Once upon a time there was a tiger in Siberia. He was a very gentle tiger and very kind, but still nobody wanted to come near him and he was very lonely. He cried and he cried in his loneliness. He cried so much his tears turned into a river. And the river’s name is Amur.
“I don’t know if the story’s true,” says Pirjo Suhanen, producer at IvanaHelsinki, shrugging her shoulders. “But me and my sister Paula (the designer behind the Finnish brand IvanaHelsinki) heard it several times as children when Russian kids came to our school. They always told us the same story, the Lonely Tiger story. And years later Paula remembered it, and because she is very much into storytelling, it became the background for our spring/summer 2009 collection.”
The IvanaHelsinki design label was established by the Suhanen sisters in 1998 as an art-fashion-design fusion brand, where a piece is as much an art object as something very wearable.
“The way my sister approaches design is artistic,” says Pirjo. “She never reads fashion magazines, and she doesn’t care about trends.”
Trends come and trends go – Paula Suhonen is more interested in stories.
“She’s always been a kind of storyteller. And the clothes are the realizations of her storytelling.”
The clothes are mostly dresses in either silk or cotton, and they are quite feminine, with frills around the neckline, girly empire cuts and puff sleeves. The prints are edgy, however, especially in this year’s Lonely Tiger collection.
“I’d say they are for women with a rock n’ roll attitude,” says Pirjo, who herself wears a tunic-like cotton dress in taupe with a pale pink print of parrots in rings.

Dress-Go-Around: fashion with true meaning
Another sign of IvanaHelsinki’s “out-of-the-box” thinking, is their latest project, Dress-Go-Around, which is built on the concept of recycling. Ten women are each given an IvanaHelsinki dress to wear and fill with life and experiences for one month. At the end of the month, each woman picks a friend to give the dress to, the friend wears it for a month, gives it to a friend and so on for a year. Each woman has to record special moments during which she wore the dress and have photos taken of herself in the dress as well. One year, 10 dresses, 120 different owners and many unforgettable moments later, a retrospective is planned.
“It was my sister’s idea,” Pirjo explains. “Fashion is accused of being so superficial, but with this idea we show that it needn’t be. A beautiful dress in high quality with a superb cut will look as good today as in ten years. And you know how we attach memories to things, like music? With the Dress-Go-Around the dresses will be worn and loved and memories will be attached to them as well.”
The Suhonen sisters are hoping for 120 great stories from the dresses come next year.