You’ve lived in Finland, New York City, Florence and spent a lot of time in Berlin. Tell us what brought you to Detroit.
A couple years ago, I was living in Florence--I still have my place there--and was very happy working on my designs. I was approached by the College for Creative Studies. They had just opened a new Fashion Accessories School in Detroit and needed someone to run it. I jumped at the chance and flew out there. My job was really to establish and develop the program in a city that’s booming for design, fashion and music. I’ve been running the program for the past two years.
Detroit is a city that’s highly regarded in Berlin, namely for its music scene and its techno influences in Berlin clubs. All the big underground clubs in Berlin book Detroit DJs. It’s this cool vibe to it.
As someone who’s been designing incredible work for years, what is it like now to teach the next generation?
Some people like teaching, some don’t, but for me teaching is a calling. It’s like a social responsibility. I don’t think I’m a “preacher teacher,” I just want to help my students do the best in what it is they do. It makes me happy when students make beautiful things. We must make beautiful things for the world to be more beautiful.
As an artist, I’m very inspired by the youth of today. I’m inspired by their bravery. You know, I loved attitude. I’m very Finnish, very introverted, so I respect and admire the boldness of this new generation of creatives.
Tell us about your experience of New York City in the 80s.
I felt like I landed in some sort of dystopian hell. I arrived from a small town upbringing in Finland, I had never seen anything like this. There were porno theaters on 42nd street, beggars chasing you. It was really scary but also invigorating and exciting. The night clubbing scene is where I really found myself come alive as a creative, and discovered a new side of me.
My favorite club at the time was called The World. I don’t remember the exact location, New York City kind of blended altogether for me during that time. The door person then was Dianne Brill, goddess of New York City’s night life. A lot of 80s designers knew her and loved her. I’ll never forget the night I finally got in. There are quite a few photos from that time, perhaps one day I’ll find one and see myself in the background somewhere.
What does style mean to you?
Style is really about confidence, it’s about not giving a f**k what people think. Style to me means power, it’s liberty--it’s a call to march to the beat of your own drum.
Who are your style icons?
I love Hamish Bowles, he’s the European editor-at-large for the American Vogue. I just think he’s really fantastic. I also love historical design figures like Mariano Fortuny.
How was your experience with Riot Bear?
It was fantastic, just the synergy with everything, arriving and being made up. I’ve never done a photoshoot in New York City before. I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.
shirt by Aki Choklat for Petrifun, socks by Uniqlo, sock garters by Aki Choklat x Albert Thurston, bowtie by JCRT, pocket square by Aki Choklat, suspenders by Aki Choklat x Albert Thurston, suit by Savile Row - Cad & The Dandy made to measure, shoes by Diego Vanassibara / coat by Maison Margiela, hat by Aki Choklat umbrella by Condord / turtleneck by Uniqlo, pants by Brook Brothers, jacket by Marc Jacobs, ring by Ōura, scarf by Destin, shoes by Aki Choklat Privé / windbreaker by Aki Choklat