Helsinki, Finland — After graduating from the prestigious Central Saint Martins in London, Sasu Kauppi launched his own, eponymously named brand of unisex streetwear. Things took a drastic change however when his talent was scouted by Kanye West and Kauppi was asked to join his team in Los Angeles to work on the musician’s label Yeezy’s. After a few years, working himself up to become Yeezys Head of Design, Kauppi quit and moved back to Helsinki to once again focus on his own projects. Reincarnated as sssu by Sasu Kauppi, his new label focuses on seasonless sportswear inspired by boring places and compatriots he doesn’t consider stylish.
Sasu, how do you describe your aesthetic?
— Sportswear is what I do, and it’s what I’ve done since day one. Most of my designs are based on classic menswear pieces, even if they would be specifically women’s clothes. In the end, I just design clothes. I don’t care if it’s a girl or a boy who wears it. My home country has always been an important reference. I draw inspiration from everyday things and situations, boring places, symbols, and signs. Most Finns are not considered stylish and that’s pretty much where my biggest inspirations come from. Ordinary people.
You took your ma at one of the most prestigious fashion universities in the world, Central Saint Martins. How was your experience there?
— The school was as demanding as its reputation suggests. But when my late professor Louise Wilson stated, during one of her rants, that ”menswear doesn’t have to be shirts and suits”, I ultimately understood that I was on the right track with my ideas.
After your graduation, you moved back to Helsinki and founded your eponymous brand. Why?
— I started sasu kauppi right after my studies because I wanted to ”try” my own brand first and possibly apply for a job at some point in the future. The first years were really tough for me as I couldn’t invest a lot of money in my company. Most of my retailers were small boutiques around Asia. In 2014 I almost quit the whole thing. I was about to start providing services as a fashion consultant, and then suddenly I was in Los Angeles working for a company.
You quit just a little more than a year after becoming Head of Design at Yeezy. How come?
— I was sick of fashion and I wanted to do other things. At one point, I was working 110 hours a week, and I realized I needed to slow down. I don’t want to have a 24/7 job with this thing. It’s more like two-three days a week kind of thing I’m looking for. I built a music studio and started working on projects in other creative fields. Eventually, I wanted to create a seasonless brand that was current but timeless, so I started sssu by Sasu Kauppi. SSSU became an experiment to see the consumers’ and buyers’ reactions. It’s more a project than a brand.
In what way is sssu different from your first brand?
— sssu is more approachable. My references have remained the same, but this time we wanted to present an even younger image. We casted the models from cool-looking kids on Instagram.
How do you work when creating a collection?
— We do a lot of research on logos and prints, vintage stuff from the 80s, 90s and early 2000s. I consider a good shape the most important quality in a garment. I tend to use generic materials: a lot of cotton jersey, sporty nylon, a lot of denim and some vintage leather. I like comfortable fabrics, screen printed graphics mixed with digital, woven patches, polypropylene tape, and logos, logos, logos.
What do you think of the Finnish fashion scene?
— I don’t really see a proper fashion scene here. There’s an awful lot of creative designers from Finland but it seems like all of them end up in corporations. When it comes to fashion branding and business, we don’t really know how to do it right. To me, the heads of companies, marketing departments and investors still seem to be living in the 80s.
Speaking of Finland, you also seem to have a very special relationship to ice hockey?
— Ice hockey is one of the most important sports to me. sssu collection includes a hockey jersey made in the Finnish Liiga style, but the colours are from my other home team’s jerseys, the Anaheim Ducks.
What’s the best thing about being Scandinavian?
— Technically Finns are Fennoscandians. Anyway, I would say the honest mentality and good social service — what a cliché. I also love our nature.
Editor’s note: We’ve made a few corrections in this online interview, in compare to the one in our printed magazine.