(Featured photo courtesy of Minna Parikka)
Today, as part of The Hieno! “What is Finnish-ness” series celebrating Suomi 100 in 2017, we feature Minna Parikka. Minna is the designer of Minna Parikka Shoes, gorgeous shoes that are loved by women all over the world, and worn by popular celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Selena Gomez and Taylor Swift. In 2002 Minna won the prestigious Young British Glove Designer of the Year title. She returned to Finland in 2005 and founded her own label.
In this interview, Minna shares with us some experiences from her childhood in Helsinki, thoughts on Finnish fashion and the various inspirations behind her shoes! Enjoy the interview!♡
TH: Hello Minna! Thank you for accepting our interview. Can you tell us more about yourself and the Minna Parikka brand?
Minna: I am a Helsinki-based designer who has been working with her brand Minna Parikka for 11 years.
We are currently celebrating 10 years anniversary since the launch of the shoe collection.
My style is playful, contradictory and adventurous.
We are currently stocked in approximately 100 stores worldwide including Harrods, Selfridges, Tsum, Le Bon Marche, Harvey Nicholls, Galleries Lafayette, Isetan, Level Shoedistrict, just to name a few.
TH: You knew that you wanted to be a footwear designer since the tender age of 15, and moved to UK to study footwear design at the age of 19.
How does this feel at that time–were you scared or uncertain about moving abroad to pursue a dream?
Minna: I could not wait to move out of my parent’s house and go abroad to study.
I was so ready for a great adventure.
I thought it is important to study shoe design abroad where fashion is closer.
TH: Did you have prior role models in the fashion world, and do you still have them now? Can you share with us their influence on your journey as a world-class footwear designer?
Minna: My sister interviewed the shoe designer Andrea Pfister for a women magazine in the 90’s.
I was only 15 then when it hit me that somebody can think about shoes all day long for her profession.
I knew it since then that I wanted to become a shoe designer.
TH: Heritage is commonly regarded as something important in the fashion world.
We sometimes hear Finnish designers and fashion marketers saying that Finnish fashion might be at a disadvantage due to a short national history, vis-a-vis other European countries such as France, Italy and Sweden. What would you say to this?
Minna: I have seen so many companies rise and fall no matter where they are from.
The nationality or heritage does not matter. It can also drag you down when you have the pressure to follow a certain pattern.
What matters is that you can build and maintain a brand that has a global value. It’s also great to have an understanding of the ever-changing fashion business.
TH: Your fans from all over the world absolutely love your bunny-ears trademark shoes! Do you remember where and when was it that you first saw a bunny in Finland?
Minna: Helsinki is filled with bunnies.
They are actually everywhere so I guess I have been born with bunnies.
TH: It is commonly said that “the typical Finnish person is shy and humble by nature”. Would you agree? How do you think this would affect fashion marketing and publicity?
Minna: It is true that our culture is humble in general. It can been seen in our homes, design and religion.
The new generation of well-traveled and educated Finns are luckily more outgoing and international. We need this global thinking and international vibe to be able to grow and compete.
No matter how good our product is, it does not matter if we cannot generate hype about it. Surely, nobody comes to our doorstep to look for us.
TH: “With greater success comes greater responsibilities”.
Right now, you are seen as a huge role model and inspiration not only to young Finnish designers, but also creatives from all over the world. Popular and influential celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and Kylie Jenner love your shoes! How do you feel about success and being looked up to by so many young ones?
Minna: Wow! It is definitely an honor to be a role model of some sort.
I always forget about how my work is seen from the outside. When you are deep inside a task and mission you forget about the outside world.
I would like to give a message to young people and why not for the bit more mature ones –that you can be whatever you want to be.
We do not need to limit ourselves and put ourselves into a certain box. We all have so many sides to us and it is an advantage to let your personality shine through no matter what you do.
TH: Alexander Stubb, former prime minister of Finland said in Slush 2014 that “Finns are both afraid of failure and success”. Would you agree? Do elaborate.
Minna: Unfortunately, we still have a bit of that culture left in Finland where you should not stand out too much.
Finland has been a very homogenic country for a long time. It was only in the recent 20 years that we really have had some people from different races move to our country.
Luckily things are changing slowly but surely. Finland is getting more international which will bring more competition in all the fields.
We will need to work harder to bring out our personality and adopt a less humble attitude to be able to compete on a global level.
TH: What do you think is the role of Finland in the fashion world today?
Minna: The presence of Finnish fashion brands stocked in key retailers worldwide hardly exists. People in general do not have an image of what Finnish fashion is.
As a designer working on the global market, this is a relief. There is no burden of trying to fit into a certain mould.
When people find out that my brand is from Finland, it is always a great surprise for them. The common guess is that we are from the UK or Korea.
TH: What was the happiest moment in your life in Finland?
Minna: I have got a very secure base in Helsinki growing up.
As a child, I lived in a very green neighbourhood where I was free to run around the forest to play with many children of the same neighbourhood.
TH: What is your favourite memory from childhood?
Minna: My family is the restless type and we have always travelled a lot just for fun. At the age of 7 I had already been to 20 different countries.
I would play with other kids from all races and cultures, visit temples and mosques as well as learn languages.
This has set a good base for me to pursue an international lifestyle.
TH: Can you tell us the top 3 things/ traits you regard as “Finnish”, and why?
- Sauna and dip in the icy sea – this is my all time favourite past-time activity in Finland and I always take all my foreign guests to sauna. I do believe this makes us strong and healthy.
- Quietness – it is so calm everywhere apart from weekend nights in the bars of Helsinki. Usually people are in their own bubble minding their own business.
- Loyalty – people are very loyal to their decisions. Whether it is their work or friendship. Finns are also great customers. Once they decide to buy a certain brand and they are happy with it, they will return time after time.
TH: What are your personal dreams and visions for the future?
Minna: I still have the same dream and goal that when I started my brand 11 years ago.
I want to make the best niche women shoe brand. I am living my dream but I need to work a lot to maintain the level we have reached now.
Fashion business is fickle and to keep up with the demand requires constant development and re-inventing yourself.
TH: What is the one advice you have for young fashion designers?
Minna: Find your voice and follow your gut instinct. It will be a rollercoaster ride but totally worth it.
TH: What is the one 100 year-old birthday wish you would make for Finland, since 2017 Finland’s 100 years of independence?
Minna: Happy bday old girl!
I wish there are still many more great years to come and we can celebrate in an even more international and open atmosphere.
We hope you have enjoyed this interview with Minna Parikka!