Finnish artist, filmmaker, and fashion designer Paola Suhonen is the brains and brawn behind Ivana Helsinki, an iconic Finnish boutique apparel brand. Born and raised in Helsinki, Paola had lived in the US for almost six years before opening her studio back home, which functions as a showroom, design office, and sewing atelier (with a cutting table, sewing machines, and compressed air). Though Paola continues to be fascinated by the experiences she accumulated abroad, setting up a workshop in this original 1950s industrial building is, to her, the next best thing to life on the road. The company that started as a personal art project now produces straight cotton dresses inspired by vintage fashion and sea creatures alike. Continuing to travel whenever possible, Paola returns with books, quirky artifacts, and vintage instruments to a loft that years ago held an entire knitting factory.
The Arabianranta neighborhood of Helsinki is marked by its population of old industrial buildings. Now a dense urban environment, this area is where the entire city was established 500 years ago. A nearby park with its 1930s wooden villa suggests the many historical iterations of its surroundings throughout the centuries. The area now hosts some of the city’s most innovative people, street art, and communal life. Alongside sister Pirjo and a talented staff, Paola enjoys the open workroom concept. (The loft was previously fitted with office cubicles, plastic walls, and plastic carpet.) She has coated all interior surfaces in white to maximize sunlight’s creative energy, pouring in from oversized windows. Upon opening the timeworn, industrial door, the whitewashed interior always revives unsuspecting visitors. With vibrant handmade manufacturing, a former 1950s knitting factory comes full circle. —Annie