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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Q&A with Finnish fashion designers Hanna Riiheläinen and Emilia Hernesniemi of R/H Label

In the second of two blogs about Helsinki based R/H Label the designers Hanna Riiheläinen and Emilia Hernesniemi describe what it's like to build a small brand as best friends and business partners.

Written by Amelia Gregory

R/H Label by HollyMae
R/H Label by HollyMae.

You’ve read a bit about Finnish fashion designers Hanna Riiheläinen and Emilia Hernesniemi, now here’s my Q&A with the R/H Label girls.

R/H Label by Sam Parr
R/H Label by Sam Parr.

How did you guys meet? Come on now, tell the truth!
We met at the University of Art and Design Helsinki in 2003 – we studied at the same class for six years and became good friends. While doing our Masters studies we realised that we wanted to do our MA theses together and in doing so created the base for our label R/H. Both of us have always dreamt of having our own label and what could be better than putting all our skills together to create a fashion label.

R/H Label by June Chanpoomidole
R/H Label by June Chanpoomidole.

What’s best about working together? (and worst)
We have been doing very well for a label that has existed less than a year. The reason for that is that together we are stronger; we have the same motivation to build R/H up to become a solid fashion label. We create our own ways of working and the environment we like to work in. We always trust one other and support each other when needed. This is a tough business and it’s good to have someone to share the responsibilities and worries with otherwise it could be quite lonely. Of course we need to work well as a team and be able to put R/H the label before our own needs and visions. R/H is us but at the same time we like to think that it’s the third person in our company. For example while designing we always question each other whether it is ‘R/H style’ and think about the R/H girls and women who buy it and what kind of style we like to offer to them.

RH Label SS 2011RH Label SS 2011 dress
R/H Label S/S 2011.

The worst is that as close friends we might spend a bit too much time together talking and gossiping – sometimes it affects our working days so that the work that we are supposed to do gets held up. Of course sometimes we do not share an opinion about something that affects R/H and then we just have to discuss together and come up with the best possible solution. We definitely have our own, personal design styles that we combine in the design process and that’s how R/H style is made at its best! Hanna has a more feminine and black style where as Emilia’s style is wilder with more colours and of course prints. There are similar aspects in our styles too. We both share the visual need to bring a rougher edge to the design. So in R/H garments the soft and beautiful is always mixed with rough details. R/H always comes with an attitude!

A/W 2011 by Michalis Christodoulou
R/H Label A/W 2011 by Michalis Christodoulou.

How do you split the work up and who is best at what?
We both do everything. It’s a small two ladies company at the moment so we have to be able to do whatever it takes to make R/H work. We share tasks with each other according to our interests and skills. There are always some tasks that are no-one’s favourites but we both try hard to take care of everything. Hanna is very good at taking care of the production process and contacts and Emilia is in charge of the PR meaning social media, magazines etc. Of course we have some people helping us out with certain tasks which we appreciate enormously!

RH Label SS 2011 mood
R/H Label S/S 2011.

When it comes to designing the collection, we definitely design together. The only thing that we have divided is that Hanna is in charge of making sure that the collection sustains its major theme and style in the cuts, the silhouette and the core design. Emilia designs all R/H prints and creates the colour world of the collection. Designing the collection is always a random group of unique situations so it’s hard to say who had the first idea. We sometimes have the same ideas, maybe because we spend so much time together. It can be that another one comes up with an idea that the other one then continues. We both design first by ourselves and then start to combine the ideas together. We like to play with the contrasts of masculine and feminine through mixing soft materials with rough details. 

RH Label SS 2011 moodshot
R/H Label S/S 2011.

What’s your biggest sources of inspiration?
We get our inspirations from different fields of life. It can be a picture in a local newspaper, a certain mood in a movie, colours combined together and seen somewhere, people you might meet and their style, atmospheres in the city at different times of year, from each other, different historical eras, artists, female anatomy, photography, music and musicians. Very often music actually!

RH Label SS 2011 leggings
R/H Label S/S 2011.

What are your favourite materials to work with?
We like to use fine materials such as silk, silk-cotton, bamboo jersey, wool, cotton and ecological reindeer leather. Most of the materials that we use in our designs are natural and the reindeer leather that we use in R/H garment details comes from Lapland of Finland. In R/H jewellery we use materials like silver, ceramic and birch wood. We produce our jewellery mainly in Finland but also in the UK. All clothing production is done in Tallinn, Estonia. The factory is very close to us and makes great quality garments. This way it is ecological and at the same time very convenient for us. Working with a quality factory that is close to where the label retails is definitely an ethical choice.

R/H Label A/W 2011 by Michalis Christodoulou
R/H Label A/W 2011 by Michalis Christodoulou.

What was the best part about our trip to Moscow? What was the most important thing you learnt?
We loved the trip to Moscow! It was so educational and at the same time so much fun. We got so many new friends and got to know a little bit of Moscow. Everybody was friendly and warm and everything was so well organised. The most important thing that we learned was that there are many fantastic designers in the world and they all share the same kind of passion and problems that we have been facing. Toby Meadows‘ lecture about the fashion business in general was very important for us.

RH Label AW 2011 black dress
R/H Label A/W 2011.

Where do you go and what do you do to relax?
We both love to travel. We also share a love for the sun as it is a rare luxury up here in Finland. We love to do picnics in the summer time in Helsinki by the sea and in the winter we go to sauna to relax. We listen to a lot of music, read books, draw or go to see a good movie. We spend time with our beloved ones and travel to our summer cottages to relax. We drink wine with our friends and have long analysing discussions about different fields of life. We both love to laugh and dance!

R/H Label A/W 2011
R/H Label A/W 2011.

What are you working on next?
We just opened the R/H Label webshop and now we are working on the R/H Spring/Summer 2012 collection. We would love to do some collaborations with different kinds of companies – not particularly fashion – so that is something that we would like to start looking into as well. We are also looking for a place to run a little shop in the centre of Helsinki. So we’ll keep you guys posted about that. 

Finally, who would your ideal stockist in the UK be?
We are still looking for one to find us! 

Read my previous article about R/H Label or visit the R/H Label website and R/H Label online shop. Keep an eye on these girls! I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of them in the UK soon.

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One Response to “Q&A with Finnish fashion designers Hanna Riiheläinen and Emilia Hernesniemi of R/H Label”

  1. R / H says:

    [...] based Amelia`s Mag made an interview with R/H. In addition there are some very interesting illustrations with R/H [...]

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