This week, Mr. Wolf had a chat with Emilia Hernesniemi, one of the co-founders and designers of R/H clothing, about how two friends transformed a pie-in-the-sky graduate dream into a flourishing international brand.
Emilia Hernesniemi, and her partner in crime, Hanna Riiheläinen, met whilst completing their masters degrees at the University of Art & Design in Helsinki. Both are from Finland, Hanna from the outer suburbs of Helsinki and Emilia from the small town of Oulu. Emilia says, “We were both surrounded by water and forest but we both reached out for the same kind of urban vibes. These vibes were only available via channels like MTV and movies like Dirty Dancing and The Karate Kid.”
The girls decided to work together before graduating. “We had already realized we had the same vision concerning clothes and style. We both had the courage to jump from the cliff and try to make it. There are not many people who are willing to do that.”
After creating a rehearsal collection for AW/10, they started R/H clothing and began working on their first commercial collection, SS/10. Their first season was received with phenomenal success, selling to retailers across Europe and even New York. “We were scared as hell, but there was nothing that we would’ve rather done.”
Since then, R/H has gone from strength to strength, scoring spreads in countless magazines and increasing their international profile. Their collections have become more cohesive and coherent, using a recognizable design vocabulary that draws heavily from Nordic minimalism. “We try to use minimalistic aspects as well as possible, and mix it with a bit of black magic and curvy feminism. That is how the best pieces are born, just like the Mickey Dress.”
R/H clothing is inspired by music, spaces and the female anatomy. “There is no place that cannot be implemented to inspiration. The concrete translation is very often an emphasis to the garment’s attitude: a cut, a colour, or an atmosphere.”
The clothing is about clean lines, feminine cuts, and playful and colourful prints. Pieces are carefully crafted for comfort using materials like silk, bamboo jersey and ecological reindeer leather. “The clothes work for themselves, just like a bike, or a good song.” Finally, designers that want us to be comfortable, and look cool at the same time!
Both Emilia and Hanna probably owe their intuitive practicality and sharp design skills to their origins. “Our introduction comes through the world of design; prints, furniture, spaces, architecture and ceramics. We know the Finnish design perspective by heart, whether we want to or not.”
These two have very cleverly bridged the gap between all their sources of inspiration, managed the difficult challenge of launching a label, and have simultaneously, and quite miraculously, remained cool, calm and stylish. What an inspiring pair.
Emilia and Hanna are currently working on collaborations with the sneaker brand Karhu Originals and Flow Festival. And what’s in store for the future? “We will spend the up-coming months in New York getting a glimpse of the future for R/H. We definitely want to see how long this party lasts.”
Words: Annie Ferguson