Thoughts with Designer Oona Mäkelä about print design for Samuji FW23

We had the pleasure of working together on new print designs in the Samuji FW23 collection with Graphic Designer Oona Mäkelä. We invited her to change thoughts with Samuji´s Head of Design Anne-Mari Pahkala about Samuji, design, the role of art in fashion and Oona´s work with prints.



A-M: Hello, Oona. Nice to meet you again! What kind of a day do you have ahead of you? 
O: Today I have a slightly easier day, I'm not going to my studio, I'm working at home. I usually go to my studio to keep a good routine. Today I keep my dog company so she doesn't have to be alone. Sometimes I also go to coffee shops to draw and get inspiration from other places like the Botanic Garden.
A-M: Sounds wonderful! Would you tell Samuji's friends who Oona Mäkelä is and something about your working techniques?
O: I am an illustrator, graphic and print designer from Helsinki. I like to draw directly on paper by hand, I often use ink and watercolours. I'm interested in the traditional techniques, I only edit digitally. I am interested in different materials and their textures, nature and organic subjects. I especially like hanging out with my dog Nopjes.
A-M: Where did your story begin?
O: My parents are graphic designers, so I've been under visual influences since I was little. I guess it has been clear that my work is a way of life and a way of spending time. The atmosphere in my childhood home has been favourable for drawing and different kinds of creation. My work has come out of it very easily. I have been free to make my own mark, there has never been an attempt to control or limit me in any way. The creative and visual field has always been my clear path.




A-M: Your hand drawn prints are recognizable, they made me curious of how your artistic themes are born. Would you tell me about the creation process of your patterns. Does your work show your experiences from your life or your environment?
O: I experience the world around me based a lot on the sense of sight and I pick up things from the environment without noticing or being aware of it. I just know I need to put them on paper. It's the way I deal with things, I have to draw things that stick in my mind. I have a constant need to create something.
A-M: You said that you like hand drawing more than digital work. I would love to hear more about what fascinates you in creating by hand?
O: I love feeling the materials in my fingers. I often use ink. I love the smell of it, and also the fact that it's a bit messy. It's nice to be in contact with my technique, creating with your hands is calming. Whenever I draw, I sink into such a calm state, it's a familiar thing to do and somehow almost meditative. Although digital work is very developed these days, I don't get the same bodily experience from it as drawing by hand, I really enjoy it.




A-M: I am very material-oriented in my own design work, and the physical material in my hands is really important in my process. You have to be able to touch and feel the materials, so I understand well why making things by hand fascinates and feels pleasant. Now that we're talking about your work for Samuji, I'm wondering when you got to know Samuji and how did it happen?
O: Probably sometime in 2015 or a little earlier, I was living in Belgium and I saw something about Samuji in a fashion blog and the clothes immediately aroused my admiration. It was so different and the new brand coming from Finland was interesting and I started following the brand. The clothes were lovely.
A-M: How would you describe your own style and your relationship with fashion?
O: Fashion has always been interesting, all-encompassing visuals and design in general have always been interesting. I don't buy much new clothes and I try to be a sustainable consumer and aware. I think second hand is not a limitation, because the variety on the second-hand market is currently very good. I like hunting for clothes and I have collected some Samuji's clothes as well. My style is most of all about the comfortable feel, but also various high-quality materials, structural fabrics are particularly fascinating. I like colourful details on a smaller scale when the overall look of the outfit is calm. I don't want to stand out too much. Of course, the print designs are also interesting.

A-M: What do you think is the role of art in the fashion field and what does timelessness mean to you? 

O: I would like art to be a bigger part of fashion. Artistry brings individuality, quality, standing out from the crowd, interest in general. Art brings interest and uniqueness to the garment, which can also prolong its use.
Of course, timelessness at its best would mean that clothes and goods could be used almost endlessly. I would like to make timeless patterns and designs, but of course it is difficult. It's hard to really be purely without effects, because you live in a certain time and you're always exposed to phenomena, things just don't happen in a vacuum. Creating a timeless pattern is a really interesting challenge. I strive for timelessness in my work, although of course sometimes I do something that is particularly "in" right now. It is difficult to know in advance what will remain and live.
A-M: When I met you some time ago, you were just going to Japan for a residency. In Japan you had an exhibition. What is your relationship with Japan? What led you there?
O: I've wanted to go to Japan already at a very young age. The form of desire and interest has changed over time. I am interested in Japanese aesthetics, and it is a strong source of inspiration. There are many fascinating Japanese styles; distinctive, minimalism - maximalism, serene style. Particularly interesting are the old traditional beautiful fabric prints, playful, interesting and insightful at the same time. The colours are wonderful, especially the elegant toned down shades. Japanese craft culture in general is interesting, I feel a strong attraction to it.




A-M: What kind of professional dreams do you have?
O: I want to develop in my own work so that I don't get stuck doing the same thing. A strong desire to develop to do different things, with your own style. I want to try different materials, because now I can easily work in my own comfort zone. In Japan, I had access to new materials, so it challenged and stimulated my work. New themes are also needed. They are also easy to repeat, new ideas and thoughts are needed.
A-M: I think that one's own creativity must be nurtured and cared for. I consider it a very important skill in my own life, which should not be forgotten even in the midst of everyday busyness. How do you take care of the birth of new ideas, where do you look for inspiration, do you organize a separate time for it?
O: Art exhibitions and nature are good sources of inspiration. I should go to new places more. I think one should generally keep eyes open and look around. An empty moment is easily caught up in some very uncreative things, such as the phone, impulsively picking it up. One has to give space to emptiness and thinking and be braver with the empty. It's important to visit new places so that you don't just go around in your own circles.
A-M: I see what you mean! For me, getting lost and exploring new environments can be interesting and often rewarding. I feel that in such situations you have new thoughts and you have to challenge yourself in many ways.
You have designed a pattern called Varret for Samuji's FW23 collection. Tell me more about this pattern?

O: That pattern started out of the desire to make a watercolor-like surface where the technique would be clearly visible. The effect of the diffused color is fascinating. One that blurs clear boundaries and I thought it would suit Samuji in some lovely fabric and would be suitable as a garment. Here I was able to return to the watercolor technique, which previously played a much larger role in my work. I think the print is beautiful and has a lot of potential.




Samuji Fw23 PHOTOs: Lina Jelanski


A-M: The watercolor-like trace is endlessly fascinating. As a result of our joint process, we will see two colour schemes that match the atmosphere of the collection. 
O: The muted colours are fascinating and I think they suit fall and Samuji really well.
A-M: There is a sense of calm in the chosen colours and shades.
O: Yes, that's right! They don't flash, but are dignified and fit exactly right for this pattern and especially well for Samuji.
A-M: Is there anything else you would like to say or tell Samuji's friends?
O: It has been one of my goals to get to work with Samuji. Thank you for letting me do my own thing and be true to it. It is wonderful that it is now part of Samuji. I can't wait for the clothes with my finished prints.
A-M: Thank you for this lovely morning conversation and cooperation with the collection. It's been wonderful to have you in our team and getting to know you. I can't wait to show people what we've achieved together! 


Photos: Oona Mäkelä´s archives and Samuji FW23 collection pictures