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We love it when our members are recognized for their amazing talents, especially when it’s something huge like Project Runway! Mari Koppanen (aka: maryy) has been with BurdaStyle since almost the very beginning and it’s been so fun and rewarding to watch her sewing progress over the years. Mari is currently participating in the latest season of Project Runway in Finland and we caught up with her to see how she started, what it’s like being on the show and what the future holds for this talented creator.

Hi Mari! Just to give everyone a bit of background info, tell us how old you are and where you’re from.
-I’m 20 years old and from Finland, living in a city called Tampere.

When did you start sewing and how were you introduced?
-I started sewing pretty young, I was maybe 8-10 years old. My mother has always been a craftsperson and she has taught me and my sisters to sew and knit.


What inspired you to start sewing?
-I was really interested in Barbies as a young girl and wanted to make clothes for them by myself. They might not have been as fancy as the ones at the local supermarket but at least I had made them myself and I was really proud of them.

What was the first thing you made?
-Some garment for a Barbie. First clothing that I made for myself was a tricot evening gown.

How did BurdaStyle help you with your sewing endeavors?
-BurdaStyle is very inspirational place and I could spend hours browsing through others’ projects. It’s also great way to get feedback of your work. I’ve been almost 4 years on Burdastyle now and I think I’ve developed a lot as a seamstress.

Tell us about the Maryy dress. You designed it, right?
-Actually the Maryy dress was first made by me and then BurdaStyle community voted to turn it into a pattern, so Burdastyle made one.

Mari’s original “Hot Hot HEAT dress, the BurdaStyle Maryy dress based on her design.

You also worked on a project for the BurdaStyle book. Tell us about your experience creating a garment for the book.
-Though it was summer and +30’C in Finland then and I was sewing a winter coat, it was really great experience. I was very pleased to work with the BurdaStyle team and happy how the coat eventually turned out.

Now for the big news, you’re on the latest season of Project Runway in Finland! How did you hear about the opportunity and what inspired you to apply?
- I watched the first season of Finnish Project Runway and decided apply now for the second season. I’m a very curious person and looking for new experiences all the time. I wanted to challenge myself and see what I can create under very exceptional circumstances and great pressure.

What was the application process like? Did you have to submit a video, sketches, finished pieces?
-I sent my portfolio and application first and then was asked to come to Helsinki for a casting. I was interviewed and got to show some clothes I had designed and made.


How did you hear you made it on the show? What was your reaction?
-I was at work when I got the call and heard that I had made it. It was really exciting but I had to stay cool and hide my reaction because there were some customers in the shop. But of course I was silently cheering inside my head!

Tell us about your experience on the show. Has your life changed since being on television?
-Project Runway has been really great experience. I decided to stay open-minded and not to stress too much so I lived one day and task at a time. I don’t find myself as a reality tv-person – I don’t even watch TV – so of course some suspicions came to my mind: is this something I really want to do? But when all the hassle started I left those thoughts behind and started focusing on the competition. I think there are many amazing persons in PR and I’ve made some really good friends. The atmosphere between the competitors has stayed positive and supportive – not much conflicts appeared.

People don’t recognize me significantly, sometimes in a bus or at work I may notice that someone’s watching me but nothing more than that.


What have you learned by being on the show? Any wisdom to share?
-I’ve learned lots of things during the show. First; it is possible to make an elegant evening gown in eight hours. I noticed that I’m much better in designing clothes on a body than playing with the patterns. I’ve learned a lot of things about myself, too. I am the youngest competitor so I had little pressure on my shoulders. However, after the beginning dread I decided that I’m going to show the others that, despite my age, I’m as considerable a competitor as they are.


What’s the creative climate like in Finland? Do you plan on staying or would you like to move to another city?
-I think Finland encourages young designers and the climate is very supportive. There are many education options and schools to choose from. I’m personally very pleased with the high quality teaching.


What is fashion like in Finland? Do you see Finland as a good place for fashion and/or design?
-Finns are pretty conventional (it’s the climate that causes some limits) but I think that people here are ready to invest in quality and clothes that are hand-made in their country. Finland is also pretty small country so it’s easier to get your work known here.

What designers do you look up to? Any who’ve inspired you to pursue a career or inspire you aesthetic?
-I’m too lazy to follow fashion and actually I’m not even that interested in it. I’m a more down to earth person and I want to make clothes for ordinary people. I don’t follow big designers work nor read Vogue. I get inspiration from old movies, clothes and furniture, shapes and people around me.

Since your’re inspired by old movies, what are a few of your favorites?
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Rosemary’s Baby and Breakfast at Tiffany’s are some examples of the movies that have inspired me.

Catherine Deneuve in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby and Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Did you always know you wanted to design? How did you know this was the path you wanted to pursue?
-It wasn’t until upper secondary school that I started thinking that maybe I should start taking sewing a bit more serious. I wasn’t interested in any other kind of profession so I decided to reach for my passion.

