Rhiannon D’Averc sat down with Suski Sue, the designer behind label Black Doll Boutique, to discover which bands inspire her aesthetic and why she chose to move to London from her native Finland.
Tell me about Black Doll Boutique?
Basically, I’m mainly self-taught. I’ve been doing lots of sewing since I was a kid. I had a Barbie doll called ‘the black doll’, so I decided to call my label Black Doll Boutique. Years go by and I was like, I need to do something about it, and I got a tattoo which was the logo as well. I love so much gothic music, and rock and roll and stuff like that. Because my flatmate works in a rock and roll magazine as well, so I got really into it. I was like, I’m going to start my own label, and I went to [Central] St Martins for a little bit. I was there and then I realised, actually, I’m not learning that much in there that I can actually learn from something else, and I could learn by myself. I thought, okay, well, I’m going to start from scratch, and start building this label based on a gothic environment. But it’s an aesthetic way as well, because I love loads of sequins and cocktail dresses, so that was the whole idea behind it – but still keep it gothic-y.
The collection is quite accessible. I don’t necessarily dress in a gothic style, but there are lots of designs of yours that I would wear.
Yeah, that’s what a lot of my friends say as well. They’re not really into it at all, but then they would wear that sequin dress on a night out or something. I tried to make it commercial gothic, if that makes sense.
Who would the ideal customer wearing your aesthetic be?
The ideal customer could be anyone between, let’s say 18 and 45, because lots of my friends who are around 45 are really into the dresses. Then also, their kids are really excited about wearing a velvet cocktail dress or something. I would say there’s a huge target in there in that way.
You use luxe fabrics like velvet and sequins a lot.
Yes, velvet, sequins and lace are my favourite ones. I try to stay away from other fabrics because I feel comfortable with these fabrics, so I have a proper quality. They’re done perfectly, instead of trying to achieve something that I can’t.
Do you think your Finnish background has an influence on the style that you’ve chosen?
Yeah, probably! We’re depressed, you know, because of the winter – so everything has to be black (laughs). I try to get out of my comfort zone. The other thing I do is stage wear for bands, and I’ve already done a few bands, but then someone was asking me to do red I was freaking out because it was outside of my comfort zone. It turned out okay, but not amazing. I prefer to stick to black. Black is better for women anyway, because it slims you.
Which bands have you worked with?
I worked with Goldray, HIM – a waistcoat – and there’s been a few others as well, but not really huge bands. That’s why I’m hoping to get somebody big who’s wearing it on the red carpet or something.
Who would you love to dress?
I would say I would love to dress Fleetwood Mac – Stevie Nicks for sure. I love her because I love fringe for sure, so that would by my ideal. Or Paloma Faith. She’s a bit experimental. That would be another one. Obviously, my favourite – Marilyn Manson… [ed’s note: Suski is wearing shoes with Marilyn Manson’s face printed on them during our interview] I’m a massive fan. I actually went to see his wardrobe when he was playing in London last time. I was looking at them like “AHHHHHH! Amazing!!” But that’s menswear anyway… they were quite womenswear to be honest with you, like fur coats and everything, and I was thinking I could put them on!
Did you ever consider doing a different career?
I wanted to do this and that, like little kids do. But I was always making dresses for my dolls, so that was always in my background. I was working in a pub here for five years, and then my friend got me to go to St Martins – actually walked me down to the reception, like “here you are”! Because I really didn’t want to go. Just denied the fact that I really needed to get on with things, basically. I’m glad he did, otherwise I probably would have not opened it at all.
So, what made you choose to come to the UK?
Because I got an internship here. I was working for a designer called Catherina Eden, and I was emailing her a few times and then I got a response. She flew me over here, and then I was here for a few weeks. Obviously, I probably did a good job or something, because then she invited me back after that. I was basically just sewing prototypes and doing buttons, and just learning the fashion culture here – because it’s completely different to what it is back at home. I was really young at that point as well, so that was really helpful. Then I decided to move over here permanently, and I was working in a lot of clothing shops like Rocket Vintage, in Brick Lane, in Camden, Dolce & Gabbana, all sorts of places. I decided to stay, but I was always thinking it’s better to work in a pub for a while and then set up my own business and work for myself, see how it goes.
How would you describe your personal style?
