Interview by Mia Dillemuth | Fashion illustrations by Minna Ainoa courtesy of Cozy Publishing | English Editor Julie Uusinarkaus

What is your professional background? How did you end up working together on this book project?

Milla: I graduated from London College of Fashion in 1999. I was supposed to come to Finland for only a short visit, but ended up working at a Finnish fashion magazine called Gloria. I worked almost ten years in different magazines as a fashion editor and producer. During those years I met Minna, who did fashion illustrations for the magazine. Since 2011 I’ve been an entrepreneur, working as a freelance stylist and fashion editor. Minna started working as a freelancer at about the same time, and we had a perfect reason to have coffee breaks together. One coffee meeting in 2014 was meaningful. I suggested that Minna should create a character for girls which would be an alternative to Disney princesses or Top Model. A year later she showed me Mystery.

Minna: I have studied fashion at Lahti University of Applied Sciences and Aalto University in Helsinki. I finished my Master’s degree in 2004 when I was already working as a fashion art director at Stockmann. While studying fashion, I already knew that I wouldn’t be working as a fashion designer – I am more of a concept and image person. So I have been searching for the right combination for my know-how from illustration, fashion and marketing, and I think I found it in Mystery! When I realized I that wasn’t able to pull this off by myself, I asked Milla to help. She was the only one I could imagine who would understand Mystery’s heart, and when she wrote the first story based on my draft, I was blown away – there was a telepathic understanding of the character that I had never verbalized.

How did you come up with the idea of an invented time traveller called Mystery? Can you tell us a little bit about the creative process?

Minna: Mystery fell into my hands quite quickly and naturally after I started creating the concept. I love fashion history, but it has always puzzled me how boring it can be. When history is typically handled by era, all the interesting details remain hidden. The fashion industry focuses on selling new collections, making history unnecessary. I think the history of fashion is a treasure chest, and I love to play with the gems through Mystery.

Milla: Mystery is from the North, so her heritage needed to be told. We wanted to tell the world our funny Nordic habits, which also gave Mystery reason to do some proper dressing up. The pieces we chose came quite naturally to the story.

The illustrated book is a glimpse into the modern history of fashion. What does fashion mean to you? What is the role of fashion in today’s society?

Milla: Fashion is a way of showing or hiding your personality. It gives you the chance to express yourself. In today’s society it seems to mean only consuming. I think of fashion as art. Designers’ creations are inspiration which may or may not influence me. Sometimes I find an idea that I want to take as part of my personal style, sometimes I only enjoy it as a visual form of art. Fashion reflects what is happening globally. It also gives everybody a chance to show their heritage and political views without saying a word.

Minna: I don’t have much to add here. I just wish fashion consumers could see that it is not mandatory to use fashion through their own body image – there are also other ways to enjoy fashion. Understanding  fashion as a form of art is important.

Which era of fashion pleases you the most? Where would you like to time travel?

Milla: I love the 1920s silhouette, but my inner princess would have loved to live in Versailles and party with Marie Antoinette.

Minna: If I had to pick only one destination for time travel, I would choose Egypt in 1360 BC  to meet Nefertiti. I refuse to name one favourite era since they are all dear to me!

Do you share the same taste? Do you believe in the concept of good taste and bad taste?  If so, who defines taste, in your opinion?

Milla: I think Minna and I have different styles, but we share the same taste. I don’t think there is good taste and bad taste, but you are either interested in visual things or not.

Minna: Without sharing the same taste, this project could not be done. When it comes to purely aesthetic matters, I don’t think that there is any real need for dividing tastes into good or bad other than raising one’s own value.

What was the best thing about this book project? Were there any challenges?

Milla & Minna: To be able to mix historical fashion pieces into new looks. Mystery made it possible to show fashion history in a new way, which could interest even those who are not into fashion. The biggest challenges were the pieces about which you could not find solid evidence, only many stories about them.

Can you point out some of your personal favourite looks from the book?

Milla: My personal favourite look is Lutheranism. Marlene Dietrich’s tuxedo and henning hat are a sharp and somewhat dark look which influences me.

Minna: Privacy is my natural choice. I come from the forest, and the forest always calms my restless soul. I love the movie Gone with The Wind, and Scarlett is one of my favourite characters  – you can’t be sure if she is a hero or villain.

Is Mystery a hero rather than a muse?

Milla: Definitely a hero. She has the courage to be exactly who she wants to be.

Minna: I hope her role here is as various as her style is – I would say both.

What do you hope will be the effect of your book on its audience?

Milla & Minna: We hope that people who are not interested in fashion can see how much fashion actually influences daily life as well as history. It’s a form of art and play which is permitted for everyone. It should not be taken too seriously.

Where can we buy your book? 

Milla & Minna: At the moment you can find Mystery – Style Traveller at www.nidekauppa.fiwww.adlibris.fi, www.akateeminen.com and www.suomalainen.com.

Illustrations by Minna Ainoa for Mystery – Style Traveller book published by Cozy Publishing.