Your heart on your sleeve

7 October 2011 | This 'n' that

Street cred of Hel Looks: Josua and Julius. Photo: Sampo Karjalainen

The founder of Hel Looks, which charts clothing styles of Helsinki denizens (which we featured here on the Books from Finland website), has been talking to Finnish television (programme in Finnish) about her website.

Established in 2005, the site – which has an eye for the weird and wonderful rather than the classically stylish – attracts an average of 10,000 visitors a day, two thirds of them from outside Finland.

Fashion editor Liisa Jokinen says she got the idea for the site while on holiday in Sweden. ‘I think a lot of Finns admire the Swedes’ fashion sense and in particular their stylishness. But in fact the range of styles is greater in Helsinki, and Finns have the courage to be different,’ she says.

Recent images from the site bear her comments out, and chart the sheer range of costume that she and the photographer Sampo Karjalainen set out to document. Take the 13-year-old fashionistas Josua and Julius (left), snapped on Bulevardi in central Helsinki on 1 October, for example: ‘We dance hip hop and house. It inspires our style. We try not to dress up like all other boys’; or Noel Coward fan Janne, 51, seen on 3 September: ‘I’m wearing an English tweed suit tailor-made in London. I live in Mexico, where I normally wear a white linen suit.’

Best of all, says Jokinen, is when she comes across someone for a second time without realising that she took their picture a year or so back. The image of Helsinki reflected by Hel Looks is made up of people, not buildings. ‘I believe people and their clothes contribute much more to a city than its buildings do,’ Jokinen says.

The photos on the Hel Looks site, currently numbering some 1,200, offer us visions of how people want to be seen; in this selection, few dress to play a role. People wear what they think is fun or/and stylish, and we, the onlookers, enjoy being the judges of this city catwalk.

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