NO/AN: From North to South Fashion - 10 September 2018
Finnish Anna Lehmusniemi lives in Brussels, where she also has her studio. The workshop that manufactures her handbags is in Portugal. NO/AN is above all a wonderful human story, in step with the international spirit of the European capital that is the cradle of a brand which cultivates the Slow and put ethics at the centre of its creative approach.
TLmag: You could have continued to work for international brands. But you instead decided to concentrate on accessories, specifically handbags. Why?
Anna Lehmusniemi : At the start of my career, I had several professional experiences as a textile designer, but when I moved to Belgium in 2012, I got a job in leather goods. Handbag design immediately attracted me, to the point of inspiring me to launch my own collection. I wanted to make a living from my passion. And my passion is handbags.
You are from northern Europe, a part of the world where fashion is sombre, functional, without fuss. Do you apply this rational approach to your collections?
I think that designers from northern Europe create fashion that is both timeless and minimalist, with a strong identity that avoids the trap of routine. This is the approach I wanted to adopt for NO/AN
As a Finn living in Brussels, how would you define your DNA?
While my six years in Brussels have certainly influenced me, I still feel deeply Finnish. I remain determined, pragmatic and down-to earth. My minimalist, architectural and rather geometric style is clearly influenced by my northern heritage.
Timelessness goes hand in hand with quality, two words that, through their use, sometimes lose their relevance. In the context of NO/AN, how does your quest for a quality product materialise?
For me, quality comes from a design that makes sense. But the materials and the artisans who produce my bags must equally be of a very high level. Customer service also plays a key role in producing a quality bag. I want my clients to love my creations and keep them for a long time. When the leather of my bags acquires patina, they are actually more beautiful and softer.
Your brand is a response to overconsumption. How did you realise that you could make a difference?
When I decided to create my brand, I felt free to offer products that embody the values that matter to me: sustainability, authenticity, workmanship and traceability. I also take care that my production does not exceed the demand.
You work with a workshop in Portugal. How does this collaboration function?
It’s a small family workshop run by two sisters who pay careful attention to their workers. I like the welcome I receive from them during my visits, and the workshop. Each NO/AN handbag is produced from start to finish by the same craftsperson. It’s a way to involve them totally in the production process. During my contact with these people, I have learned a lot about the product itself (the different types of leather, the production, etc.), but also about Portuguese culture.
Is your ethical approach to fashion applied in other areas?
In my way of consuming, principally. I almost never shop anymore, but when I do, I focus on designer pieces that I will wear for multiple seasons.
Which handbag is most emblematic of your collection, and why?
The Flap, a handbag that, while rather simple, displays the strongest identity. It is one of my bestsellers.
Interview by Marie Honnay
NO/AN - Atelier
NO/AN - Atelier
NO/AN - Atelier
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Wallonie-Bruxelles Design Mode is closely collaborating with TLmag for interviewing a selection of Belgian talents in fashion and design from Wallonia and Brussels, in order to promote them on the international scene.
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