get a taste of what talented designers and pattern makers are doing all over the world!
Where do you get the ideas for your patterns?
Named: The ideas could come from almost anywhere. For us it’s most natural and most fun to design our collections around a certain theme every time. For example, our first collection ’First Named’ was inspired by menswear, the second ’All things Nice’ by the careless summers of our childhood. Third collection ’Ritual’ got its inspiration from Native American cultures, and the fourth ’Ticket’ was all about traveling. The ’New Black’ collection was inspired by effortless streetwear and the most recent collection ’Royals’ by romantic Rococo fashion. But we like to handle the themes in a subtle, not-too-obvious kind of way, and turn them into modern, contemporary, easy-to-wear pieces, never interpreting the themes too literally.
Why did you decide to start a home sewing pattern company?
The idea was born quite suddenly actually! We sat in a bus and started talking about what we would want to do as a profession if we could choose anything in the world. Sewing and crafts have always been a big passion for both of us, so naturally we both wanted to do something in that area. The idea of our own pattern label started as a kind of a joke or a whim, but we got so excited about it over that bus trip, that as soon as we got back to where we were heading, we just started writing down the business plan. It took one very busy year from that moment until the opening of our web shop and the release of our first collection!
Do you all have formal education in textile designs or are you self-taught? Did you have a lot of experience sewing while growing up?
Saara is a professional patternmaker/seamstress/designer, and Laura is actually a shoe designer by training. But we have been sewing since we were just little kids and have learned a lot that way too. Our mother (who is a upholsterer and a self-taught seamstress), taught us to sew when we were kids. So it has definitely been a passion for us for ever.
Talk about why you release your patterns as collections instead of one at a time?
Mostly because it’s just more fun that way! It’s also much easier to create full collections instead of just separate garments. We like to get inspired and carried away by the theme. This way, you get to design a whole new wardrobe at once–pieces that look good together as a whole.
How is working with your sister?
It’s definitely fun! We’re pretty much together all the time, since we have the same family, same workplace and same hobbies, but that works well for us. We’ve always been close since we have only one year’s age gap. We also complete each other well; even though we have the same taste and same goals, we are also good at different things. So it’s easy to divide the tasks between the two of us. It’s funny, usually when we start designing a new collection, the first step is to brainstorm together to come up with the theme, and then we take a day or two apart to develop ideas independently. When we get together again to see each other’s ideas, we often find out that we’ve been designing similar things even though we didn’t plan any of that beforehand!
Who are your favorite designers? Favorite patternmakers?
For designers, we admire Stella McCartney’s style and ethical values. Also Mara Hoffmann’s colorful prints are awesome (if only there was a way to buy those fabrics somewhere!). Since we’re into the Scandinavian simple style, there are of course some Finnish & Scandinavian clothing brands that we love (like Month of Sundays, for example, or a.nordin). From pattern designers we love Papercut Patterns, By Hand London, Republique du Chiffon, and also Deer & Doe’s new collection is adorable!
What are your favorite makes – that others made from your patterns?
We love seeing things that people have made using our patterns! They are all so different and creative that it’s really hard to pick any favorites. But to mention a couple, for example Le fil a la Gratte’s Isla Trench coat was amazing—it’s lovely to see someone make something that detailed, beautiful and clearly very well made. Definitely a coat for a lifetime! Same with Bee Made’s Quinn Shirt with the zebra print.
Tell us about your hobbies and other family members (canine)?
Haha, we love dogs and talking about dogs! Our parents have two Jack Russell terriers Aida and Kusti, and they are a big part of our life.
Our mom has also been very important person for our company – she’s the one who planted the love for sewing in us in the first place! She also works for us part-time, sewing samples for our side project, the Kotiliesi Käsityö (a Finnish sewing and knitting magazine that we also design sewing patterns for). And let it be said that our mom is also the most talented doggy-garment maker! No kidding, she actually does sew amazing outfits for Kusti and Aida, mostly out of scraps and leftovers – you should see the wardrobes of these pooches! (And for the record, in Finland it can get really really cold in the winter and wet and muddy for the rest of the year, so doggy gear is not just a fashion statement but a necessity). We also train circus together quite passionately, which is a good balance for all the hard work.
What is a typical day for you at Named?
Saara is our patternmaker, so she spends most of her days doing something pattern-related – either drafting patterns from scratch (for Named or Kotiliesi Käsityö), or editing the patterns into PDF files or paper patterns. Laura deals mostly with stuff like customer service and other email, updating social media and other day-to-day tasks. She also makes the instructions for our patterns. A typical day includes a lot of sitting in front of a computer, but once we get to designing a new collection, it’s a bit more interesting with all the creative work and sewing the samples!
Where do you see yourselves in 5 years?
No idea… Right now we live kind of day by day and it’s hard to estimate where we’ll be in 5 years. Hopefully doing this, but maybe in a bit bigger office (right now we work from a home office).
Tell us about how the Asaka Kimono and how it came about.
Well, the theme for the SS15 collection was traveling, and we actually wanted to handle the theme in a kind of dorky, stereotypical way this time. So we wanted to make garments that are typical for either tourism and traveling, or certain places or cultures.
The kimono was an easy pick as a traditional Japanese garment, but we wanted to do it in a simple and less obvious way. But it still had to be fancy! So the trick in the simple kimono is the wide sleeves with the vents.
Do you have favorite Spoonflower designs or designers?
It’s impossible to mention one, but we love how it’s possible to find pretty much anything, for any purpose and taste from Spoonflower’s selection! Like when we needed a feather print for our Alexandria pants, it was actually hard to decide which one to choose, rather than hard to find one. So we feel like if we have an idea of fabric we want for a specific style, we can be sure that it can be found at Spoonflower!
Be sure to check back tomorrow to find out who made the top 10 in our Japanese Garden Design Challenge, and whose design will reign supreme and get to be featured in the launch of the new Asaka Kimono pattern!