The Finnish soul travels in a pair of shoes

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Clogs made in Finland and designed by Terhi Pölkki. PHOTO: Terhi Pölkki.

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.

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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