gTIE is an innovative Finnish neckwear and accessory brand. The collection sets the bar in men’s accessories and gives an edge to the urban woman. It offers new ideas for traditional ties and gives functional and innovative designs to wear as accessories. gTIE negotiates new fashion rules and pushes style boundaries further.
gTIE is a mixture of leather, silk and silver. With a focus on shapes, wearing methods and materials, the gTIE caters to those who dare to be themselves. The pieces, which are made of the utmost quality, are a reflection of gTIE’s authenticity and individualistic values. Most of their reindeer and lamb leather pieces which are naturally distressed go untreated. Each piece has its own unique characteristics; much like the brand’s customers, no two are ever the same! The brand’s ethics is based on honesty, responsibility and openness. With respect towards the environment, gTIE embodies the “no waste” Sami philosophy which is strongly part of the Finnish culture. Over at gTIE headquarters, the company ensures that not even the slightest scrap of material goes unused. This practice also allows gTIE to constantly produce new designs. Not only is this form of operation ecological and sustainable, it’s simply good business management.
The mastermind of gTIE, Jenni Ahtiainen, is an old school rock chick to the core. Jenni combined her love of music and design to create the brand which seems to be an extension of her own effortless and authentic style. Jenni, who started the company back in 2007, oversees every aspect of the brand; from the design, marketing and operation right down to the decor of the shop; which is absolutely beautiful I might add. She also dresses countless celebrities (most of whom are befittingly musicians) both in Finland and abroad. She currently spends her time traveling between Helsinki, Berlin, L.A. and soon New York working on special projects and collaborating with people in the music industry. One big person, who makes collaborating and working abroad possible, is her formal leather master Elli Kervinen. She has the same eye with Jenni, their synergy is deniable. She is already working as a co-designer in gTIE and will be finishing the next gTIE collection. Still, Jenni Ahtiainen as the creator of gTIE is strongly The Head Designer and Executive Force of gTIE.
Jenni has a reputation as one of the most innovative and creative designers in the Finnish fashion scene. She is a visionaire amongst the people who think for themselves and an idealist who belongs with those who question all authority. She worships unchained innovation, kind-hearted roughness and right-minded attitude. gTIE a statement of honesty. Everybody can copy and be someone else, but gTIE is for those who dare to be original.
Her designs has been seen and brand's clients include artists and celebrities like Snoop Dogg, Omar Sy, Adan Canto, Ted Stryker, Aloe Blacc, The Dudeson's, Giancarlo Esposito, Kurt Schneider, Peter Mensah, James Morrison and Bono. Her finnish customers include artists and bands like Honey B & The T-Bones, Softengine, Samu Haber (Sunrise Avenue), Robin, HIM, Amorphis, Toni Wirtanen (Apulanta), Arman Alizad, Tomi Björck, Ville Valo (HIM), Lauri Tähkä, Michael Monroe, Timo Vuorensola (Iron Sky), Stefan Lindfors, The Hearing, Death Hawks and Laura Birn. Ahtiainen has styled people in the Golden Globes, Oscars, The American Music Awards and Eurovision Song Contest.
I recently met up with Jenni to discuss the brand and to privately view some pieces of the upcoming collection. Upon entering the shop, I was greeted by several members of Jenni’s staff, all of whom are friendly with a positive disposition. Then, from the winding concrete and glass staircase came Jenni; who unswervingly approached me with a firm handshake and a penetrating stare. She has a presence that commands attention. Calm, cool, and collected, she gestured to a sitting area where the interview would be held. She offered me a local blend of birch tea as we made small talk; easing our way into the interview process. Once in full mode, Jenni spoke candidly about the company and her backstory. Her unapologetic and brutally honest comments were a breath of fresh air. The interview was effortless. Conversation flowed. The whole meeting felt more like a casual get-together with a good friend. This was greatly in part due to Jenni’s warm and inviting nature. She is a charming and charismatic character with an interesting point of view and outlook on life. Jenni is truly a rad individual that exudes confidence and who deserves every bit of her success.
What were you doing before g-tie and what made you start your own business? I never planned to start my own business, it just kind of happened. I was working as a graphic designer making book covers and stuff like that. I pretty much taught myself animation and HTML coding. It was cool for a while but I gradually started to hate the computer so I turned to an old childhood pastime “sewing”. At first, it was just a way for me to relax and do something else, something more organic that was hands on. I started making simple dresses for myself and things for my son who was an infant at the time, until one day my house was covered with pins, needles, fabrics, and haberdasheries. This annoyed my, then husband, so I decided to get a small studio where I began to deconstruct his old neckties and things just started happening from there.
Generally speaking, where do you draw inspiration from?
What motivates you?
People, imperfections, music.
How has owning your own business changed you (if at all)?
Owning my own business has made me strong and independent.
As an entrepreneur, what has been your greatest challenge and how did you overcome it?
