Interview by Mia Dillemuth | Copy Editing Matthew Jones | Pictures by Eeva Suutari

Laura Juslin and Lilli Maunula are the creatives behind Juslin Maunula. How would you describe your brand?

Officially we launched Juslin Maunula at the end of 2015 but preparations started much earlier. The inspiration began with a collection and installation created in collaboration with Huang Ting Yun for Pre Helsinki 2015 event.

Juslin Maunula presents a full collection once a year at PFW, always in the context of a spatial installation. Smaller capsule collections and special projects are presented throughout the year. An ongoing theme for the Juslin Maunula collections is parallels between fashion and architecture. Juslin Maunula also offers design and consulting services within the fashion industry as well as without.

We see the Juslin Maunula brand not only as wearable products but also as a full 3-dimensional experience, that includes the products and the space created around them. Our signature pieces will be knitwear and leather pieces. We develop accessories from experimental materials and these will play a big role in the collection.

Considering your young age you have both had the chance to work with great projects in fashion but in other areas as well. Can you tell us a little bit about your background? For example Lilli, you have worked as a stylist in London and then you have a masters degree in architecture. And Laura, you are very well known for your innovative collections for Siloa & Mook and other collaborations in fashion.

Laura: I presented my MA graduate collection at the Aalto University fashion show in 2012. A couple of days later I was contacted by the founder of Siloa&Mook. He presented me with the idea behind the Siloa&Mook concept – a new clothing and furniture label about to be launched. The business plan, name and visual identity had been established – they were just looking for the right designer. The first collection AW13 of Siloa&Mook was a continuation of my graduate collection. The debut collection was presented in April 2013.

After two years and three collections I felt it was professionally time to move on. I got a lot of support to launch my own company from fashion influencers in Finland and abroad. At the same time I met Lilli again. I had always been interested of architecture and I had admired Lilli’s work in both architecture and fashion

Just before starting the Juslin Maunula brand with Lilli, Ann Sofie Back contacted me to offer a fantastic collaboration with them for IF Finland. I created a reflective collection of accessories for their national add campaign to raise awareness for traffic safety. Lilli joined in the middle of the project and we finalized the project together. The OOH and TV campaign was widespread in Finland and gave a good kick towards launching our own company Juslin Maunula.

Lilli: I originally started out by studying architecture but moved over to the Aalto fashion department after some years. In my second BA year at the Aalto Fashion department I applied for an internship at Dazed&Confused Magazine in London. My two-week internship turned into two years of full-time work when the fashion director Cathy Edwards asked me to become her first assistant.  She taught me all I know about fashion; she was my mentor. I loved and admired her with all my heart.  Later I also worked as a fashion assistant at Harper’s Bazaar UK, which gave me a new perspective of the industry.

After years in London I still decided to return to Finland to complete my degree in Architecture, which had been on hold for a long time. The decision to return to school was difficult but it gave me peace of mind.

Since graduating in 2013, I have worked for Bozarthfornell Architects in Stockholm who specialize in fashion retail for clients like Acne, Kenzo, Opening Ceremony, and Robert Clergerie.  I loved the job and the style of my former employer Andreas Fornell.

Working now with Laura on Juslin Maunula really brings together all my previous experience.

 

How did you end up working together?

We started our studies in the same year at Aalto University fashion BA and became “classmates”. Many years later, after we had graduated and worked for a couple of years our paths crossed again.

We did our pilot project together in spring 2015. We wanted to find a new perspective on fashion. We wanted to create a parallel between architecture and fashion and designed the collection together with the spatial installation. The pilot project was really well received and we got a lot of support from Finland and abroad to launch our brand Juslin Maunula.

How do you divide the everyday tasks?

We both are strong with concepting. We always do that part of the work together.  Another thing that we share is the administrative work, which is fair since we would both prefer to avoid it.

Laura has the main responsibility of our women’s wear collections and soft accessories whereas Lilli focuses more on the spatial design, and hard accessories. We believe in collaborative decision-making and support each other throughout the design process.

What is the philosophy behind your design work?

Everything in fashion has been done and seen. We wanted to find a new way to approach the garment and really fashion as a whole. The modern consumer is seeking for more than just a product; they are looking for a full experience.  High-quality spatial design can really evoke feelings; this is what we wish to do. The collection and the space surrounding it intertwine into a harmonic holistic experience.

We hope to create great experiences with small methods.  As for products, we want to create garments and accessories that people really want to wear.

Where do you get your ideas?

Our Finnish roots influence the brand’s visual world but we do not let tradition restrict our work as designers. We experiment freely with materials and let ourselves be inspired by what we see around us. What looks like an ordinary water pipe or insulation material to someone else could be a real gem for us.

Our latest collection actually started from the idea of bubble wrap. We used it in our installation and in the collection. Our manufacturer is one of the leading sources of couture fabrics and weaved us a fabric that looks like bubble wrap.

We work to simplify our ideas. We often start off with twenty ideas and materials and have to work hard to narrow it down to a simple strong end result. The inspiration can come from anywhere, but it’s something that you can’t really force. We travel a lot and get loads of ideas during our trips. We have been equally inspired by rough industrial environments, such as Berlin, and by softer, more feminine environments like Venice and the rich use of colourful marbles and amazing craftsmanship.

We share an interest in phenomena like light and reflection. We look at modern art and architecture for inspiration, but also seeing pieces of materials and talking to craftsmen lead to many ideas and design solutions. Also nature is beautifully inspiring. Light colours and sounds meet in random patterns.

