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Studio Tour

Studio Tour: Ivana Helsinki

by Annie Werbler

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

Photography by Piia Honkanen

Studio Tour: Ivana Helsinki, on Design*Sponge
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Old and new Finnish design greets guests at the entrance to the Ivana Helsinki office.
Studio Tour: Ivana Helsinki, on Design*Sponge
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An Eero Aarnio Ball Chair rests beside the latest fashion collection.
Studio Tour: Ivana Helsinki, on Design*Sponge
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Though dark winter is approaching, the studio's 2016 Spring/Summer collection "Time Passes By" begs to be worn.
Studio Tour: Ivana Helsinki, on Design*Sponge
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A collage of traditional handcraft and modern disco fever in the sequin Ivana Helsinki for Moomin purse, atop ceramic butterflies.
Studio Tour: Ivana Helsinki, on Design*Sponge
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Film strips from New York and a collaboration magazine on the showroom table before next summer's Ivana Helsinki for Moomin collection in the background.
Studio Tour: Ivana Helsinki, on Design*Sponge
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The light that bounces off the crisp white finishes continues to inspire Paola years after beginning to work in the studio. "It is so important to take in all the light we can now, with the dark winter months ahead!" she says.
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The light in the meeting room pours through the large windows even in the winter.
Studio Tour: Ivana Helsinki, on Design*Sponge
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According to Paola, flowers are "a perfect mixture of macabre, romance, and delicate beauty."
Studio Tour: Ivana Helsinki, on Design*Sponge
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A grouping of Ivana Helsinki collections, Finnish design, and a little bit of something sweet.
Studio Tour: Ivana Helsinki, on Design*Sponge
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Various golden tones accent the white meeting room.
Studio Tour: Ivana Helsinki, on Design*Sponge
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The mirror-covered letters perform an ever-changing light show on the meeting room walls.
Studio Tour: Ivana Helsinki, on Design*Sponge
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In an old industrial cart, Ivana Helsinki canvas bags and a mohair cardigan await shipping.
Studio Tour: Ivana Helsinki, on Design*Sponge
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On the right, a dress from the AW15 "Heart of Gold" collection, and on the left, a skirt made with a special lace technique. Moomin figures are visible within the fabric.
Studio Tour: Ivana Helsinki, on Design*Sponge
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Paola's desk and prized musical instruments.
Studio Tour: Ivana Helsinki, on Design*Sponge
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Paola's computer and design necessities. The Bird Motel sign was made in the US for a music video Paola directed.
Studio Tour: Ivana Helsinki, on Design*Sponge
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Paola in her office with one of her cameras.
Studio Tour: Ivana Helsinki, on Design*Sponge
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"What I love most about our studio is... the natural light!" - Paola Suhonen
Studio Tour: Ivana Helsinki, on Design*Sponge
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The colorful inner workings of the sewing atelier.
Studio Tour: Ivana Helsinki, on Design*Sponge
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Memorabilia and remembrances of Paola's dear dog Affe.
Studio Tour: Ivana Helsinki, on Design*Sponge
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Button jars and other design utilities for the team.
Studio Tour: Ivana Helsinki, on Design*Sponge
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Small treasures, like these porcelain Bambis and vintage enamel rings, are found all over the studio. Teapot by Finnish company Tonfisk Design.
Studio Tour: Ivana Helsinki, on Design*Sponge
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A calm spot in the kitchen amidst all the hustle. Curtain made from Ivana Helsinki signature moth print. This niche also doubles as an archive for the art and design books Paola brings home from travels around the world.
Studio Tour: Ivana Helsinki, on Design*Sponge
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Turquoise walls in the restroom contrast with an otherwise light office. Small details and treasures like the Bambi figurine and shape-cut mirrors are not forgotten.
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The Ivana Helsinki studio configuration.

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