FIBER LAB - Creative Resources

Lilli Jahilo: ‘Vasja e Vera’

Italiano (Italian)

Lilli Jahilo is an established Estonian fashion designer. Her showroom and laboratory atelier are located in Kalamaja: a former fishermen’s district, today one of the trendiest areas of the city. Surrounded by art galleries, fancy coffee shops and creative studios you’ll breathe the air of a modern Nordic capital as you walk among refurbish industrial buildings. That’s one of the most intriguing characteristics of Tallin: the presence of old and new. This aspect reflects in the city’s culture and enriches creative processes and products.

This combination is at the core of Jahilo’s textile art project created in 2020, for TAKKK environmental art Symposium: Interruption. Appearance and disappearance of man-made landscapes. Tammiku & Kohila, 2020-21.

Lilli Jahilo , ph. credits Elina Simonen & Annika Haas

TAKKK Symposium, curated by Elo Liiv, brings together Estonian and International artists to create site-responsive art projects that relate to the site’s heritage. “It introduces the possibilities and ability of environmental art to describe the relationship between the human and the environment.” “There is nothing eternal in this world. All life is in constant motion, at the mercy of life and death. This also applies to man-made landscapes and sites as well as layers of relationships and memories attached to them. Once centers of life, areas of cultural and environmental value, production buildings, meeting points and road networks – everything disconnects, fades away, is forgotten and grown over after a certain number of breaths in history. Memories keep on flickering for a moment before dying away. Name is the last to disappear. Interruption as transition, as the key to a continuation that opens the doors of history and halts the natural process of nature taking over. The question “Can abandon places still remember people?” is looking for answers during the Environmental Art Symposium. The artists will stop the natural transformation of the former industrial facilities in the Kohila & Tammiku area and interrupt the disappearance of former landmarks from people’s memory for a moment.”

The chosen site for the art symposium in Kohila is the old paper mill.

Ph. Credit Elina Simonen

The massive building is today, a fascinating and mysterious dusty giant with scattered windows through which you can peek into a suspended world.

Inside, it appears like there hasn’t been enough time to tidy up, empty the shelves or do some cleaning. In thirty years, after its closure, the factory aged very quickly. The cold Estonian winters have left their marks on the walls, strong winds breaking the windows, taking over the machines, the offices, the now-empty storage spaces…

However, amid abandonment, a lot of memories are left behind: documents, tools and the worker’s uniforms.

Ph. Credits Lilli Jahilo

Lilli Jahilo’s artwork: “Vasja and Vera”, is deeply related to people memories. One of the most iconic pieces of clothing: the uniform of soviet workers, is subject to modification and renewal, both formally and conceptually.

Ph. Credits Lilli Jahilo

Jahilo’s work “seeks to evoke memories and create new perspectives as well as exploring the technology and history of work clothes. The exhibition is centered around workers’ garments based on authentic items found from the now-closed paper factory.”

The final installation took place in the factory’s laundry.

Ph. Credit Elina Simonen

Here is how Lilli developed her project and ideas from an old closet to the fashion industry.

“I took the patterns of five items that I found in the factory and I’ve re-created them with ecological and ethically produced cotton”. Materials and sustainability are very important for Jahilo’s design and crucial for a symposium that focuses on the impact of art on the environment.

The centerpiece of the work is shaped from an old workmen coat called puhvaika in Estonian or fufaika, in Russian once made entirely from cotton.

This navy-blue jacket was worn by workers all over the Soviet Union. A lot of people still relate negative emotions to it, and not only for its design. There wasn’t any other alternative to keep warm in winter. For people deported to Siberia, for example, this coat was the only way to survive.

Lilli’s modern version is made out of mohair, wool blend and recycled feathers: warm and light; it is now worn by celebrities. Re-created with luxurious fabric, the old jacket has become a trend.

Ph. Credits Silver Mikiver

Lilli Jahilo says that this development was unexpected.

The designer enjoyed the time dedicated to research and create an art piece rooted in the history of her hometown. After the exhibition, she received positive feedback from people, they wanted to wear these clothes…

When you are a creative person, she says, things start to develop. Materials and ideas lead the way to unexpected directions and purely speculative ideas can become a commercial hit. Boundaries between disciplines are very thin and they must be overcome to bring about innovation.

This photoshoot of the fashion collection brings together the mysterious atmosphere of the abandoned factory with modern fabrics and design.

To know more about Lilli Jahilo collections between art and fashion design, have a look at her website:

Among her elegant creations, you’ll find an interesting project made for the 100th jubilee programme of the Art Museum of Estonia. A collection dedicated to the legacy of the renowned Estonian artist Adamson-Eric. “Going through the thousands of works in the archives it was the artist’s series of painted ceramics and nonfigurative paintings from the 1960s that inspired Lilli the most.”

Jahilo, transform the coloured surfaces of porcelain into another material, a softer and more dynamic one: a woman pleated dress.   She manipulates and reshapes Adamson-Eric’s works bringing them to life as digital prints on silk satin, cotton and light crepe; these Items are limited edition pieces.”

More information about TAKKK symposium:

Elena Redaelli

English version Dal 2010 mi occupo di arte contemporanea realizzando progetti fra scultura tessile, arte ambientale e social practices. Negli ultimi anni il mio lavoro mi ha portato a vivere viaggiando con progetti e residenze artistiche nel mondo. Esploro processi di generazione e trasformazione della materia, applicando diversi livelli di controllo e indagando i limiti tra autorialità e partecipazione.Talvolta il materiale prende il sopravvento, altre volte sono i partecipanti di un progetto o l’ambiente stesso a farlo, risultando in un dinamico e continuo scambio. Il fare manuale è per me un processo d’interrogazione dell’ambiente e uno strumento per entrare in contatto con nuove persone e culture. Nei miei progetti applico una commistione di tecniche differenti prese dalla scultura, dall’artigianato, dal disegno e dall’ estetica relazionale. Ricerco e utilizzo tecniche antiche: tessitura a telaio, arazzo, crochet, feltro, ricamo, annodature e carta fatta a mano. Nelle mie installazioni, che si sviluppano su larga scala, unisco metodi di lavorazione lenta a nuove tecnologie. Tutto ciò che riguarda il tessile è sempre stato estremamente affascinante per me. Mi piace imparare e condividere idee e conoscenze sul vasto mondo delle fibre ed e’ quello che ho fatto durante i miei viaggi di ricerca tra Europa, Asia, USA e Africa.