Our team interviews continue! Next, we want to introduce you to one our original founders (and the "A" to "ASK") — Antonia.
Hi Antonia, so exciting to interview you! Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
Hi Laura, I am excited too! I live in Töölö and love everything that is beautiful and slightly mysterious. I'm a multitasker and doer with a marketing and sales background. I never get tired of art, culture, traveling or analyzing the human mind.
Why did you want to create a bag and accessories brand?
There’s something intriguing about bags. They are strong signifiers because they are usually what meets they eye first in someone’s style. We created ASK to fill a gap in the market for functional, yet stylish, everyday bags. My own fascination with bags goes a long way back: I have been an avid collector of various things since a young age; from stickers to Sanrio stuff, stationary, images, fashion magazines and bags - a lot of them. Now I’m mostly into getting art, which makes my earlier collecting seem like a cheap thrill. This interest in bags, fashion and everything visual paved the way for a degree in accessory design from FIT in New York. Having that degree got the two other original founders of ASK, Karolina and Sonia, to ask me to join the team as the designer for the modern and functional baby bag idea that they had in mind.
What do you do at ASK?
As a small team, the three of us have been very hands-on with everything. My main role has been to figure out the design solutions for the products: create bags and accessories that fit with the ASK aesthetic. In addition, I have been involved with a lot of the visual aspects of creating the brand, as well as coming up with ideas for how to build a brand with limited resources. I love problem-solving so that comes in handy when you are a small business in a demanding and fast-changing industry like fashion.
What is the story behind ASK?
Originally ASK was created as a functional, stylish and modern baby bag brand because when the other two founders had kids, they could find a minimal baby bag.
Yes, so much! That is the exciting and challenging part of creating something from scratch: You will constantly evolve and you will constantly make mistakes as well. The key is to learn fast and not let the challenges get to you. ASK started out with baby bags, but we realized quite quickly that it made sense to be more of a lifestyle brand for the modern woman or man who needs products that make life more effortless and comfortable without compromising style. Supporting sustainable consumption habits and ethical production have been important for us from the beginning, and now we want to take this purpose further because sustainability is crucial.
What will ASK look like in 5 years?
ASK will be a sustainable bag and accessories brand that takes responsibly for its carbon footprint. The product range is exciting and functional - embodying a modern Finnish essence. ASK will be socially engaged and have worldwide female and male customer base.
You love art and design. What are your favorite places to appreciate them in Helsinki and elsewhere? Any tips you want to share?
There is so much great art and design coming from Helsinki and Finland. Galleries like Helsinki Contemporary, Galerie Forsblom, Galerie Anhava, Ama and Heino always show interesting artist. Other more explorative galleries like Kohta, Sinne, Forum Box and Huuto are worth a visit too. The galleries may seem intimidating from the outside, but everyone is welcome and usually, questions are answered with a lot of expertise, so don’t be shy. I also love going to the Finnish Painting Academy’s exhibitions at one of the school's exhibition spaces in Punavuori called Exhibition Laboratory. Such a great place to scout talent and find art that is still relatively affordable. The Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Emma, in Tapiola is probably my favorite museum in Finland: they have a varied and qualitative program in a gorgeous, brutalist space that has a very meditative and soothing effect. The Design Museum has been strong lately, and Lokal always has a wonderful exhibition of contemporary Finnish design as well a beautiful selection of Finnish design. Classics like Louisiana in Copenhagen, Pompidou in Paris, Tate Modern in London and MOMA in New York are some of my favorite museums abroad.
What inspires you this fall?
Connecting face-to-face with people who enjoy good, honest and open-minded conversations. Being offline more. Music and concerts, and being outside close to nature. I have been inspired by you, the new people and energy involved with ASK. Also, I am super happy about an up-and-coming collaboration between ASK and R/H!
I have been considering creating a network for female professionals for quite many years and I think now is the moment. I am also planning to create a follow-up - that I hope will be slightly surprising because I love to surprise - to the pop-up exhibition I held in my apartment last May. I will spend a bit of time in the Swiss countryside and focus on materializing all the new ideas that I want to make happen around the art-related concept that I have been developing.
Also, what are you wearing while you are busy multi-tasking, doing and surprising people? ;)
An ASK bag of course. I have been using the sample for our up-and-coming cross body style called Mandi. The bag will be available very soon and it has been getting compliments so I can’t wait to see it hit stores and worn by people around town. A Samuji silk blouse from 2013, and corduroy trousers from Zara because their pants have a good fit. I wear a lot of Samuji because I used to work for the brand for quite many years, and I think Samu is a wizard when it comes to finding the most beautiful, funky and poetic materials that can be translated to actual wearable items. Samuji coats are the best! I love cozy, warm knits, eclectic prints, anything with flowers or anything that is slightly see-through and I’m a sucker for romantic shirts.
Follow ASK on Instagram at @ask_scandinavia
Follow Antonia at @antoniahamberg