Funnily enough, even though I love to do dresses – cocktail dresses, evening dresses, whatever – I don’t like to wear them! My personal style is basically skinny jeans, a nice top or even t-shirt, big hair, and lots of makeup like Marilyn Manson wears (laughs). And trainers or sometimes high heels, but I’m quite basic. That’s my own style, but when I like to dress other people, that’s a completely different story.
Why do you think it’s so different?
I don’t know, it’s really weird. I was thinking, should I wear something I’ve done, like a dress or something for today, but then I was like no – I’ll be so uncomfortable. But when I dress someone else, I’m super happy. I just want to put leggings or skinny jeans on, or a mini skirt and a crop top, and aviators, and here we go! (laughs)
Tell me about some of your tattoos.
Yeah, I love tattoos. I’ve got quite a few of them, I would love to get more. I tattooed my chest about ten years ago. All of them have some little story. It would take hours if I get into it, but this [tattoo] is my mum’s rose garden, where she used to have her poppies in there. Then I love Smashing Pumpkins, so this is ‘Adore’, the album. That one’s from Black Sabbath, Marilyn Manson… that’s old school scissors that were used to cut fabrics. That’s a heart for Smashing Pumpkins as well. This is from Horrorpops, this skull, from the album cover – but I was like 15 when I got it! (laughs) Then I got the logo tattooed on my shoulder. This is from my Grandad’s grave, the roses. I took a picture and got it tattooed on my chest. So that’s it, briefly!
Music is obviously really influential for you.
Do you think there are touches of that that come out in your designs?
Totally. I get influenced all the time. Bits and bobs from what I see, even like Stevie Nicks’ latest outfit, so I’ll get the fringe over there and modify it to the way I would like to wear it, or Marilyn Manson of course, or Smashing Pumpkins… the album ‘Adore’, there’s this amazing gown on the cover of the album, so it’s really cool. Lots of chiffon in there. I don’t really like working with chiffon, but if I have to, I will.
Do you have a new collection coming up?
Yeah, I’m hoping to get new stuff out ASAP. We already took some pictures, I’m just waiting to get them. I’m off to New York just to see what’s going on over there. I’ve been there four times this year already. I’m quite influence by what’s going on there. The fabrics and materials are so different over there. Then I have a photoshoot happening in NewYork as well with a local model, so that’s happening. I’m hoping to get everything out before Halloween, but I think Halloween is important for me. Christmas and New Year too, obviously, but always Halloween.
What do you see as the biggest difference between New York, London, and then Finland for their fashion scenes?
There’s a huge difference, I think. I was doing lots of stuff on the side in Finland, but I didn’t think I was going anywhere. There wasn’t that market for what I wanted to do. I don’t think people understood what I was trying to say. Then I came here and the competition is so hard, everyone wants to do exactly the same thing and exactly the same kind of style, you have to be super special to make it or you have to have a lot of financial support as well. Which, I don’t think is necessary, you know? You can just take selfies on Instagram and become famous! But then, when I went to New York, I met people on Instagram and they said “Okay cool, let’s shoot”. They were there like that (clicks fingers). No one cancels anything, I’m getting the photos, they’ve got a completely different approach to everything. They want to make money, so they’re like, let’s make this happen, you know what I mean? Let’s get big. If they believe in you, they will make it happen. I didn’t even know these people – I thought, okay, cool, how can I trust them? But it went really well, and now I’m going to go again next week, so I’m super excited. But here it takes forever because everyone is competing, competing, and competing, so that’s what I think personally.
What will we see in the new collection?
It will be more glam. There will be lots of sequins and less fringe, that’s for sure. A little bit of velvet and different materials, but lots of sparkle.
So, we know Smashing Pumpkins, Fleetwood Mac, and Marilyn Manson – are there any other big bands that really influence you?
Yeah, Sisters of Mercy. I love them. Not in a style way, but how they were in 1985 – the hats… they were super cool. Even though it’s menswear, it still inspires me because I can change that around to womenswear. But this time around, I’m going to use less hats! I’ve been using hats quite a lot, so that will go away. And the chokers, they’re gone. It will be more cocktail dresses, a little bit of glamour in there. There might be some hats… I’ve been so much influenced by 1985 Sisters of Mercy.
Find the new Black Doll Boutique collection online at blackdollboutique.com