Interview by Carolina Forss | Pictures by Eeva Suutari | English Editor Julie Uusinarkaus

Fashion design was never really Ella Boucht’s primary plan. After graduating from high school in Helsinki, she thought about applying for acting studies at the local Theatre Academy. But when working with an amateur theatre troupe, she found herself mainly focused on the dresses and garments found backstage. This led her to move to Sweden, where she started taking short courses in patternmaking, finally applying for fashion design studies at the Swedish School of Textiles in Borås (a small town close to Gothenburg known for its textiles and textile manufacturing). The school offered studios for many different textile and surface design techniques, making it the number one choice for Ella. During her studies, Ella interned with the up-and-coming Swedish designer Ida Klamborn in Stockholm and Marques Almeida in London.

In 2016 Ella created her BA collection, which she named “Claiming space”. The idea behind the collection was clothing that “the wearer becomes aware of ” and to “play with proportions by scaling patterns up and down on already existing garments”. She also looked to sport references and added lace to the world of sportswear – where lace is usually not seen. She used and developed different techniques, such as devoré, printed lace and weaving. One of the collection’s standout pieces is a huge, peach-coloured, marshmallowey jacket, which claims space for itself with its big, puffy silhouette.

During Stockholm Fashion Week, the school held a fashion show, at which pop artist Rihannas’s stylist happened to see Ella’s collection. The stylist, Jahleel Weaver, set his eyes on the pink jacket, and not long after, Ella got an email from him. “Jahleel wanted to borrow some clothes from my collection for Rihanna,” recalls Ella. “At first I wasn’t sure it was a serious request, but after some googling, I came to the conclusion it was.” At that time, it was not set where, when and if the singer would wear the garments, but just before the fashion week in Paris Ella was asked to send pieces from the collection to Paris ASAP.

One Saturday night after Ella was getting home from Helsinki’s local it techno club, Kaiku, social media updates started pouring in. Rihanna was spotted in Paris wearing a Dior handbag, lace shorts from her Puma collection, a Vetements “You Fuck’n Asshole” t-shirt and Ella Boucht’s pink puffer jacket. The internet fell in love with the look, and soon it even got its own meme! Rihanna’s (@badgalriri) Instagram has 55 million followers and is hugely influential, and wearing a young designer’s creation is a dream-come-true kind of a thing and the best possible PR.

Today Ella is based in Stockholm and working at the H&M design bureau. It is almost nine months ago since Paris, and Ella is happy to talk and reflect about the experience. She explains how absurd and surreal all the media attention and the interview requests were. “There were journalists asking to meet me for an interview at my atelier or studio, but in fact, I had just graduated, I was living at my parents place, and I worked at a restaurant,” she describes with a smile on her face. “It was like living two parallel lives,” she laughs. A huge number of people hoped to buy the jacket, but every material starting from the coloured polyester wool to the devoré materials were handmade, and it would have been nearly impossible to produce more.

Ella Boucht is part of the Pre Helsinki designer collective.

Instagram @ellaboucht