Our working environment is exceptionally inspiring. We are fortunate enough to work at two amazing locations. Our office space is at Juhani Pallasmaa’s Architect office and our workshop is in Vallila on the top floor of an old industrial building.  We share the workshop with other designers making it an endless source of creative dialogue.

Design work is done at the office where we are surrounded by the largest private art book library in Finland, over 10 000 art and architecture books from which to draw inspiration. The work then continues seamlessly at the spacious and light workshop, which are the perfect surroundings for hands-on prototyping etc.

I admire your vision for colour and the colour palette in all Juslin Maunula design. What is your relationship with colour?

A colour palette often inspires the whole design process. Intriguing, inconvenient colour combinations inspire us.  In fashion the line between the beautiful and ugly is never clear-cut; often what appears to be ugly turns out beautiful.

We each have our own very distinct favourite colour schemes – almost like signature colours that we have used in our earlier works.  When we combine our favourite colour schemes, the combination always seems to work perfectly.

What do you think are the strengths that you both bring into the brand?

Juslin Maunula focuses on knitwear, leather goods and accessories for sales.  The Juslin Maunula leather ready-to-wear and accessories are a natural continuation of Laura’s strong background in designing leather goods. The premium quality knitwear goes perfectly with the patent leather, creating the Juslin Maunula look. The range of Juslin Maunula brass jewellery expresses Lilli’s vision of minimal, yet eye-catching accessories.

We learn from each other’s methods and skills every day.  Our combined skillset is broad and enables us to work on very different projects. It is also a great to support to share the load of work and stress with a business partner. Our different backgrounds give new dimension to our design process and enrich the outcome of our work. Laura approaches a design problem from a fashion and clothing point of view whereas my first thoughts and ideas are often spatial – like light, atmosphere, and movement. Together we combine all of these aspects.

We are often very absorbed in our thoughts and work. We are very hands-on with our work and often find ourselves covered in glittering threads, sequins paint and glue. Materials and fabric fly around and litter the studio.  If an outsider were to watch us work it would probably be quite amusing.

Obviously Juslin Maunula is a combination of two individual visions but do you share the same taste?

Yes, definitely. Also our working methods are quite similar; concepting, gathering a lot of ideas, then crystalizing by dropping elements until we find the final product.

The architect’s way of thinking is often strictly functional. A shape/element/design can’t exist without a purpose and function. Fashion needs no explanation; it can exist just for aesthetic reasons, without clear function. Our work is somewhere in between these two extremes. We create clothes and spaces with the purpose of beauty, emotion and experience. We want to present fashion in a context where the environment and movement in space add new dimension to the clothes.

We want our collection, as well as the accessories and installations, to have an element of surprise. This we aim to achieve trough the use of unconventional materials.  Our previous line of accessories was made of cast polyurethane resin mixed with natural rocks. We thought the end result looked quite fresh and new, unlike traditional jewellery pieces.

Who is your audience? Do you have someone specific in mind when you are designing?

Our customer is a modern woman who looks after her appearance, but who is easy enough to stop by the fish market on her way home. She values quality, pays attention to detail but does not want to blindly follow mainstream brands. We try to reach a woman who is elegant in a relaxed way, not too precious about her looks, but aware of her style.

We find it difficult to choose a celebrity who we would like to dress. We are creating our own world and designing garments that we wish people would love to wear.  And then when someone wears our design it’s the biggest compliment you can get.  But when Lady Gaga found our coat in Instagram and ordered it, we were so thrilled.

With whom or what do you identify, share the same ideas or values?

Olafur Eliasson’s works are always intriguing because of how they explore light. We are also big fans of the work of Japanese architect Shiro Kuramata.

As for fashion idols, the name is different every time some one asks. At this very moment I am thinking of Miuccia Prada because of her ingenious use of colour. Her concept of ugly cool is cool.

How do you feel about the changes in fashion during the past few years? And in which direction do you see the industry going? 

Yes, the fashion world is dramatically changing at the moment. Fashion is not fashionable anymore and the big payers in the field are looking for ways to change the system. We have to find new ways to work. Crossing between disciplines offers a wider range of possibilities. We think that more than before fashion designers are working with a really wide range of different projects, not just fashion design.

Architecture has a really strong history where as fashion (as we see it) is younger and unstable so changes are obviously faster.  In the future, fashion will continue to evolve and be unpredictable, changing and challenging. The fashion field is at the beginning of a revolution.

The concept of fashion will not be so strict anymore. Seasons might become more meaningless and perhaps presenting collections during fashion weeks won’t be so crucial anymore. Fashion houses must also look for ways to renew themselves and find new things to offer to their clients alongside garments (outside of the fashion field).

What is the best thing about your work and what are the challenges?

It is challenging to run a business, handle the administrative work and be a creative designer simultaneously. In a small business one really has to handle all roles from creative director and business strategist to post office and IT support. We will need to find the right people to take over some of the workload.

The best thing is that we can really express ourselves freely. And though the schedule is demanding 24/7, it’s up to us how, when and where we work.

What makes you happy?

A good balance of work and free time.

What are your future plans concerning Juslin Maunula?

At the moment we are working with three big clients.  We are also working hard on our next collection to be presented in the spring.

Pictures Eeva Suutari 

Muah Eevaleena Liedes

Model Mara Varga / Monster Management

All looks Juslin Maunula

www.juslinmaunula.com