FashionBride Interview with Ulla-Maaria Engeström


People accept to get married because they think that’s the way it should be done, that’s the tradition and it just a thing you have to do once/twice/etc in a life time.  When the right moment and the right partner appear they do it. Most certainly the event is boring or … at least weird. Every relative tells them what to do and they understand why everyone hates the in laws.  The wedding, for many, is a necessary action. And for others it shows the commitment and stability of one’s relationship.


But there are people in this world that don’t need any of these. Because they are certain of their love and they don’t need to show it off by marriage.  That was Ulla-Maaria Mutanen and Jyri Engeström case until they decided to accept a new challenge.


They allowed their wedding to be taken over by some of the world’s top designers. From the bride’s dress (by Dai Fujiwara for Issey Miyake) and ring (by the Finnish jewellery designer, Ikka Suppenen) right down to the chairs that the happy couple sat on during the ceremony, (the French Bouroullec brothers) every element of the wedding was meticulously considered and, in many cases, rigorously reinvented.


Because FashionBride couldn’t miss the event, I’ve made an interview with Ulla, who was kind enough to sit down and tell us all about The DAY.


Well, many thanks and may you have a happy life together (and hugs and kisses for Eliel).


Tell us a bit more about the decision and the proposal. 

You might like to read this post about the decision: 2008 was conveniently a leap year, when (according to an old Finnish tradition) women can also take the initiative and propose a wedding. If she gets turned down, the man should buy her a fabric for her wedding dress as a consolation. Luckily Jyri did not turn me down. I remember proposing him from the back seat of our car. He did got a little bit confused, I remember, and lost sense of where we were going. But he said yes! 


Ps. Girls, I’ve just found out how to get the fabric 😉 propose to a finn…. But what if he says yes? … hmmm… that’s a risk I’m willing to take 😀


How different was the wedding and by any chance you felt awkward?

I think it was different from a traditional wedding (or the idea that I had of traditional weddings) in two main aspects

First, it was not in a church but at a design studio, and the ceremony master was not a priest but a philosopher (Esa Saarinen). We chose him because priests often make you cry, but a good philosopher makes you laugh.   

Second, I did not spent a year preparing the wedding (planning details, trying on dresses and hairdos), in fact, I did not participate in organizing the wedding except for the last two weeks. This was thanks to Laura Sarvilinna and the design project! I also had a fantastic bridesmaid, Tuuli Sotamaa, with whom we planned the ceremony at the Alvar Aalto Studio and the party at the Design Museum. Both women are experienced design professionals. 

The fact that everything of the wedding setting and dressing came us as surprise was quite exciting; we only saw the outfits, shoes, chairs, etc. a couple of weeks before the wedding and to be honest we did not even know to expect most of them. 

It was certainly a little bit strange to get so much attention at the press conference just before the wedding ceremony, but as soon as the ceremony started, we could forget about that and just enjoy the moment with our family and friends. 



Was it a brave gesture to accept this or you had in mind something similar when thinking about your wedding?

 I have never really had any particular vision of my own wedding so there was no need to compromise between my own expectations and other people’s ideas. During the process, whatever was suggested regarding the design, we said “yes, that sounds great”. That was not difficult at all since everything, in fact, was so much more than we could have ever expected. Also, we did get to plan and organize the ceremony and the party, and for us it was those private events that made the actual wedding. 


Tell us some more about your dress.


How was it to work with Dai Fujiwara?

Meeting Dai Fujiwara at the fitting in Tokyo was a very special moment. Jyri and I immediately felt a connection with him and we had a deep conversation about the idea of the project and the dress. He is a true artist and his works reflect his unique thought world and ideals. We also met with Yoshiyuki Miyamae, the extremely talented designer in Dai’s team who was responsible of the actual design of the dress. People like Dai and Miyamae must have very beautiful minds for being able to design something so perfect. 


Did you have any involvement in the gown design?

No, I didn’t. 


Did you like it (of course you did :P) and why?

When we arrived to the fitting at the Issey Miyake studio in Tokyo, there was a big hexagon of fabric on the floor. Miyamae said, “That’s your dress”. Then he lifted the hexagon carefully by its two inner corners that had small loops of golden thread sewn on them. It was magical.

The shape started to change and transform into the most beautiful three-dimensional shape that looked like a dress.


 I’ve never seen anything like it. This was the only point during the wedding process when I could not prevent the tears. 


A couple of weeks later, after the wedding ceremony, I was on the way to the wedding party and I had to lift my dress to step in the car. When I happened to turn the hem of the dress I suddenly saw a little golden Cupido angel woven into the inside of the fabric. What divine design experience!


What do you think is the most important thing that a bride should focus when choosing her gown?

I think the dress should reflect the bride’s personality and values. If there had not been this project, I would have chosen a vintage gown.


Was it hard to wear it, because it sure looks a bit strange when it comes to its shape

Unlike many other wedding dresses, this felt like the most comfortable night gown. It even transformed into a shorter dress, which was necessary for our wedding tango performance! 


What about the accessories, what did you wore and how important where they to the whole image (veil, gloves, shoes)?

The gloves, the veil, the tiara and the hexagon-shaped earrings were designed by Issey Miyake. Like the dress, they were all foldable pieces of origami art and complemented the dress beautifully. The extremely comfortable white leather shoes came from Camper. The button corsages were designed by Hella Jongerius, and the golden thread-ring by Ilkka Suppanen. It was amazing how well all these things fit together. 


Your husband and your baby also looked unbelievable! Do you think brides should focus on a global wedding design rather than think only on themselves and the way they look? Did you feel a part of the ceremony or the most important part of it (as many brides wish)?


It’s the totality of artifacts, space and people that builds up the special moment. When all elements are equally important they form a beautiful aesthetic story. That also helps avoiding all sorts of unnecessary wedding kitsch.  I was no more special than my husband or our son who were both wearing the most incredible outfits. The fabric of my husband’s suit had been made in a small umbrella factory in Japan, and Eliel’s a-POC bear suit was a composition of strange forms on a fabric until they were cut off to be worn. 


If you would repeat your wedding what would you change ?

I think I would skip the press conference. 🙂


Can you give a piece of advice to the brides to be and FashionBride readers? 

Aim at planning a moment of love and laughter! 

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