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Master's degree student in fashion Emilia Kuurila designed formal wear for Espoo’s female bishop

Kaisamari Hintikka was ordained as a bishop on 10 February at the Espoo Cathedral wearing elegant and modern bishop’s clothing.
Espoon uuden piispan virka-asun on suunnitellut muodin maisteriopiskelija Emilia Kuurila. kuva: Markku Pihlaja
Master's degree student in fashion Emilia Kuurila designed formal wear for Espoo’s female bishop. Photo: Markku Pihlaja

In connection with her ordination, the new Bishop of Espoo Kaisamari Hintikka received the symbols of the bishop’s office: a pectoral cross and crosier, a mitre and a cassock. The cassock and the associated headdress, mitre, were designed by Emilia Kuurila, a master’s student in fashion at Aalto University.

‘The design process was, in many ways, an educational experience for me’ , Kuurila says. She became interested in the demanding design task immediately after hearing about it, but her decision was further confirmed after meeting Kaisamari Hintikka. ‘I wanted to design the clothing, as Kaisamari is open-minded and sees things in a new way. It's lovely to see that such great things happen in as traditional an institution as the church. One of the reasons why I wanted to get involved was that it is great to support women. In addition, this was a great opportunity for me to do something totally new and different from what I have previously done.’

Professor in Fashion Design Pirjo Hirvonen explains that the Diocese of Espoo wanted to collaborate with Aalto when they wanted something new and personal for the female bishop’s formal clothing. ‘The design task was really challenging. Hintikka is only the second female bishop in Finland, and bishop’s outfits tend to be robust gowns tailored for men. They wanted the new official uniform to fit a woman. In addition, it is important to convey the bishop's own vision and values. Emilia became interested as soon as I proposed the project to her’, describes Hirvonen.

Espoon uuden piispan virka-asun on suunnitellut muodin maisteriopiskelija Emilia Kuurila. kuva: Markku Pihlaja
Photo: Markku Pihlaja

Valuable materials were used in the cassock, and Emilia completed all the work stages herself: design, dyeing and processing of fabrics, embroidery and sewing. The cassock was finished together with milliner students from Stadin ammattiopisto vocational college.

‘Already during the first meeting, we decided that the cassock should be red, as the colour symbolises the Holy Spirit. During our next meeting at Espoo Cathedral, it became clear what shade of red to use,’ Kuurila describes. The cassock also displays other elements from the Espoo Cathedral: ornamental patterns from ceiling paintings and murals, and the consecration cross. ‘We also wanted to include something that would make the cassock Kaisamari’s own. In the cathedral, we had an idea of using her family’s linen fabric woven in the 19th century.’

‘I wanted to make Kaisamari a beautiful, elegant, modern and, at the same time, feminine cassock and mitre. In addition to linen, I selected wool and silk as the materials. I wanted to stick with natural materials, and play about with different shades of red, making it less decorative. I clearly aimed at a more sleek and elegant outcome. Decorative golden elements have been transferred to Kaisamari’s cassock from Espoo’s previous cassock and mitre. It would be great if this became a tradition in the future’, Kuurila says.

Emilia Kuurila is also a finalist in the Hyères Fashion Design International competition organised in April 2019. In addition to Kuurila, Aalto University is also represented by Milla Lintilä in the competition called ‘the Cannes of fashion design’. Our alumni photographer Hilla Kurki made it to the top ten in the photography category.

Espoon piispan asun kirjailut. Kuva Tiina Toivola
Detail of the gown with Kaisamari Hintikka's motto. Photo: Tiina Toivola

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