Where do you see yourself in the future – after the show? Would you like to start your own label? Work for a designer?
-I’m dreaming of my own label and I hope that someday I could design clothes for a living. First I’m going to finish my studies (I attend Pirkanmaan ammattiopisto and will finish my seamstress/artesan studies in spring 2012) and then start to pursue my dream.

We wish Mari the best of luck with Project Runway and can’t wait to see what great projects she comes up with next!


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    Apr 20, 2011, 01.06 PMby briyell

    oh, congratulations! i wish you the best of luck on PR. :)

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    Apr 19, 2011, 08.29 PMby nimblefingers

    i’ve long been a fan of mari’s work! and fascinated every single time she posts a new project with the classic maryy “I didn’t use a pattern.” which just floors me every time! is there any place we can catch the episodes of project runway in the US??

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    Apr 17, 2011, 04.29 PMby Jean M

    Yay Mari!! That’s such great news and wish you all the best!

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    Apr 15, 2011, 06.48 PMby aleah

    Congratulations Mari. :) I adore your name, Finland seems a lot closer when your name is not really Mary, haha. ;) Good luck on the show! I can’t believe you’re only 20, I’ve got lots of catching up to do! Good luck! Perkele :D

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    Apr 15, 2011, 06.38 AMby Monjio

    Wow, it’s interesting to hear how Barbie’s clothes were the beginning of so many peoples passion for sewing! Till this day my mother still has the large box with shoe boxes filled of envelopes with organized pattern pieces for my Barbie clothes!

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    Apr 14, 2011, 08.58 PMby handsomerobot

    What pattern did you use for the dress in the second photo?!! I love it

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    Apr 14, 2011, 03.46 PMby Amor Allure

    congrats love

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    Apr 14, 2011, 02.18 PMby tilshmil

    How exciting to be on PR! Congrats and best wishes for getting your own label!

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    Apr 14, 2011, 01.27 PMby henniem

    Congratulations..very exciting. I started making clothes for my Barbies too, funny how you look back at your childhood and can see when it all started :) I wish you the best of luck and thanks for inspiring me to continue reaching my goals :)

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    Apr 14, 2011, 10.44 AMby baka-pepica

    Congratulations!! So coool, i like your intewiev, I start sew like you, I was sewing for my barbies to!

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    Apr 14, 2011, 07.42 AMby Ralf Schmitz

    i am so impressed by what you have achieved by now and was smiling, when you mentioned “rosemary’s baby” as this is my absolut favorite film by far! congratulations to your success and all my best wishes for your future!

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    Apr 14, 2011, 07.03 AMby niminen

    Mari, olit mun lemppari alusta lähtien! Harmi kun putosit :(

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    Apr 14, 2011, 06.36 AMby Monjio

    Wow, Congratulations! I love how your designs are so unique!! Wonderful meeting you!

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    Apr 14, 2011, 05.28 AMby sarsaparilla

    Congratulations Mari! Your creations have inspired me ever since I found Burdastyle. Best of luck with Project Runway :)

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    Apr 14, 2011, 04.00 AMby neulaja

    Onneksi Olkoon Mari! Toivon sulle voittaa. I would love to wear your clothes.

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    Apr 14, 2011, 03.44 AMby kelepso

    Awesome. Many congrats to you and best of luck!

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    Apr 14, 2011, 02.27 AMby susanne2011

    Hi Mari! Very cool stuff you’re making, I really love the Scandinavian feel in your creations. I wish I had discovered how fun sewing is as young as you were. I am sure you’ll be able to start your own label, as there are so many people around that like your sense of style. You go girl!

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    Apr 14, 2011, 12.34 AMby lepetithoot

    Congratulations, Maryy! You totally deserve this. Your work is amazing and I hope you win! :)

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    Apr 13, 2011, 08.07 PMby felicityfarce

    Congrats, Maryy! I always enjoy browsing all your wonderful creations and I’m sure you’ll make your dream come true!

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    Apr 13, 2011, 07.52 PMby mirela

    Congratulations!!! I really hope you get the chance to mix some knitting and sewing while on the show.

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    Apr 13, 2011, 06.37 PMby iroiro

    Wow this is exciting to read! Congratulations! I always look to your beautiful creations for inspiration and look forward to seeing your future designs .

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    Apr 13, 2011, 06.33 PMby medea

    I second that =D

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    Apr 13, 2011, 06.31 PMby tinybows

    Congrats! You are so talented! <3

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    Apr 13, 2011, 06.02 PMby melonhead

    Oh wow Congratulations Maryy!!! You deserve it so much!! Your designs are so beautiful and elegant! Once you start up your own label I will definitely be buying something! :D

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