Ervin Latimer is a 27-year-old graduating student and designer from Helsinki. He runs his own eponymous label called Ervin Latimer that produces unisex accessories out of denim and recycled leather. He also released his first menswear collection earlier this year. He is currently looking for an internship in NYC.

FACC interviewed Ervin in New York to find out what he thinks about sustainable fashion and the differences between doing business in Finland and the U.S.

How did you get started with your own company?

I founded it in 2014. Everything actually started when I wanted to make something special for my best friend for Christmas. I made a bag from denim and leather that I got from an old leather jacket and after my other friends saw that they wanted to have similar ones.

Why did you choose to use recycled materials?

It came kind of naturally. It is a bit tricky for a small business like me to acquire new leather, at least in the beginning. It also feels good to give a new life to the terrible leather jackets from the eighties that I’m using.

You make all of your products yourself. Are you prepared for a possible growth in sales?

Each product has a unique serial code on the care label. They also come with a certificate that has my seal and signature. Each piece of recycled leather is also a bit different than the other so when the customer buys the product he or she knows that no one else has a similar one.

I am the kind of person who doesn’t like cutting corners. You only have one chance to make a good first impression. I’ve made plans on how to expand the company but I have to wait until I graduate and have more time in my hands.

How important do you think the ecological aspect is for your career?

Sustainable and renewable materials will be inevitable in the future. It’s important that the customer knows the ecological value of the product without making it look like it’s 2nd hand. For me it’s crucial that sustainability is not just in the materials of the products but in everything my brand does – from business cards to what kind of packaging we use.

Do you think that Finland is not big enough for the brand?

Let’s put it this way: I want to be successful. For me success means that you make profit and can grow your business. In fashion I see Finland as a market that has clear limits in growth. I can’t imagine becoming successful in my terms by focusing on that market alone.

Many companies lose their potential and possibilities when they look at globalization as an impossible challenge and not as an opportunity. Personally, I definitely see it as an opportunity. I am also proud that I can increase awareness of Finland abroad.

What is the main difference between doing business in Finland and the United States?

In the U.S., entrepreneurship is seen as a low-threshold thing. It’s not a big deal if you do not succeed at the first or even second try. In Finland failure is usually seen as a more embarrassing thing. Something, that you carry with you like luggage. But then again if you succeed, there’s often a sense of doubt in the integrity of your success. It’s a cultural thing and there are pros and cons in both approaches.

I should learn more about promoting myself and improve my ability to take risks. It’s so common for Finnish people to suspect their own skills.

Where do you look for inspiration?

I get the biggest inspiration on the streets. I like to watch people and see what they are wearing. I go inside different shops and get inspired by the layouts and clothes. Soho is a great area in NYC to do that.

What tips would you give to Finnish designers who would like to make it in the U.S.?

You have to dare to meet people and introduce yourself – really put yourself out there. You have to believe in what you’re doing and have trust in yourself.

Also remember that the way you compose CVs and emails are totally different here than in Finland. If you are not familiar with these things, you should Google or ask somebody to help you. And of course the best way to learn is by doing.

And last but not least, why NYC?

In my field this is the number one city to be in the U.S. New York is full of opportunities.

For more information about Ervin Latimer visit: ervinlatimer.com.