Finnish fashion and vintage go hand in hand: past decades and the objects associated with them often act as a source of imagination for Finnish fashionistas who like to make a statement with their outfits. But what if instead of being an occasional fun indulgent, environmentally friendly vintage clothes would become the basis of your wardrobe? Together with her sisters, 25 years old Sara Nyyssölä, took this radical thought and turned it into a profitable business.
Two years ago, Sara Nyyssölä, as well as 26 years old Marta Jaakkola and 27 years old Laura Nyyssölä, founded We Started This (WST) online. The inspiration behind it, as it often happens with many enterprises, was rather personal. “At the time we were living in a smaller city which didn’t have very good fashion stores or any really nice places to go and shop for second hand”, says Sara. “So we started thinking why isn’t there an online store which kind of has a good selection of second-hand clothing which would be of high quality? We didn’t really find that so we thought okay, maybe that’s something that other people would like to have as well”.
Their concept is pretty straightforward: people can send emails and pictures of the clothes and then if the creators are interested, they send back some packaging material for the items to be shipped for free. “In the beginning, we had a lot of items coming through our friends but now it’s like a large customer base so”, says Sara, whose main responsibilities are monitoring the quality and style of the products that arrive at WST. When asked about their target audience, Sara believes that vintage should be accessible to everyone. “As we’ve been kind of developing the concept we realised that it’s not maybe a good idea to narrow it down too”, says Sara. “I think everyone who wears clothes and needs something, it would be cool if they could find it in our store instead of going to H&M. It’s kind of a genuine alternative so that’s kind of what we want to do”.
This arrangement made the website to quickly become very popular in Finland to the point that ladies were able to open their own store in Helsinki, which Sara really appreciates. “Women surprise us all the time by just combining, mixing pieces and styles and I think that’s one of the nicest parts of having a store”, says Sara. “You get to meet people whereas online we just get orders but you don’t really know who is kind of behind it so it’s really nice to meet people”. The founders are taking this idea even further by collaborating with Marimekko to educate both brands’ customers on the importance as well as effective ways of clothes recycling. “Sustainability issue and reusing are very important to us”, says Sara. “So thinking of new ways that people could have an access to second hand so that it’s not kind of the last option when you think about fashion”.
Discussing of her role as one of the founders, Sara credits her business education and entrepreneurial spirit gained during studying in England and France as the key elements for success. “I am from Helsinki and I’ve lived quite a bit abroad as well so that’s why I think I also have a connection to the sort of online thing”, says Sara. After studying business in France, she moved to Hong Kong. “ I actually worked for an entrepreneur there”, says Sara. “So that’s where I had the first idea of like yeah, it would be possible to start your own thing and kind of saw it works from the inside so that’s kind of how I got the first spark to do something”. Sara is constantly learning more about the fashion industry: aside from working, she completed her degree in Fashion Marketing at Helsinki design school two years ago and is currently studying International Design Business Management at Aalto University.
However, in her personal life, Sara prefers to keep it as offline and as environmentally friendly as possible. “We’re actually planning on going to Europe this summer”, says the creator. “We’re just taking the bikes and that’s nice because it has nothing to do with online stuff or having your laptop or thinking about fashion so it’s kind of a good combination to do something completely unrelated”. And just in case you were wondering: all Sara’s clothes are vintage as well.
Check out We Started This here.
Words by Kira Kolosova.