September 19, 2014

Ecological, reusable wedding dresses drive Finnish fashion success in London

All Minna clothes are made to order and as much as 90 per cent of the wedding gowns are slightly altered for their users.
All Minna clothes are made to order and as much as 90 per cent of the wedding gowns are slightly altered for their users.
Minna Hepburn

Finnish fashion designer Minna Hepburn has been creating vintage inspired clothing in England for almost a decade. Her third bridal collection highlights the philosophy that clothes should not be designed for one time wear.

It was love that took Minna Hepburn to England and the countryside of Dorset where her fashion label ‘Minna’ was born in 2008. The showroom has since moved to London but a bit of country romance has remained. It is a world of lace, wedding gowns and delicate accessories but for the modern bride:

“My new collection is very light, youthful and inspired by evening gowns. My principle has always been that my wedding dresses can be used more than once and for various occasions,” describes Hepburn.

Minna Hepburn’s advice to anyone dreaming of working in the fashion industry is that you need to be ready to work very hard and market yourself.

Minna Hepburn’s advice to anyone dreaming of working in the fashion industry is that you need to be ready to work very hard and market yourself.

Minna Hepburn

Minna designs reimagine the vintage style with the principles of being ecological and affordable. This is admirable as all clothes are handmade to order in London and their materials like traditional English and Scottish lace are locally sourced. There is some importing from Asia, but nothing goes to waste and any leftover materials are transformed into accessories.

“My Finnishness is most represented in my ecological thinking, but also in that we are not making a lot of noise about it. In Scandinavia sustainability is more obvious part of life than here,” says Hepburn.

“Some brands make a big fuss about being green, but for us it’s a natural part of the way we do things. Fashion should be fun and focus on great design.”

Not the traditional fashion route

Hepburn’s own journey into fashion is far from traditional. After majoring in war studies and working in the banking sector, her honeymoon in Asia in 2003 introduced her to the local clothes industry. Without any formal training, Hepburn started making silk garments which found their way onto the shelves of high street chains such as Topshop.

But it took a few more years before Hepburn found her true calling for vintage style fashion and a passion was transformed into a full-blown business. Since then Hepburn has been awarded for her sustainable fashion both in the UK and Finland and her clothes have been featured in magazines like Elle, Vogue and Cosmopolitan. She has created collections for women, children, home and ready-to-wear, but the most successful niche was found to be bridal fashion – entirely by coincidence.

Minna’s new bridal collection launched in early September.

Minna’s new bridal collection launched in early September.

Minna Hepburn

“I don’t even care for wedding dresses that much. For me the atmosphere, people and enough champagne are the most important parts of a wedding,” Hepburn says with a laugh.

“But my business model needed a change and I noticed many of my customers bought my dresses to use at their wedding. This is how the idea for the first bridal collection was born. We were able to attract the interest of fashion bloggers and our collection got plenty of attention.”

For Hepburn, blogs and social media are the most important marketing channels in the fashion industry today. There are no country limits online and, although Minna’s biggest markets are England and Finland, orders are received from all over the world.

“We constantly receive enquiries from boutiques who want to stock our dresses, but that would mean raising our prices significantly. That is not what I want yet, or maybe ever, as it wouldn’t be the brand I wanted to build,” says Hepburn.

For now Minna focuses on sales through its online store and showrooms in London and Helsinki as the label pushes for growth in Europe. But Hepburn’s long term aim is to build a global bridal brand that retains its ecological values and the message that a wedding dress should not be a one wear purchase. It is a philosophy that has the potential to go far.

Minna focuses on sales through its online store and showrooms in London and Helsinki as the label pushes for growth in Europe.

Minna focuses on sales through its online store and showrooms in London and Helsinki as the label pushes for growth in Europe.

Eeva Haaramo

Text: Eeva Haaramo

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