Aljona Eesmaa is a Founder and Editor-in-Chief of an online portal Portail.ee. Recently, Aljona visited our offline store to talk about her journey, background, and Estonian fashion industry as well as to share personal stories and insights.
Your creative journey online began in 2009. What drew you to the fashion industry? Was there anyone you looked to for inspiration?
I think it was a combination of many things. I started my journey when fashion blogs were becoming “a thing” and I jumped on board. During the time I was helping at big Estonian fashion events and interning at Ivo Nikkolo. That was when I realized I liked everything “behind the scenes” and writing about it – one thing led to another…I believe luck was also a big part of it. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time, meeting the right people.
You worked on many projects throughout your career. Now you’re a founder of Portail.ee. Did your background prepare you for this role? How?
I studied economics and marketing in Tartu University, nothing to do with fashion. I studied everything on the go – how to be a stylist, a fashion journalist, a PR manager. Doing things on my terms, not by the book, has given me the courage and freedom to do things differently, and that made me stand out.
What is it you love most about Estonian fashion? What are the key elements that make it unique for you?
My favorite thing is you can simply walk into a fashion studio and meet the designer – they are not magical creatures far away. Many of the local designers became my friends, and I like to support them with a purchase. I also love that Estonian designers are creating more and more wearable collections, it’s not only about ball gowns. The things I’ve purchased from local designers really last – you can see and feel the hard work that goes into every item.
You follow up on the development of the Estonian fashion market. What do you think is the biggest challenge for new brands in their early periods of opening up?
I was once at the lecture where a woman who gave it said – nobody needs your new brand. In a way it’s true, there already are too many fashion items and brands in the world. But it is possible of course, and social media can be a big help. You need to stand out from the crowd to be noticed.
Over the last couple of years, every business has changed its focus on social media. What role do offline experiences play nowadays? Would you say they are now less important?
I can’t say it’s less important. Fashion events are starting to take place again and we are once again getting that rush, that indescribable feeling from them. Fashion is about emotions, the feeling of the garment, the way it feels on your body. Online will definitely stay but you can’t get that by watching a video
When it comes to writing and exploring fashion, you don’t only need to think of your styling preferences but the readers’. Do you have to keep a certain distance from the industry to keep that perspective?
When I write for Portail I can stay true to my style and preferences 100%. Sometimes I step aside and take a look from a distance, but not for too long – otherwise I may lose my “signature”.
Working in fashion for years becomes part of your personal life. What’s something you notice about someone when you first meet them?
I notice people's… aura or vibe. How this person makes you feel and how good your connection us. Sometimes you can feel it from the first moment on.. Sometimes you feel the vibe’s not quite right, usually there is a reason for it.
We all tend to doubt our fashion choices and frequently find ourselves googling styling tips. What’s the best fashion advice you’ve ever been given?
Less is more!
When the going gets tough, we look for inspiration. What is your favorite quote?
Less is more – and not only in fashion. In a way it’s similar to “quality versus quantity” – don’t clutter yourself with the unnecessary.