Stella Soomlais' designs get under your skin

Text: Mari Roonemaa Photos: Stella Soomlais, Tõnu Tunnel, Tõnu Runnel Published: 27 / Febr / 2018

Stella Soomlais' work and leather designs are seemingly minimalist, but have a great story to tell about dreams and goals; all of Soomlais' products are made as environmentally-friendly as possible and have a maximum lifespan.

Purple leather purse Stella Soomlais
Stella Soomlais

Moreover, this seasonal autumn, Soomlais started testing the business model that is known to the rest of the world as "pay per use" – in other words, the customer no longer needs to buy the designer's handbags, but they can pay to use the bag for only a period of time. It is no longer necessary to be the owner of the handbag – instead the bag becomes a service that the designer offers to her customers. Since Soomlais' vegetal tan leather is a high-quality, but rather particular material, that needs special care, where the leather is cleaned and traces of use are smoothed out. Also, if the customer decides that they want a new bag, they may return the one in use at any moment.

Black leather purse Stella Soomlais Photo Tonu Tunnel

On an academic level, Soomlais has been interested in circular economy since incorporating it into her master's thesis in 2010, but in the following few years, mainly through the preparation of special orders, she learned how to fine-tune the function of bag design and maximise the use of the material. She came back to circular economy and started working more on product development in her brand's store, which was opened in Telliskivi Loomelinnak this summer. At the moment, there are 12 different bag models available, among which the most popular and Stella's own favourite is the backpack. As much as possible, one goal is also to use the leftover material, which can be used to make small items – wristbands, wallets, keychains. The other alternative is to donate the leftover leather to handicraft hobbyists. "I want to emphasise that responsibility lies with both the creator and the consumer at the same time. I do not advocate a race to keep up with the trends, but rather choosing carefully and enjoying a well-considered choice," says the designer.

Article was published in Nordica´s in-flight magazine Time Flies  (autumn-winter 2017).