One January I was walking to my office and on the way realized that I didn’t want to go to work. I came to the frightening realization that I was not interested in my own company anymore. As I walked through the cold streets of Helsinki’s downtown area, I asked myself why, why the hell was I not interested in gTIE anymore? The more I walked the more I became consumed by my thoughts, thoughts that were racing through my head a mile-uh-minute until something just snapped within me and I came to the realization that my feelings were a result of a recent reform in the company. I had been very fortunate to have found investors that were interested in backing gTIE in order to expand the brand. For the first time, I had the possibility to hire people to work with me. I used to do everything by myself from designing to manufacturing and marketing. Within a blink of an eye I had helping hands. At first, it was difficult to let go of some tasks. Suddenly I found myself searching for my place within my own company. It was a really weird spot to be in. Anyway before I reached my office, I realized: FUCK! No matter the investors, the new staff, or anything else that came with the new reform, gTIE is MY label! The investors were investing in me, not the label. If it wasn’t for me, gTIE would cease to exist. So I pulled myself together and entered the office with the revelation that I AM gTIE, with or without investors and staff! I never doubted my role after that.
Professionally speaking, what is the best advice you could give to someone starting their own brand?
Be yourself! Be honest! Be true! It sounds corny but there’s no one like you! It would be idiotic to conform to the ideals of others. And sleep always when you possibly can.
Out of the many people, who stands out as having been a pleasure for you to style/dress/work with?
Well everyone that I’ve worked with has been great but I really enjoyed working with Aija Puurtinen from Honey B. & the T-Bones and talking to Rohan Marley.
Who would you like to style/dress/work with?
Marilyn Manson. (She got Marilyn Manson as her customer after this interview in November 2014.)
Who has designed the interior of your shop?
I have designed the interior myself. I love strolling through flea markets around Finland and abroad so some of the fixtures from the shop are gems that I’ve found and collected over the years in these places. My mother also owns an antique shop here in Helsinki called Les Belles. Most of the pieces come from there.
Do you have any projects in the works at the moment that you can talk about?
I actually met Snoop Dogg at Blockfest earlier this year. We hung out backstage. He liked this hat that I made so now I’m designing one for him. I’m also designing costumes for a film production at the moment but I really can’t say more at this time.
What are your plans for gTIE in the future?
I have no idea. Launching the brand internationally is the only certainty. Beyond that, I have no idea.
If you didn’t have gTIE what would you be doing now?
Who knows?! What would you be doing if you weren’t here interviewing me? Honestly I don’t know. I’m very social so I’d probably be working with people.
What are you listening to at the moment?
Depends on everything. I think I've done it all but still want more.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’m actually reading the script for that film that I’m designing costumes for. It’s great!
What is your favorite movie/director?
Right now I’m really into Rick Gervais as a screen writer and actor. But I love the movie Cigarettes and coffee by Jim Jarmusch.
What is your favorite fashion moment?
I don’t think of myself as a fashion designer at all. I’m just a woman who wants to do her own shit. But one moment that I consider to be “a great fashion moment” was when I made myself a flower dress (mind you: flowers and pastels are not my thing), and went to pick up my son from daycare. He looked right through me at the yard. I must have blended in with the other parents because he didn’t recognize me at all. When I called him, he looked at me and his eyes widened in amazement. He couldn’t stop staring at me. He said “Mom, you have a really nice dress”. He’s 6.
What is your favorite music moment?
When I was asked to design for a production group that was working for the American Music Awards back in November of 2013. That was pretty cool.
What is your favorite cultural moment?
To be a part of a group who designs new products for old Finnish factories just to give the employees/working class possibility to keep their jobs. Finnish companies are manufacturing more and more abroad, and with our concept we are trying to get the Finnish people to support their local businesses. Project/concept is called “Save the factory”, and it’s going to be public in this fall.
What is a place that you haven’t been to yet that you would like to visit?
What is your favorite hang-out spot in Helsinki?
What is your favorite drink/cocktail?
Beer, I overdose if I drink it. That’s why I don’t drink it.
What is your favorite food?
Anything unhealthy, that’s why I try to eat very healthy.
What are your sartorial staple pieces at the moment?
Leather on leather/ leather accessories
What’s in your bag right now?
In my bag I have my calendar, my laptop, my make-up, my cigars, and some nicotine gum. I can’t seem to fucking quite!
What can’t you live without?
Honesty and honor, but in everyday life I need my son, he makes me feel like my life has a meaning.
What is something that not many people know about you?
No comment! Next question…
Whose style do you admire?
When it comes to style, I don’t admire anyone. I see parts in people. I’m a big people watcher. Sometimes I sit in a café or wherever and just observe people as they pass by. I notice them, I study them, and then steal their nice ideas and make them better. It’s fascinating.
If you could be any animal, what would you be?
Please check Jenni's portfolio from here.