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What do you get when you combine the melancholy of an Indian Summer with the fashion influences of Scandinavia?  Designer Paola Suhonen gave us the answer with her S/S 2012 collection for her Ivana Helsinki line in a runway show on Friday that incorporated her artistic vision in both clothing and film.  

A self-proclaimed designer for “the ones whom love moonlit fields, pirates, dark forests, crummy motels, champagne states of drunkenness, fragile butterflies, passionate relationship, cowboys and guardian angels,” Ms. Suhonen’s bohemian style certainly translated into this collection.  A film created by the designer, showing a waify model jumping up and down to the beat of new-age music amongst backdrops of nature in her native Scandinavia, opened the show.  The lovely mood set by the film and music had me in hopeful anticipation of the clothes that would follow.  The tribal tones carried onto the runway quite literally with zigzag and feather-shaped prints, and models donning Mohawk-like hairstyles.  The light, flowing dresses and bare shoulders were decidedly Summer.  However, as the name would also indicate, the collection steered away from the bright color palette we are used to seeing in S/S collections and used the dark-greens, burnt-oranges and misty blues of autumn.

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The pieces do appear cool and comfortable, and the designer’s talent is evident in the unique shapes of the dresses.  Unfortunately, as soon as I would start to get excited that the collection was getting interesting, a model would walk out in a very “un-special” dress lacking the refinement or quality expected of a designer piece.  The anti-climactic finale -- an A-line tribal-print dress paired with matching fabric headdress -- left the audience waiting for something more.  Perhaps the only exciting aspect of this show were the models’ black paint-dipped hands that dripped as they walked down the runway, leaving the front-row squirming to avoid having their own clothes stained.

Bottom line:  Ivana Helsinki S/S 2012 is not for those seeking unique and polished designer pieces that will have heads turning, but it does offer a more comfortable alternative that evokes a laid-back romanticism.  I’m interested to see how this designer’s collections will evolve in the future.

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