pictures: inlace media, pihla laine
writer:ona rihu

Clothes made out of nettle, raw silk and hemp, is it a thing? Oh yes it is! New age fashion designer Aino Kovalainen made it happen with her Finnish clothing brand Nokonen. Her brand is totally Mother Earth loving and ready to bring some spring to your closet. We got inspired by the beautiful colors and shapes of her clothes and decided to combine it with some vibrant spring tones from Zuii Organics on our faces. 

Read Aino's thoughts on sustainable fashion, working for yourself and feeling beautiful. 

Introduce yourself shortly, who is Aino Kovalainen?

I’m a 31-year-old artist soul with a side of diligence and getting things done. My family is from Kainuu, but I’ve spent my life moving around inside Finland and other countries while never really rooting myself in one place. Craftsmanship runs deep in my family. Ever since primary school I’ve felt a calling towards the textile- and clothing field. I’ve always had skills in that area and to this day it’s still the only line of business I’ve been interested in. I’ve always had a strange and lively imagination and that’s where I source a lot of my ideas from.

What’s your inspiration behind Nokonen?

I’ve dreamt of my own brand for over 10 years, and Nokonen is the result. I finally feel like I’m free to do what I want and work according to my own values. There are no limits or boundaries to my design or execution. I observe my surroundings and gather inspiring things into my mind and combine them into new innovations.

I often create patterns just by painting the canvas with whatever comes to mind and letting my paintbrush move freely. Whenever i feel the need for a certain type of garment I simply create one. The best ideas often come from “mistakes”. You need more than just inspiration to create a functional garment. Skill and knowledge about the production process, materials etc. are also very important factors. I’ve kept improving myself in these fields for ten years by studying and working in versatile tasks in design, manufacturing, sales and clothes maintenance.


Why is sustainability important to you? How does that show in your brand? 

Being environmentally friendly has always played a big role in my life. Ever since I was little I’ve been taught about the imporance of recycling, useful plants and respecting nature. Because of this background it’s been kind of obvious for me to build my brand according to these values. The whole production process of Nokonen is sustainable. I use ecological fabrics and aim to design clothes that are timeless and multi-use. 

Do you have any tips for someone who wants to pursue a sustainable career?

Educate yourself and never let go of your values. Being sustainable might not always be the cheapest or fastest way to go, but it’s all the more rewarding. I’ve noticed it’s difficult to stand behind your values while working for someone else since brands often have their own production process already figured out. That’s why I’m happy to be able to build a process that is true to my values.

How to be stylish while still respecting mother earth?

I think it’s pretty easy. There are new interesting and ecological materials being invented all the time. It doesn’t take much research from a consumer to find a more environmentally friendly option for fashion. Especially smaller brands often pay attention to ethical and sustainable factors. I think natural fibres like nettle, hemp, and banana fibers are a wonderfully luxurious and interesting choice of material. I don’t see why choose anything more harmful to the environment. 
I also like to to modify old clothes. Sometimes making something new out of something you already own is a better option than buying a new garment. This way you’ll get something unique to wear. You should always pay attention to the quality and material of a garment, whether you’re buying it new or used. High quality clothes are also easier to recycle or modify than low quality. 
Flea markets have unique and bold fashion. They’re a much better place to find clothes than low-quality production companies, but it’s good to remember to check the quality also when thrift shopping. Flea markets also encourage a certain type of mass consumerism,
because people tend to thing they can buy clothes with little consideration and sell them later if they have no use for it.

Lastly, what makes you feel beautiful?

I like to dress bold and stand out from the crowd. When I'm wearing something that looks and feels good, I feel confident and through that: beautiful. For Nokonen I also try to create so called power clothes. Clothes that make you feel good, confident and unique when you wear them. I think the fact that most of Nokonen’s clothes are unique will emphasise the feeling of individuality for the customer. Also fresh air, nature and enjoying what mother earth has to offer always makes you more beautiful!