Alongside an exclusive shoot featuring his SS17 collection, Heikki Salonen discusses the radical activists and rebellious subcultures that inspire him
British suffragette Emily Davison and American motorcycle manufacturer Harley Davidson don’t immediately go hand-in-hand, but both inspired the SS17 collection of Finnish designer Heikki Salonen. One represents feminism in one of its earliest and most militant forms, the other, one of the most ‘masculine’ brands in existence – and it’s this kind of juxtaposition that Salonen is drawn to. His latest collection features screen-printed t-shirts bearing the word ‘Canth’ (in reference to Finnish feminist Minna Canth) and biker vests, bootcut trousers, elongated silk shirts and bandanas. Here, alongside images shot by Johanna Laitanen and styled by Dazed contributor Anna Pesonen, the designer discusses this offering, as well as the radical activists and rebellious subcultures that inspired it.
What is Heikki Salonen about for those who may not be familiar with the label?
Heikki Salonen: Heikki Salonen is about style and clothes. It’s thinking about what’s poignant right now, and how this will remain relevant in years to come.
How would you describe your approach to fashion?
Heikki Salonen: I tend to treat fashion as a culture, which can reflect multiple different things. Sometimes these things are quite personal and close to my reality, and sometimes they are quite alien and reflect a deeper meaning. Usually things that I love consist of elements of both of those two worlds in one.
What is this collection about?
Heikki Salonen: For the first time, we focused on designing the collection piece-by-piece instead of doing it outfit-by-outfit. The actual products are at the core of the collection, tweaked into looks that reflect the theme in a bit of an obscure way. We wanted to bring together two opposing concepts: the world of biker clubs, and the ideals of feminism.
What were you main references?
Heikki Salonen: This time it was the biker clubs and early 20th-century feminism, which was triggered by suffragette EW Davison and her bravery.
“We wanted to bringing together two opposing concepts: the world of biker clubs, and the ideas and aesthetics of feminism” – Heikki Salonen
Last season, you sourced your materials from deadstock. Did you do the same this time around?
Heikki Salonen: Yes, this will always stay at the core of my brand. There is a 100-year-old indigo Vichy check and some real painter’s dustcovers from Los Angeles. Again, I’m mixing elements from the world of luxury with some of the most humble and inexpensive materials to make it look interesting, real and exciting.
Does your Finnish or Northern European heritage come through in your clothes at all?
Heikki Salonen: This is quite hard for me to answer as I can’t really see it myself... I am sure there is some sort of Northern element in the psychological process of designing the collection, which surely comes through in my visual references as well. This time, we featured the names of some of the Finnish feminists in our prints such as ‘Canth’ (Minna Canth) and ‘Tove’ (Tove Jansson).
Photography Johanna Laitanen; fashion Anna Pesonen; hair Kota Suizu; casting Noah Shelley at AM Casting; set design Derek Hardie Martin; models Maria Z @ Established, Maria K @ M&P, Chester @ TIAD and Ben