12.8.2017

Meet the Designer

Nice to meet you :) this is Kaisa Niemi, the woman behind the Fly My Damsel brand and its fair trade underwear. And this is the story of how it all began.

Since I was a child I have wanted to make clothes. Still, my relationship to clothes and the whole profession has been a little contradictory: I like to make them, but I have never been interested in following trends. In high school I thought of fashion design as a useless job, even though the problems of fashion industry were not discussed as much as they are now. I thought that fashion industry just produces more stuff to the world which is full of stuff already, and it doesn't really do anything good to anyone. I began to study fashion design nonetheless, but during my studies I specialised in theatre costume design, fascinated by the different kind of creativity of the dramatic arts, costume history and fantasy worlds.

After the design studies I changed direction and went on to study cultural anthropology and history. Exotic cultures and bygone times have always fascinated me. During my antropology studies, I completed an internship in Thailand and wrote my MA thesis about ethnic minorities of Southeast Asia, and planned a career in development work. In the middle of my studies I made a short detour to ethical consumerism in Finland. Modern cultural anthropology often researches different phenomena of current Western cultures instead of the exotic ones. I wrote a bachelor's thesis about ethical consumers in Finland. As I learned about the subject, I also thought about my own shopping habits and tried to find possibilities to change them. I found one specific problem: except for underwear, it is possible to buy all other clothes second hand, and ethically and ecologically made lingerie is very hard to find. I managed to find a couple of brands which sell fair trade underpants, but there were no fair trade bras to be found.

I forgot about this discovery for a few years. I finished my studies, did some odd jobs and applied for several PhD grants. In the middle of one application process I suddenly realised that PhD had never been on my to-do list. I was heading for that direction just to find a route somewhere else. I took a time-out from grant applications to think what I really wanted to do. Making clothes still appealed to me more than anything else. Soon after that I discovered those non-existent fair trade bras again, and this time it finally clicked. If they don't exist, someone has to make them.

It is possible to find ecological underwear for sale, at least if you know where to look for. They are mostly also made under ethical conditions. However, they are mostly of minimalistic style, and the few bras that can be found are usually soft bras without underwires, with very limited size range. I have never been a minimalist: I like lace, colours, and details. I also prefer to have my bras with those controversial underwires – they are comfortable if the fit is correct – and so do many others too I am sure. Because Fly My Damsel was originally born out of my own need for fair trade lingerie, I would also like to answer to other women's needs of styles, colours and sizes. Small companies must start small, but I'm dreaming of seeing Fly My Damsel as a lingerie brand offering a good range of styles and sizes – all of it fairly made.