3.17.2013

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH DUSTY'S MARJUT UOTILA

I have nothing but great admiration for Scandinavian designers. So it's indeed a pleasure to introduce to you guys to a very talented designer from Helsinki. Dusty is an avant-garde menswear label by Finnish designer Marjut Uotila. The conceptual label mixes minimalist Scandinavian design with traditional menswear aesthetics and modern art to create wearable garments. 

Here's my very insightful in-depth interview with Marjut. Read on guys.
What is the title of your latest collection? Can you tell us the concept behind it?
The collection was inspired by threedimensional shapes, creating another dimension to sartorial dressing. By applying specialist techniques to created padded surfaces, closely knitted cardigans and structure jackets, I aimed to shape a cushioned cocoon around wearers. Shelling them from the elements and the outside world, ever so in turmoil. In many ways it is a study of texture, fabric and colour, morphing and challenging the traditional menswear silhouette.

Just out of curiosity, how did you come up with "Dusty", the name of your label?
Dusty was actually a rodeo star in 80's TV series "Dallas." I used to watch it when I was a kid, although my parents thought I was too young and should have been to bed when it was on. When I designed my first Dusty collection as my final project at designschool many years ago, I went back to these memories and decided to name a collection after this particular cowboy.
What are the things that normally inspire you? What kind of music do you listen to?
Generally, I am very much inspired by atmospheres, emotions, feelings and very abstract things. Lately my life, has been so hectic that in the studio I have actually enjoyed working in total silence. In such calm moments, pensive processes and intelligent reflections on design are possible, which allow me to breathe and focus.

What was your fashion sense like growing up in Finland? Have you always been drawn to unconventional fashion? And who were your fashion heroes then?
Ouch, well Finland in the 1980's was a real fashion void. Seeing a photo of some Jean-Paul Gaultier creation could have been my highlight of a year. It was like a door to a different, unknown world. Personally, I think that I have always been drawn to beautiful things and have aimed to escape to an imaginary world of my own.
When did you realize you want to make clothes for a living?
That is an easy one: it is the only thing I have ever wanted to do.

What were the toughest obstacles you had starting up a conceptual label like Dusty? And how did you overcome these hick-ups?
As a smaller, independent fashion label it is never easy to develop your work. DUSTY is centered around the concept of working with eco-friendly quality materials and innovative fabrics. Henceforth at times, finances, or the lack of them, can work as a restrictive force. At the same time one has to fight for commercial and artistic success. But nevertheless, it is worth every trouble along the way! Design is wonderful and a celebration of creativity and high motivational force.
Several designers are teaming up with high street powerhouses to increase brand awareness. In the past, Dusty collaborated with Topman. What was the outcome of this joint venture? How did this benefit your brand?
For me this was interesting, since Topman collaboration reaches a very wide audience. Many men who didn't know Dusty before, suddenly discovered our aesthetic, which was a lovely opportunity. This drew a lot of attention to the main collection as well, which allowed us to reach out to new clients, stores and media.

What was it like creating a capsule collection for a retail empire like Topman? How hands-on were you as the guest designer?
Indeed, it was quite hands-on. For me it is important to always work on a mannequin to make the patterns and shapes three-dimensional. For Topman I made small mock-ups of every detail so they could better interpret my sketches and my vision. In the end this resulted in several highly characteristic pieces, that showed elements of the DUSTY universe well.
Most Scandinavian designers are known for black, minimalism and clean lines. What sets your work apart from you contemporaries? Do you have some sort of special treatment or procedure that can exclusively attributed to your label? Can you cite some covetable iconic Dusty pieces?
Generally, was sets us apart are the fabric treatments, that are an essential part of Dusty. A lot of time is spent researching materials, colouring them, working on new ways to use colours, textures and surfaces. Furthermore, we often incorporate oversized knitted, crocheted and woven detailing that is all entirely handmade. That is something that our customers call "very Dusty".

Finally, the last few seasons we have been working on devore printing techniques, where the image is burned on a fabric and that makes the image three-dimensional. This is a highly technical and precise process, again something very close to the DUSTY universe.

Dusty is still entirely being produced in Finland. It's no surprise that the Scandinavian region in general has a very high standard of living. Have you ever thought of moving the production to cut costs perhaps somewhere in Asia, South America or even in Eastern Europe?
DUSTY is very proud to maintain its made in Finland standards, which are essential to my philosophy of sustainable and quality design. Our garments have a lot of detailing that is entirely made by hand. Therefore, I very much like to work closely with the ateliers so we can communicate better and on a more meaningful level. The process thus becomes highly personal. 
You oftentimes utilize sustainable materials for your garments. Why should more designers incorporate eco-friendly materials to their products?
In my opinion, I think it is about time designers take responsibility to make things better. To use eco-friendly materials, to have fair production and to design garments that withstand the tests of time. I'm glad to see that more and more people are aware and appreciate how and where their garments are made.

Lately, there has been an influx of unisex brands from Scandinavia. In my opinion, Dusty is part of that movement. What are your thoughts on androgynous fashion? And where do you draw the line between androgyny and cross-dressing?
As a woman, I like to challenge myself in designing menswear. I like to design for somebody else than myself. Dusty is designed and fitted for men but women can of course wear them too if they like to. And a lot of women do :) I don't mind that at all.

Lately I have thought a lot about skirts, how to make skirt-like garments for men. That is quite a puzzle indeed.
For more information on Dusty check out www.dusty.fi

Special shout-out to Marlo Saalmink for making this interview possible.