You cannot deconstruct unless you know how to construct. - Alexander McQueen

The Contrast of Klaus Haapaniemi permalink

A person may come across the designs of Klaus Haapaniemi in a variety of ways, but always the effect is the same: absolute fascination. Fashion in particular is a good fit for Haapaniemi’s work, as he admits to me, “I’ve grown up with fabrics and prints, when I was a child my grandmother was designing garments for theatre plays. I always wanted to do huge prints for people to wear.” Indeed, the impression he makes in any medium is huge.

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Klaus Haapaniemi for Givy

The work Haapaniemi is probably best known for – what I would consider his signature style – is inspired by folk art from his homeland of Finland and also of Russia, as well as cartoons from Eastern Europe. He currently lives in London, an international city where constant immersion in multiple layers of history and culture results in an endless, fluid synthesis of impressions. This is also revealed through his signature style. The universal constructs and visual themes derived from folk art, imprinted with a technique all his own, endear this style to a growing fan base from around the globe.

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Giants illustrated by Haapaniemi, written by Rosa Liksom

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Haapaniemi, silkscreened poster

Encounters with Haapaniemi’s work, whether on handbags and garments for Cacharel, childrens’ storybooks or window displays in Selfridges, is always stunningly delightful. This is dense, bright and happy style with wide appeal. He attributes the wearability of his designs to experience gained while working in Italy. “My background as key print designer for Diesel Style Lab and other brands has influenced my way to design probably so much that that all the images that I make are more or less wearable.”

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Haapaniemi for Cacharel’s s/s 2006 collection

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Haapaniemi for Cacharel

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Haapaniemi for Cacharel

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Haapaniemi’s set design for Cacharel, detail

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Haapaniemi’s graphic for My Ass Jeans

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Haapaniemi’s graphic for My Ass Jeans

The irony is that the darker work that Haapaniemi has completed for a Levi’s print collection may become more connected with his name. This hand-drawn approach is a separate expression altogether. It represents a more sinister side, but evokes an equal amount of wonder and delight for those of us who find contentment in such images. The Levi’s brand is the most visible he has worked for yet, and his print collection will be available in November. He has also employed this style for the lingerie label Bela’s Dead, a partnership which I am particularly fond of. It is available in stores now.

Don’t fear the reaper:

Haapaniemi for Levi’s

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Haapaniemi for Levi’s

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Haapaniemi for Bela’s Dead

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Haapaniemi for Bela’s Dead, bustier detail

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Haapaniemi for Bela’s Dead

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Haapaniemi for Bela’s Dead, bra detail

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Haapaniemi for Bela’s Dead, bra detail

“An Asian and especially Japanese audience is one to whom I would like to communicate more through my works - whether it’s in a way of animation or some other art-form, I’m not sure. I’m just [now] launching two big exhibitions in Korea simultaneously, where they are publishing a book of my work, too.”

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Haapaniemi, design detail

My first exposure to Haapaniemi’s work was through the Japanese fashion magazine, So-En. He has collaborated with Japanese fashion labels, such as Par7, in the past and continues to cultivate relationships with other Asian labels. “I’ve been working lately with a big Korean/Japanese label called Givy doing a collection of prints and interior decorations for them. I have made some things for Furosiki as well. I would love to work with Comme [des Garçons], maybe I will some day.” Although he shares a desire with many to collaborate with Rei Kawakubo, Haapaniemi’s innovative graphics would blend well with her continually re-invented aesthetic.

Haapaniemi for Par7

Haapaniemi’s set design for Givy

It is a verification of skill that an artist evolves beyond being a single-purpose type; a one-trick pony stylistically. This is a stage of development Haapaniemi has clearly long since gone through, and seems to be following an instinct to evolve further. He would like to see the characters he conceives through illustration come to life. Nego Monogatari - The Tale of Nego - is inspired by Japanese themes and history, as filtered through his curious style. It is his current project featuring art of breathtaking beauty that he would ultimately like to see animated. In fact, he has recently taken a trip to Los Angeles to explore this possibility.

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Nego and Takuan from Haapaniemi’s upcoming Nego Monogatari

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scene from Haapaniemi’s upcoming Nego Monogatari

the Inoshishi (who happen to like mushrooms) from Haapaniemi’s upcoming Nego Monogatari

Haapaniemi’s exploration of dark and light themes is a unique harmony underpinning his life’s work. “I guess I [am] lucky to have two quite different styles instead of just one.”

