Finnish designer Terhi Pölkki began drawing clothes as a teenager, but, after high school she decided to concentrate solely on shoes. London was the place where she discovered the secrets of this profession. The hectic city had been a longtime dream of hers and so she moved there to experience its cultural sphere. In January 2008 she graduated from London College of Fashion. Earning a Master’s Degree in Cordwainers, the institution changed her whole perception of learning how to design shoes.
After designing for premium UK brands such as Topshop for over three years, the ‘Terhi Pölkki’ brand was launched in Helsinki in the autumn of 2011. Only three years later she was able to commercialise her collections in markets all over the world – especially in the USA, Europe and, little by little, Japan. She has also been appointed “Accessory Designer of the year 2014”, an award granted by the Elle magazine in Finland. A rapid success that relies mostly on her capacity to develop an unique style intimately attached to her Finnish roots: clean and minimalistic aesthetics, sober colours – with some brilliant exceptions-, and, above all, a decisive bet for natural prime materials. Terhi not only reflects who she is through her designs, she also tells the story of where she comes from.
Pölkki’s brand, Pölkki’s rules
While working for other brands, Terhi got familiar with very big factories in Brazil, China, and India. Thus, she got to see the mass production side of the fashion industry (when it’s only the quantity that matters), which produced a deeply negative impact on her.
That was the moment when she started thinking about the possibility of establishing her own brand (a Scandinavian fortress from where conducting business her own way. ) So, once the decision was taken, one of the first things to be established was that her manufacturer would be in Europe, in order to keep close supervision of the production process. Then it was time to think about the materials she was going to work with, and she came up with a very interesting, and eco-friendly, proposal…
“I think all designers should be aware of the problems that surround the fashion industry, and in particular the ones concerning mass production processes,” says the Finnish designer. “We are in the front line, which means we have the possibility to make a big difference just with a small effort. It is in our hands to make better products for the environment.”
Since its creation, the ‘Terhi Pölkki’ brand has always operated in a sustainable manner. For example, by carefully selecting high-quality ecological materials for the fabrication of her shoes and accessories. Also, by offering good working conditions for all its employees in Portugal and Finland. Craftsmanship is a core value too.
In this sense, one of the winning combinations for Terhi is the one composed of birch wood and vegetan leather, which is vegetable tanned (it does not contain chrome or hard metals). According to the brand’s website, the tanning process of the leather also takes the environment into consideration by reducing water consumption, drying the leather at room temperature and re-using the solid waste as fertilisers.
The latest collection of the brand (S/S 2015), which has taken Terhi to Berlin and New York, focusses more on shoes for different occasions and times of the day. Thus, this new set of designs introduce pointed toe pumps that can be worn both for work and to an evening out. Partially inspired in the aesthetics of the 70’s, in the collection there is also space for sand-toned pieces such as gladiator-sandals and unlined lace ups made out of thick vegetan leather. Strong elements such as petrol and burgundy colours are also to be found, together with another interesting novelty: new unisex slip-on sneakers.
Text: Eva Blanco