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Minutes with Outi, Mainio’s designer

An afternoon with Outi Mäkinen, Mainio's head of design

What is Mainio like?

“Mainio is unique, witty and sustainable.”

What’s Mainio’s design philosophy?

“We’ve always wanted Mainio to represent slow fashion. Although we want to be current and inspired by, for example, street style that tends to move fast, our collections have to be timeless, so that they can be loved for years and by different kids. Even though Finland lives through four very distinct seasons, our clothes aren't season-specific – your kid can have a summer adventure in our winter collection and vice versa. We put out two collections a year, but we’d love our clothes to be seen as sustainable collectibles to be loved and cherished. I don’t follow what’s in vogue at the moment so that I’m able to detach myself from fast fashion and design something that is unique and timeless.”

Outi - Mainios designer at work

What is the most important thing to keep in mind when designing clothes for children?

“Nowadays, the way I think about kids’ clothes is more practical – when I didn’t have kids, my designs were more fanciful and free (laughs). With two small boys, in Finnish conditions with strong seasons and the ever-present element of nature, my designs need to have a little more pragmatism. It’s extremely important to think about materials. The clothes have to be practical and comfortable, and the kids have to be able to put the clothes on without help. Everything I design is made to live with kids and support them in their adventures, so they need to be easy to move in and utterly comfortable. There also needs to be an element of fun. Different kids like different things, but I try to put a bit of personality into my prints and my garments. I don’t believe there is a single design that would be loved by every kid around the globe, but everyone likes a bit of personality.”

What’s the best thing about designing clothes?

“The most wonderful thing is to hear that kids love the clothes that I’ve designed. If I can design someone’s favourite outfit, I’m happy. I love drawing funny little characters and it’s amazing if they resonate with someone. The feeling of accomplishment when I finally manage to draw something that comes alive is what keeps me going.

What inspires you?

“My sources of inspiration are ever-changing. It’s usually a random thing that sticks in my mind and ends up as a part of my collection. It could be anything, really. I browse a lot of imagery online: art, interior design and other inspirational pictures. Each collection starts with a collection of inspiring imagery and mood boards. When I didn’t have kids, I travelled around the globe and was hugely inspired by street style from bigger cities such as London and New York. I often sat in cafés people-watching and picked details from strangers’ outfits. Back home, I transformed my street style sightings into something applicable to kids’ clothing. Although I don’t travel as much nowadays, I continue to be inspired and impressed by combinations that I see on street style images online. When it comes to colours,  I love unconventional colour combinations. I actually love all  things unusual and unexpected. I also like to wander in forests and be present in nature – it has become a huge source of inspiration for me.

What has inspired you lately?

“The inspiration for the upcoming fall collection came from a trip to the forest. My family lives right by the forest, so it is ever-present in our lives. We often go on little forest adventures and explore the different things that nature has to offer us: we pick different plants and flowers, bring them home and draw them. My children are endlessly inspired by the forest. They can spend hours roaming around, playing with rocks, branches and twigs.”

Why is nature so meaningful to you and your design process?

“Our day-to-day lives are hectic and nature has a way of balancing our minds. Nature allows us to breathe freely. It also calms kids down. For some mythical reason, the forest and the sea are very important to me. They give me strength and serenity. I’m the calmest when I get to stare at waves rolling in on a beach or the trees in a forest. I think it comes from my childhood: I grew up in Kemi, up north in Lapland, and when I was growing up, I could simply skip to the forest across our backyard. It’s a feeling that I want to pass onto my children, too.

What would you want your kids to learn from you?

“I would love for my kids to develop a relationship with nature. I’ve always wanted to provide them with a safe environment, something close to nature, so that it becomes a part of their lives and who they are. I hope that they’ll grow into adults who respect nature, honour its presence and protect it. In a world full of things, objects and materia, I hope that they’ll be able to resist the culture of throwawayism and stay connected to the things that matter. In addition to that, I’ll always stand up for their right to cultivate a vivid imagination. All kids are imaginative and creative and we need to nourish that. It’s the valuable gift that we can give our children.”