Interview with Jaime de Vizcaya and Yuan Long

The couple behind 2.elämä walks us through the four years of adventure since this eco-friendly design firm was established. Get ready to know all about their astonishing Body Harness Collection 2015.

Yuan and Jaime in their office
Helsinki-based designers Jaime de Vizcaya and Yuan Long. / PHOTO: 2.elämä

It’s been four years since the beginning of the 2.elämä project. How has the brand evolved through this time?

Jaime: Part of our evolution has been that we have been working little by little in different areas. 2.elämä’s designs are now present, not only in jewellery, but also in fashion and home decoration. We have even carried out some interior design projects and we’ve collaborated with other companies.

Yuan: But maybe our biggest achievement in all this time is that we have fulfilled our original idea, which was to set up an eco-friendly design brand called Toinen Elämä (2.elämä). It is important to remember that the fact that a product has been manufactured under environmental concerns is not enough. Design, originality and functionality have to be present too. After these four years we have reached certain awareness within our field. In Finland people now recognise our brand and they talk about it.

The Finnish economy is now going through a period of recession. How has this situation affected you as entrepreneurs?

J: Our practises and philosophy have helped us keep floating despite the current situation in Finland. Sustainability can be understood as a political and social concern, but there is also an economic side to it. We produce locally, which means we don’t need to have a big stock. On the other hand, the fact that we are working with recycled materials makes it easy for us to establish a mutual-benefit relationship with other companies. We go and directly pick up some of the items they want get rid of. This way, they spare the money of transporting them to the recycling centre and we obtain the materials we will be working with. Read more

The sweetest second life

The sweetest second life

Helsinki, one chilly afternoon of fall 2010. Jaime and Yuan’s daughter is three years old when she becomes stubborn asking for a bow. At first, her parents don’t have any intention to throw on a coat and head out onto the street in desperate search for one before shops will close their doors. However, you know how little reasonable small girls can get when they consider a concrete item is missing in their fantasy world (and even more if we are talking about such a very precious – and pink – detail).

Starting to feel the urgency for finding a solution to this unexpected family crisis, Mexican Jaime de Vizcaya comes up with an original idea: he is going to create a rubber bow out of some old bicycle tires, which have a worn-out inner tube manufactured in brown that now looks conveniently pinkish. As soon as they finish the bow and witness the emotion on their daughter’s face, they recognise the potential of it.

Of course, the fact that both Jaime and his Chinese wife, Yuan Long, had an extensive background in the field of design, helped to easily turn a family anecdote into a business idea. Thus, a new professional adventure soon started for them with the creation of Toinen Elämä (also written 2.elämä), their eco-friendly brand that sells jewellery, complements and items for home decoration, all created from recycled materials. The name of the brand means ‘second life’ in Finnish.

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Detail of the ‘Butterfly’ collection, feminine complements made out of recycled bicycle and car inner tube. / PHOTO: 2.elämä.

The story
Yuan arrived in Helsinki in 1999 to study at the University of Art and Design, today part of the Aalto University, from where she graduated in the ceramics department later. In 2002 she spent one year as an exchange student in the US, where she first took lessons in jewellery design. Read more

The team

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Rossi&Eva

Hola a todos! Hallo an alle! Hi everyone! My name is Eva Blanco, I am 25 and I come from Spain. I studied journalism in Madrid, and I was lucky enough to spend the fourth year of the degree in Finland as an Erasmus exchange student. My experience in the northern country was so amazing that I decided to go back after having obtained my qualification. Thus, I lived in Helsinki for yet another year in which I had the opportunity to work for a Finnish weekly newspaper and monthly magazine published in English. Subsequently they are called Helsinki Times and SixDegrees.

Last December I moved to Düsseldorf (Germany). Ever since I got here my top priority has been learning the local language. The German grammar is a nightmare. I am sure the group of guys who created it are still laughing at us. But, as a whole, I’d say that I am getting to like it. When you study a language in such an intensive way it’s easy to notice a fast progress, which at the same time motivates you to keep up the hard work – though some days you wish you could just go barking around. Read more