Kuula + Jylhä

by Maike Moncayo,

Two friends from Finland, Essi and Marika, whose paths crossed more than ten years ago in an art course, are to be found behind the resounding name Kuula + Jylhä . Today, the duo shares more than their love for art, namely, their own brand of beautifully hand-made shoes. Their last collection “Until All I Felt Was My Heart Beating” was inspired by organic beauty, presenting a collection that points at that fine balance between delicacy and roughness. The harmonic shoe forms are complemented by the coarseness of the raw wood, leading to an interesting dialogue. In a brief interview, Marika Essi and tell us all about their sustainable project.

What was the starting point of your last collection?

In the collection “Until All I Felt Was My Heart Beating” our theme was the modern hippies. Essi had been writing her graduation thesis, where she made a portrait of an imaginary modern hippie society and their values, habits and ways of living. Then we ran into Iain McKell’s great photo series called the “New Gypsies”, which was very inspiring visually. Those were our starting points when we began making material experiments and sketching the forms for the collection.

What’s the perfect shoe for you like?

Oh, that’s a tough one! At first the shoe last has to be good. Then the materials have to be beautiful and of perfect quality. And it has to be well made. Comfortable enough but spiced with an original twist. All that, and then when you look at them and wear them you have to feel tiny little butterflies in your tummy. Then you can be sure you have quite perfect shoes in front of you.

Whose shoes would you like to be in for a day?

There would be many people around the world in whose shoes it would be interesting to be in for a day – quite hard to decide only one. We have one trusted shoemaker in Helsinki, who sometimes helps us in difficult or surprising situations. He’s around 60 years old and seen a lot in the world of making shoes. It would be amazing to have all that knowledge and experience for yourself at least for one single day. Preferably for a longer time…

Who do you look up to?

We look up to genuine, honest people who have courage to do things differently and to think out of the box. People who have a passion and who are making their visions come through.

How did you two find together and how do you complement each other work wise?

We met ten years ago in an art course. We didn’t really talk to each other in that course, because we are both quite shy. But we were both thinking in our minds: “She seems to be nice”. Next autumn after that course we surprisingly got accepted to the same art school and since then we have been best friends.

During these years we have been working on our own, but we always talked about our projects to each other and tried helping each other out. Our ways of thinking are very similar, so it has always been very easy to describe our visions to the other.

We have been discussing for a long time that we should work together and in 2011, we finally started making it real.

Marika has a background in shoe design and clothing, so she’s strong with the shoe making technics, durations and how to put all the pieces together. Essi graduated in textile design as her major, so she’s good with textures and structures. Her material experiments inspire Marika to try different kind of things. Probably also because Essi hasn’t studied shoe design at school, she doesn’t have any limits in designing shoes and this stretches both of us to try things differently and see them from a different angle. We both love beautiful materials, colors and sculptural forms. During the design process we are constantly changing thoughts and ideas and continuing each other’s sketches and experiments. In that way, if the other one is stuck, the other one can help it her move forward. It has been a really wonderful and inspiring journey so far.

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