Does origin matter in fashion design?

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Estonia, celebrating its 100th anniversary year, is a small country to whom the surrounding countries and foreign powers have left their mark. But despite the influence of its neighbours, there is still a well-rooted national culture that is also being carried on with pride in fashion design. How do some of the Estonian top designers interpret their creations and identity, we enquired from Piret Puppart (the creator of Uschanka brand), Tiina Talumees (owner of her own design brand and fashion studio Tiina Talumees Moestuudio) and Oksana Tandit (owner of her own design brand and concept store Oksana Tandit)

Photo rights: Tiina Talumees

Creative people are often taking inspiration from their roots, seamlessly weaving their personal backgrounds into their designs. All Estonian fashion designers cited above have mentioned that they have taken inspiration from their origin and homeland. „The use of Estonian heritage is one of the fundamental aspects of my work. I have used many native embroideries and ornaments in bridal dresses and custom-made gowns that I have designed. Since 2017 I have visited several Fenno-Ugric villages and thus my design is very closely associated with our relatives,“ explains Piret Puppart.

Oksana Tandit, a noted designer of Ukranian origin, stated as well that “her colorful and happy cocktail of Ukranian childhood has definitely added some spice, courage and originality to her creation”, though she definitely thinks of herself as an Estonian designer, as she lives and creates in Tallinn. Oksana further states that it doesn’t so much matter who you are and where are you from, what matters is the creation itself.

Photo rights: Oksana Tandit

Tiina Talumees, known for her delicate feminine style, gets her inspiration indeed from the constant celebration of the beauty of women, as well as from countless other sources that all of the sudden can sparkle a new collection. „Every new collection can get its idea from every little thing that currently surrounds me or speaks to me. For example, the inspiration for one of my spring-summer couture collections came from a marvelous Estonian poem that I heard on Christmas Eve,“ told the designer.

Oksana Tandit explains that she is being most of all inspired by art, music, love, travel, by her lovely daughter Frida and by all the talented people that surround her. “But also the material itself and cooperation with customers can lead to the creation of something new and original,” she added.

Piret Puppart loves clean lines in silhouettes and plays with them in her designs. „My work is strongly inspired by patterns and symbolism. I do a lot of custom-made designs and start from the client itself, from her personality. The keywords are messages and symbols that I would like my design to convey,“ she stated.

When asking the designers about classifying Estonian design, as well as their own creations, as Nordic, Baltic or Slavic, it rarely results in very strictly drawn boundaries. Tiina Talumees states that she wouldn’t make any decisive classifications based on the origin, but rather on the design aesthetics, like in her case the feminine handwriting. Oksana Tandit adds that her creation is an endless dialogue between Scandinavian pragmatism and Slavic temperament. „Last time when the delegation of Estonian designers was in Toronto, we used the Northern Spirit umbrella concept in our promotional activities, as our design can be classified as Nordic and the Scandinavian design is already very well known in the world for its minimalism and very high quality.” Piret Puppart, on the other hand, thinks that we are different from the other Baltic States, as in terms of colours we are similar to the Slavs, but in the form we resemble the Scandinavians.

Photo rights: Piret Puppart

All in all, the designers agree that fashion design in itself is international and doesn’t feel boundaries, so people are encouraged to experiment with design brands from various countries. But of course, it would be nice, if local people would first and foremost prefer domestic design, as homeland designers need our support for local production and skills development, as well as for the continuous development of the design and fashion sector. Moreover, it gives designers the necessary confirmation of being loved by their own people and the knowledge that what they create matters to us.

The article has been written in collaboration with the Estonian Academy of Arts fashion communication students Mari Riina Rist & Silja Viola Veilberg.

Photo credits: designers

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