Antonia Hamberg - Designer and Art Curator
Hi Antonia, what a pleasure to interview you! 😍 Why did you want to create a bag and accessories brand?
There’s something intriguing about bags. They are such strong signifiers of what you stand for as they are one of the first things you notice about someone’s style. My own fascination with bags goes a long way back: from a young age, I have been an avid collector of various things from stickers to Sanrio stuff, stationary, images, fashion magazines and bags - a lot of them. Now I’m mostly into getting art, which makes collecting bags seem like a cheap habit. 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 and interest in bags 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 is it that you do at ASK?
As a small team the three of us have been very involved and hands-on with everything. But my main role has been to figure out the design solutions for the products so that the bags and accessories fit with the ASK aesthetic that is about Scandinavia minimalism of form combined with a very functional purpose and an effortless feel. 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 and coming up with ideas so that comes in handy when you are a small business in such a challenging and fast-changing industry as fashion is.
What is the story behind ASK?
Originally ASK was created as an answer to the challenge to find a functional yet stylish and modern baby bag when the other two founders had kids. A bag that was incredibly pink, cluttered or clumsy as quite a few of the baby bags tends to be.
Has the brand changed along the way?
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 as a baby bag brand 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 for our readers?
There is so much great art and design coming from Helsinki and Finland right now. Galleries like Helsinki Contemporary, Galerie Forsblom, Galerie Anhava, Ama and Heino always show good artist. Other more explorative galleries like Kohta, Sinne, Forum Box and Huuto are interesting 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. The Modern museum Emma in Tapiola is probably my favorite museum in Finland: they have a varied program and 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, handicrafts and art as well a beautiful selection of Finnish design. 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. 😍 And an up-and-coming collaboration between ASK and R/H. Super happy about that!
What will you most probably be wearing?
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. 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.
What are you up to this fall?
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. And 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.
Thank you, Antonia!
Words by Laura Lindholm