Jasmin Santanen discovers the modern moment in medieval times. By Meredith Fisher
Jasmin Santanen's name is Finnish, her education American, and her place of business is Parisian. But it's precisely this sort of global intersection that makes the designer's new namesake collection so universally appealing. "All three cities play an important part in my work and influence my designs," says Santanen, who studied at Parsons School of Design in New York and went on to work in Paris with Yves Saint-Laurent and Hermès before embarking on her own venture.
"When I first started, I was thinking of something more casual and day-to-day," recalls the designer. "But then a client who was fond of my evening-wear came to me asking for more feminine pieces…these are now the trademarks of the line." Her attention to these details and various couture traditions of designing comes full circle in her first ready-to-wear collection for spring/summer 2008—an intricately woven tapestry of medieval references and modern silhouettes, all finished in a palette of clean, cool whites, blues, and warm creams and gold.
"Living in Paris exposes me to many medieval ideas, but my main point of reference this season came from Elizabeth I," says Santanen. "She had such a natural elegance, but she was also a warrior." This balance between grace and power is directly reflected in an embroidered cotton tank dress that's both sexy and sobering. And even the finest of lace skirts is precisely cut to fit the waist for a sharp silhouette.
The craftsmanship in each piece also recalls the needlework of medieval times as well as the couture tradition of Paris. The purity of the palette is both a reference to the simplicity and virility of Elisabeth, as well as a product of her Finnish roots. "My heart will always belong to Finland," she says, "and the teaching it transmits—calmness of mind, balance with nature, and innocence."
Her upcoming fall/winter 2008-2009 collection switches gears though—Stage Fever is a homage to such rock royalty as Jim Morrison and Elvis, as well as Maria Callas. In both her ready-to-wear and couture pieces, Santanen recalls the glamour of a Callas pencil, the velvety voice, and clothing of the King, and even includes images of the "lizard King" Jim Morrison in the line. And while this rock n' roll reference may seem a far cry from her Elizabethan virtues, it is, in fact, right in line with her sensibility. "These pieces are subtle but with elements of light to take away all the seriousness."
Jasmin Santanen discovers the modern moment in medieval times.