Designerin Sofia Ilmonen

©Sofia Ilmonen
©Sofia Ilmonen
Sofia Ilmonen about unique modular haute couture fashion and sustainable design approaches.

Hello Sofia, thank you for your time. Could you give us a short introduction to you and your brand? How would you describe your brand?

I work as an independent fashion designer focusing on sustainable and modular transformable collections. The garments are constructed from square modules, assembled with a button and loop mechanism offering endless possibilities to transform and modify the pieces.

My design approach strongly embraces femininity with ethical and sustainable values, having won the Mercedes-Benz sustainability award at the 36th edition of the prestigious Festival de Mode de Hyères in 2021. I graduated from London College of Fashion, and before moving back home to Helsinki, Finland, to accomplish her MA degree in fashion design at Aalto University, I gained deep experience and skill in various technical roles in fashion, amongst as seamstress Alexander McQueen.

The brand reflects longevity, explores modularity and celebrates the diversity of femininity.

The core idea of the concept lies in transformable modular design which seeks to enable garments’ own longevity through the unique structure, yet uniform shape of the modules. Simultaneously the modular clothes entail a promise of fashion novelty, as the identical square shape of each pattern piece does not determine the function on the garment later on. Therefore they can be reassembled in new ways again and again.

The silhouettes of all the collection garments are created by folding and gathering the squares into shape. The modules are assembled together with a mechanism which allows endless modifications or complete transformations on the style without sewing. Moreover, this structure makes the garments sizeless and therefore can cater many different body shapes and sizes. The building blocks of the garment stay the same, but the form can be different with just a move of a button.

Sustainable fashion is more and more in the customers mind and also something they expect when it comes to quality. What is your approach on this topic when it comes to your designs?

In the modular concept haute couture techniques are intervened with ready-to-wear clothing creating luxury garments with a feminine, timeless style. Luxury, that is designed to last for generations. Materials are carefully curated for their durability and quality. They are also chosen for their sustainability as minimizing the impact on the environment is in the heart of the company. The chosen suppliers have committed themselves and their suppliers to comply with strict environmental and sustainability standards such as Oeko-Tex certification, REACH and ZDHC MRSL regulations.

Also craftsmanship and local production comes with this topic - how are you producing and what is important to you?

The modules are manufactured with the highest standards, by hand. The beauty of craftsmanship is evident on every module where each button loop tape is sewn one by one. One full module takes around nine hours to sew and an entire twelve module garment around 50 hours to craft. The technique honors the art of sewing at the same time as it demonstrates the dedication given to a transformable piece that is designed for longevity. Supporting the artisanal tradition and know-how here in Finland, the production of the modular garments is located close by the studio in Helsinki.

How do you see the development on sustainable fashion when you look back to when you started your studies to today?

Sustainable fashion used to concentrate merely on eco friendly materials where as now there are more holistic thinking around the fashion system and how that could be more sustainable and circular. Much is not resolved with changing the material of mass produced garments into more eco friendly if it just feeds the same fast fashion cycle. Therefore it is great to see that there are much more holistic fashion thinking in place today.

What will be next and what do you think can we how can we sensitise female buyers or even get them excited about sustainable fashion?

I will carry on working with modular transformable clothing which can offer new perspectives on how to approach sustainable fashion. At the moment I am developing new ideas to transform the collection modules into new silhouettes, styles and stories. The versatility of such a simple shape as a square still inspires me!

Sustainable fashion is exciting and it is far from the stubborn conception of being shapeless sacks. There are many great sustainable brands that don’t get enough attention because of their small size and limited resources. The challenge is to give the sustainable brands more coverage and make it as easily accessible as possible for a larger audience.

You opened the last Berlin Fashion Week in March 2022 – what was your feeling about the Berlin Fashion scene?

Berlin fashion scene is unique and genuine. I also appreciate how strongly the focus is on sustainability. I loved the experience in Berlin Fashion Week, not just because it was my first own show but also the sense of community and feeling of optimism in the times of difficulty.

Have you seen any labels/brands from Berlin who did inspire you? Or was it the city itself?

Berlin is super exciting city and endless source of inspiration. It feels like every time I visit I find something new and interesting!

Do we see you again in Berlin for the Fashion Week?

I really hope so!

Thank you for the interview!