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NO/AN – From North to South

“Each NO/AN handbag is produced from start to finish by the same craftsperson”. NO/AN is above all a wonderful human story, in step with the international spirit of the European capital that is the cradle of a brand which cultivates the Slow and put ethics at the centre of its creative approach.

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Text by Marie Honnay

Finnish Anna Lehmusniemi lives in Brussels, where she also has her studio. The workshop that manufactures her handbags is in Portugal. NO/AN is above all a wonderful human story, in step with the international spirit of the European capital that is the cradle of a brand which cultivates the Slow and put ethics at the centre of its creative approach.


TLmag: You could have continued to work for international brands. But you instead decided to concentrate on accessories, specifically handbags. Why?
Anna Lehmusniemi : At the start of my career, I had several professional experiences as a textile designer, but when I moved to Belgium in 2012, I got a job in leather goods. Handbag design immediately attracted me, to the point of inspiring me to launch my own collection. I wanted to make a living from my passion. And my passion is handbags.


TLmag: You are from northern Europe, a part of the world where fashion is sombre, functional, without fuss. Do you apply this rational approach to your collections?
A.L.: I think that designers from northern Europe create fashion that is both timeless and minimalist, with a strong identity that avoids the trap of routine. This is the approach I wanted to adopt for NO/AN.

 


TLmag: As a Finn living in Brussels, how would you define your DNA?
A.L.: While my six years in Brussels have certainly influenced me, I still feel deeply Finnish. I remain determined, pragmatic and down-to earth. My minimalist, architectural and rather geometric style is clearly influenced by my northern heritage.

TLmag: Timelessness goes hand in hand with quality, two words that, through their use, sometimes lose their relevance. In the context of NO/AN, how does your quest for a quality product materialize ?
A.L.: For me, quality comes from a design that makes sense. But the materials and the artisans who produce my bags must equally be of a very high level. Customer service also plays a key role in producing a quality bag. I want my clients to love my creations and keep them for a long time. When the leather of my bags acquires patina, they are actually more beautiful and softer.

TLmag: Your brand is a response to overconsumption. How did you realise that you could make a difference?
A.L.: When I decided to create my brand, I felt free to offer products that embody the values that matter to me: sustainability, authenticity, workmanship and traceability. I also take care that my production does not exceed the demand.


TLmag: You work with a workshop in Portugal. How does this collaboration function?
A.L.: It’s a small family workshop run by two sisters who pay careful attention to their workers. I like the welcome I receive from them during my visits, and the workshop. Each NO/AN handbag is produced from start to finish by the same craftsperson. It’s a way to involve them totally in the production process. During my contact with these people, I have learned a lot about the product itself (the different types of leather, the production, etc.), but also about Portuguese culture.

TLmag: Is your ethical approach to fashion applied in other areas?
A.L.: In my way of consuming, principally. I almost never shop anymore, but when I do, I focus on designer pieces that I will wear for multiple seasons.

TLmag: Which handbag is most emblematic of your collection, and why?
A.L.: The Flap, a handbag that, while rather simple, displays the strongest identity. It is one of my bestsellers.

Simple, but ultra-recognisable, the Flap is NO/AN’s most emblematic handbag, NO/AN AW18
NO/AN Studio, Ace big (brown)
NO/AN Studio, Ace small
Atelier view, leather is beeing cut by hand
NO/AN Studio, Clutch (nude)
NO/AN Studio, Tote (black white)
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