Voting for uniqueness and quality?
Marika Jylhä and Essi Kuula have been friends over ten years and they have formed together with a creative footwear/studio label. Behind every collection is a beautiful story.
Tell about your past? How did you end up building a brand together?
– We met over ten years ago at a visual arts course and we’ve been best friends ever since. We have always commented and supported each other work and at some point, we noticed that we have a very similar way of thinking about designing. Our collaboration works almost wordless. We thought that it would be great to benefit one other expertise and make handmade footwear. Essi is a master of textile designing and Marika is a footwear designer.
All of this was only a dream until the open call for exhibitors to South Korea Cheongju International Craft Biennale came along in 2011. Three pairs of our shoes were selected to the exhibit and after that, it just took off.
How would you describe each other as friends and colleagues?
– Marika is reliable, warm and just the right amount crazy. She’s a humorist who’s got hundred different funny characters in her mind.
Essi is a really sincere and a good person. She’s a pocket size funster but she’s also one of the smartest people I know.
Do you have clear responsibilities in building your brand or designing a new line?
– Yes, we do. Patterns, production and usability of the shoes are Marika’s main responsibilities. Essi’s main responsibilities are in the visual identity of the brand such as photographs, graphic materials and storytelling. Of course, we plan everything and make all the decisions together.
There’s always a story behind your collection. Where does the inspiration come from?
– We can find inspiration almost anywhere. Often either one of us has a tenuous idea for example from a singular surface, shape, color or theme. We gather lots of ideas into sketchbooks and scrap papers. We also eliminate a lot of ideas from our collections and some of those eliminated ideas will stay bothering in our minds. At some point we just go ahead and try ideas we got at the moment.
How do you start working on a new collection?
– The first step in our designing process is developed almost like from the basis of improvisational theatre: we throw ideas into the air and you can’t reject them right away, you have to try to develop something out of it!
It’s most productive to work together, switch sketches at some point and continue each other work. In the last step we once again cross off and eliminate ideas and that is where the collection is actually born. The stories behind the collections are our way to lead people into our world and show them where we’ve been while designing the collection.
Where did you get the inspiration for the 2016 collection?
– The collection of 2016, ”The Wild King of the N.O. Wonder Horses”, was born while we accidentally found an old picture of a horse named Wonder Horse that got a really long and funny hair. It was so long that is touched the ground and we couldn’t get over it. We tried to figure out what was the story of this amazing horse and we ended up researching the history and bloodlines of wild horses. Eventually it was clear that we would have to use some horsehair in our footwear. Horsehair is unbelievably strong as a material and the horsehair used in our shoes comes from Northern Ostrobothnia.
Your shoes are unique, real pieces of art. If a girl buys a pair of your shoes, how many of the same pair is she likely to see on someone else?
– We make small series of unique and custom-made pieces. The turnout of the series varies a lot but on average we produce twenty similar pairs of every shoe. The patterns are cut by hand and all of the materials, for example, the horsehair, are individual so in principle, every single pair is pretty unique.
How will the year 2017 look like for Kuula+Jylhä?
– For the spring we are developing sale samples from our new collection and we already have some new ideas and thoughts regarding our upcoming collection. Our main goal is to get our small footwear business going as well in Finland as international. We want to offer avant-garde footwear experiences for people all over the world.