Sustainable beauty

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For Finnish creative studio and design house Samuji, beauty is about more than meets the eye—and clothing is about more than the latest fashion. Since 2011, Samuji has been producing high quality, impeccably crafted designs regardless of the latest trend, a rebellious concept in a day when high, and than fast, fashion are the industry standard. Samuji’s business practice is a rare exception when it should be the rule.

The company emphasizes functionality, sustainability, and kindness — life values imbedded into each product and the company’s DNA — while ensuring its materials are responsibly sourced from suppliers in Japan and Europe. Each of its women’s, men’s and housewares lines are produced in European factories or workshops—all of which have been personally visited by Samu-Jussi Koski, the company’s visionary founder and creative director.

The fact that Samuji’s clothes are as beautiful as they are thoughtfully produced is a marker of the brand’s continued success. Koski brings a refined sculptural simplicity to each collection, elevating wardrobe “basics” to luxurious necessities in an exquisite selection of materials. Indeed, the fabric is Koski’s starting point for each collection and a talent for which he is especially qualified. (Koski served as creative director for the historic design powerhouse Marimekko before starting Samuji.) Glass recently chatted with Koski about his unique approach to clothing design and the intrinsic values that ensure the Samuji company to be as sustainable as its well-crafted designs.

Please describe the impetus behind Samuji’s creation.
We aim to create sustainable beauty: wardrobe and home essentials that last time, both in style and in quality. Samuji is not about the latest trends or flashy, outrageous design. We want to create clothes and homeware that serve a purpose, yet carry a story. I also hope that you can see our Finnish roots in Samuji’s design and aesthetics.

In the world of fast, mass-produced fashion, it is refreshing to find a company that is dedicated to creating sustainable, quality clothing. Why is this important to Samuji?
The world doesn’t need more throwaway stuff. Instead, we believe that people nowadays want to find lasting quality and have ethical standards for their clothes, too. Sustainable design is hard to promise and deliver, but we do our best. We know in person all our suppliers and I personally have visited all the factories and workshops we work with. Quality of the fabrics, other materials, and production, are essential for me.

One principle at the core of your business practice and fashion collection is kindness—a characteristic not typically associated with material culture. Can you explain how this is implemented into the design process and why it is important to Samuji?
For us the everyday beauty that we aim for is not only aesthetics. It’s also ethics, responsibility of our nature, and kindness towards other people.

What role, if any, does traditional Finnish dress play in the Samuji design aesthetic? I sense subtle allusions to certain aspects, such as the sarafan, for example …
Old Finnish traditions – in handcrafts and design, but also in other fields of life – are very important in our thinking and my design. The Finnish tradition is actually a mixture of two: western influences from Sweden and other Scandinavian countries, and eastern influences such as ornaments and deep, bold colouring, from Russia. Some of Samuji’s dresses (and other products) have more obvious influences from the Finnish traditional clothing and national costumes, some have the history in them in more subtle way.

Whether it be bold, graphic prints or a more subtle, exquisite selection of mohairs and metallics, textiles are clearly a defining element of each Samuji collection. What role does textile selection and creation play in the Samuji design process? Where do you source your fabrics?
It is the start of everything. My design process starts from choosing the fabrics. I usually source new fabrics, knits, suppliers and prints from the Paris fabric fair. I try to find something totally new and inspiring for each collection. For me, Samuji is a combination of tradition (our classic collection) and renewal (seasonal collections).

For the Spring 2015 collection, Samuji produced seven in-house patterns. Is this a future direction for Samuji?
One of the directions, yes. I am so proud and happy and humble to be able to work with these amazing print designers, and that is definitely a path I want to continue even deeper. From the very beginning we have collaborated with different artists in different projects – painters, musicians, illustrators, video artists, actors – and these collaborations with these print designers are one more example of that, too.

by Cassidy Zachary

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Glass Online fashion writer

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