“Be bold, creative and challenge yourself with every project so that with time you’ll learn to love the problem solving that comes with thinking outside the box.”

Essi Peuhkuri, winner of the YKK Accessories Award, spent much her time at university feeling as though her multi-faceted approach to design, made her an outsider to the traditional industry. Taking this feeling and harnessing its creativity, meant that Essi was able to transform this into her final collection, titled ‘Minussa’ which translates to ‘in me’ in Finnish.

We caught up with Essi ahead of her participation in an exhibition at the YKK London Showrooms, based in Shoreditch to find out her plans to pursue fashion artefacts, why she transferred her studies from Finland to Nottingham and how she became an independent designer.

Firstly, a huge congratulations on winning at Graduate Fashion Week 2018! What award did you win?

Thank you! I won the YKK Accessories Award at Graduate Fashion Week 2018.

How did it feel when your name was read out?

It felt both unbelievable and extremely rewarding. It was definitely one of those moments I’ll remember for the rest of my life. 

Which university did you attend, and how do you think they prepared you for graduation?

I attended Nottingham Trent University and I feel like they prepared me well for graduation by introducing different market levels by having a variety of different industry briefs as well as personal projects. Having an emphasis on independent learning has also made me a more independent designer for the future. 

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Describe the inspiration and concept behind your work.

My designs were inspired by my multidisciplinary design background - I am a clothing artisan from time before university and I have also studied clothing design in Finland before transferring to NTU to study Fashion Accessory Design. I never felt comfortable calling myself specifically a fashion or an accessory designer, which led me into feeling homeless in the design industry at times. Inspired by this feeling I created my final collection 'Minussa' (Finnish for 'in me'). Minussa is a fashion / accessory - hybrid collection that reflects my different sides as a designer by offering contemporary handcrafted leather products with functional twists.

What one thing would you recommend our readers do whilst at the event?

I would encourage readers to talk to the designers exhibiting their work at GFW if they are present at the stand. The designers are usually happy to discuss their work and it will give you a better understanding of the inspiration behind the pieces and allow you to ask questions as well. 

Photography by Will Barker

What do you plan to pursue now, and where do you hope to be in five years time?

At the moment I´m looking to apply for a Fashion Artefact Masters program in London College of Fashion. In five years time I´d hope to have my own innovative handbag/accessories brand but first I want to get some more experience from working in the industry.

If you could give one piece of advice to yourself in first year, what would it be?

Believe in yourself and your ideas and don´t be afraid of not fitting in. Be bold, creative and challenge yourself with every project so that with time you´ll learn to love the problem solving that comes with thinking outside the box. 

Interview by Annabel Waterhouse-Biggins