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Desperately Seeking Suhonen

There probably aren't many days when I look at what I'm wearing and think I could interview a fashion designer. My travel version of dressed up is a crinkled shirt and my less smelly walking shoes, so when I have to interview Paola Suhonen I know I'm going to be looking scruffy at best.

She's only in town for a few days so we arrange to meet at the opening of the Fennofolk, a show which brings together Finland's hottest film, fashion and art. It's a modishly designed building with a DJ playing from a tent (a wink to IvanaHelsinki's early camping design maybe) and Helsinki's slickest have turned out to usher in this new show. And I'm wearing an arctic explorer's raincoat.

I find what could be a coat rack or an elaborate installation about the state of Finnish wet weather gear and ditch my coat. Suhonen's piece is a series of hotel/motel signs embellished with glitter and sequins. It's Amerikana but somehow Finnish, it's The Shining directed by Renny Harlin. The whole show plays on what it means to be Finnish from Lappi people skiing with Elvis to the Elovena girl lit saint-like. And in this uber-chic artworld I'm shuffling around trying to work out who Paola Suhonen is.

It takes a while, but there's a two orbits of people around her: the close people, her friends or asking her to sign something, and then there's another loop of people trying to get the courage to talk to her. She was afterall the first Finnish designer asked to participate in Paris Fashion Week. And I'm looking for courage by scratching my beard thoughtfully and admiring a whitewashed reindeer sculpture.

But I decide to do it. I walk over to ask if she is herself (always looks smooth) and explain that we talked on the phone. I'm expecting a fashion superstar surrounded by handlers and I'll have to schedule an interview next month. But she's very pleasant and apologetic about the busy schedule. There's a lot of people orbitting to congratulate and kiss cheeks, and I'm reminded that picking the time and place makes an interview. But there's no chance I can spirit her away to a place with better accoustics. I start making small talk with her friend who has come back from London especially for the show. I tell her she's a good friend.

In fact she's such a good friend that she asks Paola to spare a couple of minutes as we're being ushered out. We crouch down behind an artwork with the chimes telling us to evacuate the building. I switch on the recorder thinking it's going to be hard to put my interviewee at ease. The first question posed is Paola Suhonen, Finnish fashion's brightest star, asking if I want a Fishermans Friend. Okay, it's me that needs to relax.

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