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15 Responses to “The Contrast of Klaus Haapaniemi” 

  1. Deja Says:

    I, personally, can not wait for Haapaniemi’s new line with Levi’s to come out in November. Until I read your blog I had never heard of this designer (I consider myself to “up” on all things fashion related; according to myself). I especially LOVE the Bela’s Dead pieces he has created. Although the images they portray could be considered “morbid” they are beautiful with intricate detail and design- They are, in fact, fabulous- to say the least. All of his designs are unique, wearable pieces of art.

  2. Ruby Says:

    It is always facinating to note the influence parents and grandparents have had on designer’s skills. It says something about the void we have in the generation that missed that kind of influence. I wonder how many contemporarydesigners you interview in America will say “my daycare provider” had a strong influence on my fashion designing skills. I am gaining appreciation for this influence in great artists lives.

  3. Katie Miles Says:


    That’s a really good point. The little exposure of sewing, quilting, etc. that I had as a girl lay dormant for a long time. In college I got a degree in a completely unrelated field (well, I suppose that psychology is never completely unrelated to anything…). Now it has come to dominate a large part of what I do and attend to on a daily basis.

  4. Sarah Says:

    I love the picts and appreciate Katie’s effort in finding and portraying the art. It takes a special tallent to seek out the ability of non-mainstream artists - especially those who can incorporate art into fashon.

  5. Jean' Says:

    Beautiful and amazing!
    Klaus Haapaniemi is thruly the only one,
    Who can create the mostly atmospheric quality to fashion prints.
    JG. (ASAG)

  6. Mandolina Says:

    The work on BD looks great. Creativity and eye for detail!

  7. mehmet gĂĽney Says:

    hii mr klaus haapaniemi

  8. dĂ©rive » Blog Archive » Klaus Haapaniemi Says:

    […] On this blog you can read all about Klaus’ work and shows some marvelous images of his illustrations. […]

  9. Klaus Haapaniemi « The Chawed Rosin Says:

    […] There is a very thorough interview and with Mr. Haapaniemi and lots more pictures on the Styleskilling web site. […]

  10. Klaus Haapaniemi « Looky Says:

    […] There is a very thorough interview and with Mr. Haapaniemi and lots more pictures on the Styleskilling web site. […]

  11. pottzy Says:

    hi klaus your pictures are amazing there is this teacher in my school she loves your pictures too your an amazing artist

  12. Surreal : Domestic Vinyl : roomgoods Says:

    […] Originally Finnish born, Klaus Haapaniemi is currently one of the Britain’s leading fashion illustrators. See some of his work here at the blog Style Skilling. He has illustrated everything from Christmas store windows for Selfridges London, Cacharel’s signature collection, Levis signature tee-shirts, fabrics for Marimekko, special edition packaging for PS2. […]

  13. Spooky Luxury from Bela’s Dead : Knickers: The lingerie weblog Says:

    […] When a lingerie designer takes inspiration from Nick Cave’s music about murder and lost love (the murder ballads are beautiful tunes with sinister lyrics), you know you’re in for a treat! Jo Lynch of Bela’s Dead has again collaborated with Klaus Haapaniemi (a Finnish illustrator) for her newest collection: Forbidden Fruits - luxurious lingerie with spooky undertones. The combination of Klaus’s artwork, depicting anatomical, floral drawings inspired by the Forbidden Fruit from the Garden of Eden, together with Jo’s designs allows us to enter into the dark world of seduction and experience another side to luxury. As we normally associate luxury with glamour and well-being, Bela’s Dead is certainly an ‘alternative’ label with its devious and (as Jo puts it) unnerving qualities; it is however a welcome change to see a designer who doesn’t comply to the ‘norms’ and actually dares to go against the grain - if artists always delivered chirpy, happy paintings, life would be pretty dull! We love anyone who puts their creative soul into their designs and it certainly appears that Jo Lynch has done so; that said, we musn’t dwell on the dark side and it should be pointed out that the Forbidden Fruits collection brings with it beautifully designed, silk lingerie fit for elegant women who enjoy a combination of artistic flair and glamour. […]

  14. Inge Says:

    Hi Klaus,
    where can I find stickers for interior decoration with your designs ? I saw it some years ago in a design store in Antwerp, but it was not for sale !
    I really love your work !


  15. Iittala Taika Coffee Cup « Lungo Mugs Says:

    […] “Taika” means “magic” in Finnish, and you’ll probably feel extra magical when you’re drinking your favorite Nespresso lungo from this cup! Designed in 2007 for Iittala by acclaimed Finnish artist Klaus Haapaniemi. [For some interesting perspective on Haapaniemi’s work, see this blog post — very interesting designs!] […]

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