Meet the residents: Q&A with HIAP Design residency 2018 participant Elina Laitinen

Hi Elina. Tell us a bit about yourself; your background and areas of interest.

I’m a designer and artist currently based in Helsinki. I work in the fields of fashion, clothing, textile and concept design. My personal design work is often based on craft and slow making. I hold a master’s degree in Fashion and Collection Design from Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture.

What are you working on or researching at the moment?

Pyhävaatteita (engl. Sunday Clothes) is an ongoing design concept that I started in 2016. At the moment I’m preparing the 2018 edition of Pyhävaatteita, which will consist recycled t-shirts. In Pyhävaatteita I use sunlight to make patterns on the fabrics.

Why are you interested in Helsinki and why did you apply for the Design Residency? 

I applied to the residency to get the possibility to interact and network with the same minded people. My artistic work is independent. Perhaps I could even say that my making process is isolated sometimes, therefore I found it important to look for conversations and contexts to reflect my own practice on.

What are you planning to research or produce during your residency in Helsinki?

During the residency I will research home sewing culture and its role in a contemporary society. I would like to find people who still make clothes at home and examine their practice from the designer’s perspective.

The emotional value of clothing interests me and I would like to investigate how the making process impacts on the relationship that is formed between the garment and the maker.

What are you hoping this residency experience will bring to your practice, or to your personal understanding and experience?

I hope this residency will improve my ideas about value-creating elements of fashion and clothing design.

What has been your interest in this year’s theme of the HIAP design residency, “Arranging practice: Proximity, distance, instance”?

Making and producing clothes has become very distant to the western users. We buy clothes without understanding how they are manufactured. I think this is one reason why

appreciation of clothes has also declined. I reflect today’s home sewing culture to the times when making clothes at home was the only possible way to get new garments.

As a practicing designer, what place or importance does critical reflection of your practice take in your work?

I studied fashion to become a designer. My aim was to be a traditional designer who designs new clothes for the market, preferably in a big company somewhere abroad. When finalizing my master’s thesis I understood that I have to do something else instead. For me it is important to look for new creative practices that are not determined by the commerce and market. Alternative ways of defining fashion are needed since the current system is injurious in so many ways.

Within and beyond this residency, what are dimensions of Helsinki as a design environment that you would consider worth being critically explored further?

In the past years Helsinki has lifted its reputation as a fashion city. There’s a lot of fashion happenings especially in May and international fashion professionals have found the city.

Helsinki could look for its potential to be a new generations fashion location that supports alternative modes of fashion and dares to question fashion as we know it. Helsinki’s fashion repertory could reflect more society’s values and be more humane and unrestricted. I would like to see Helsinki as a diverse fashion capital that offers versatile experiences alongside current fashion shows and showrooms.

Save the Date: 

Laura Spring and Elina Laitinen will talk about their practices and their research in the context of the HIAP design residency 2018 in discussion with Martin Born (curator HIAP design residency programme), Leena Svinhufvud (educational curator, Design Museum) and Juuso Tervo (project manager University Wide Art Studies, Aalto University). The discussion will be held on Friday, May 25, from 16:00 to 18:00 at the Design Museum.