The Minis: Helena Dunn - Rockaway
Hi Helena! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I'm half Finnish/half English and was born and raised in the South-West of the U.K, within a family that really valued time spent outdoors. Many weekends and holidays were spent camping and hiking and so throughout my life I've always been drawn to quiet natural places. I truly believe that life is best spent in nature and without that regular connection everything, for me at least, stops making sense. I worked for many years in New York as a designer and love this city for the incredible mixture of people and cultures that it brings together - it's hugely inspiring. But when I discovered Rockaway Beach it was like I got the whole package - to live by the ocean and also have access to New York City is the most perfect place to be at this stage in my life.
What led you to begin Tuulikki?
Tuulikki was really the outcome of a bigger journey, a sort of homecoming to what really mattered. I was very lucky to be working in a hugely creative role for one of my favorite designers when I discovered surfing - which then led me to move out to Rockaway so that I could surf before work etc. Spending so much time in the water like that is very meditative, and gradually I felt myself being drawn in a new direction - I found that I wanted to be of service to the environment. I even started to think of leaving design and going into nature conservation instead. I needed to take some time out and see what was happening because I was starting to look at the world differently and I wanted my contribution to change accordingly. So Tuulikki came from pursuing that truth.
What is the origin of the brand name?
Tuulikki is a Finnish Goddess of nature from a poem called the Kalevala. She's a deity of the forest whose role is to guide the hunt for humans, while also protecting breeding animals and their young. She represents the equilibrium between man and nature, which very much captures what this brand is about.
What makes you passionate about the work you do?
This brand is a natural extension of everything I care about in regards to supporting women and being an environmentalist - It makes me so happy to be of service in these areas. I feel like female surfers need a more substantial product than they're usually presented with and nerding out on special design details and new technology is heaven for me. So to be able to apply my design experience to this niche is an incredible opportunity. I believe that life is kind of about choosing which problems you want to solve and going from there - I have no doubt that these are the problems I want to spend my time solving.
What creative women do you find inspiring?
I am very lucky to be surrounded by very creative women, many of whom are blazing their trails and who I've been able to collaborate with on various products - These include my friend Delphine Diallo who's an extraordinary photographer. My friend Nico Guilis is a photographer and filmmaker and she started Find Your California, which is so transportive and beautiful: She's a wonderful example of a woman who had a vision, found her voice and hasn't compromised - She's a badass and I greatly admire her. I'm also touched by the work of poet and writer Cleo Wade and the multi-media feminist artist, Zoe Buckman.
What are some setbacks/challenges you have had personally or with your career?
The work culture in New York is quite intense so I definitely found that after a few years I was feeling burnt out and had to fill up the tank again by taking some time for myself and adjusting course. I think as a creative person, especially when that's your bread and butter it's very important to protect yourself on that front by not overworking. You have to give yourself time to travel, visit exhibitions and allow for the unexpected in order to keep your inner world rich and colorful.
What are you looking forward to in the coming months?
We're really keen to take the brand to the warm states over this winter and get more face to face time with our customers, so we're lining up some fun events. We're planning a U.K. launch for Resort as well, which is super exciting. From a product perspective I'm working on a sustainable Rash guard T-shirt I'm developing this fall, which is going to be 100% recycled and zero waste.
What are some of your favorite places in Rockaway?
Rockaway is like a completely different place depending on the season - In the summer people swarm to the beaches and it can feel like a 3 month long party, but in the winter it's bleak and otherworldly. In the summer there's always fun stuff going on at Low Tide Bar on the boardwalk at 98th street, and for some peace we cycle down to Edgemere Farms - a blooming oasis of veggies and goodness, or up to Riis Park where the beach has a totally different vibe.