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Belles - Strictly For The Ladies

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Brace yourself! A trio of Finnish freakettes are set to turn the sneaker game on its small sized foot with their new store bElles, aka Baskets For Elles. Tired of the ever-abundant large sizes stocking shelves not only in their hometown but abroad, owners Sumi Moreno, Martina Reefer and Katariina Holma have pooled their media/street/fashion savvy heads together and come up trumps with a killer concept. With a location already locked down (courtesy of their local hair salon Dandy) bElles is in effect. Killing two birds with one stone, Freakettes can now cop a crisp cut and a pair of kicks in one visit! We hit up the trio to find out more and see just what's instore for the newest ladies-only sneaker spot! Time to get your hair 'n' kicks DID!

Hey Ladies, how is the sneaker scene popping off in Helsinki?
Hi Mafia and Sneaker Freaker. Thanks for hooking us up. The sneaker scene over here is constantly getting bigger, better and fresher!

Tell us the story behind bElles - Baskets for Elles and how it all came to be?
Having a business of our own has always been a dream for each of us, as well as doing something that would advance and support Finnish street culture. This sort of idea was simmering in all of us for quite some time. When the time was ripe, Sumi Moreno was the actual mastermind behind bElles. She's the real sneaker freakette, always after the freshest pair. Sumi grew tired of always having to search and order sneakers from abroad, going through countless web sites, not being able to easily find the cool stuff from one place or men's models in small sizes. She thought that sneaker hunting should be much easier for girls. Martina Reefer and Sumi were on a trip to Paris last spring when she finally burst out the idea about a sneaker shop for girls in Helsinki. And it doesn't take much to get Martina excited. Well, it didn't take much to get everyone else involved in the shop excited, namely Katariina Holma, Vito Giorgio and Mikko Poikela. After that it was only a matter of a few months and the shop was up and running. All the labels stocked were very supportive and enthusiastic about the idea as well. That's how bElles - Baskets for Elles - came to be, kicking off with a massive opening party in mid June.

What are your ties to the hairdresser store that bElles is situated in? How did you come up with the name?
Two of us are owners of the hair salon Dandy, and we all used to hang out there with many of our friends. While thinking of a space for bElles we just thought it would be a great idea to start small and share the space (and expenses) with Dandy. It's a perfect, vibrant environment, with a regular, mostly female customer base already established. So it's a win-win situation for both companies. We also wanted the name of our shop to link with Dandy in some way. We read an article in a French magazine about girls as an ever growing sneaker shopping clientele. Inspired by that we wanted to somehow incorporate ‘elles', which was constantly mentioned in the article, in the shop's name. Dandy is ‘beau' in French, so we just added the letter b in front of Elles, creating bElles. B comes from baskets (French for sneakers); so bElles - Baskets for Elles, could also be translated as ‘beautiful girls - sneaks for her'. It's a multi-dimensional story...

Between the five of you there must be a bucket load of experience that you all bring to the table... tell us more!
You got that right! We all have plenty of experience as entrepreneurs and freelancers. Collectively we have experience of being a shop manager (Helsinki, Paris, London), web store owner, hair salon owner, shop and showroom owner in London, hair and makeup artist, fashion stylist, events manager, web designer, graphic designer, DJ, banker, movie-advertising-media producer, just to name a few. Therefore we are well connected with the fashion world, which is completely invaluable in running a shop. All of us are also street culture lovers and sneaker freaks with pretty impressive collections.

How will the mix of sneakers, street clothes and the salon all work to benefit each other?
The vast majority of Dandy's customers are young, fashion loving and street culture living people. So there was an ideal clientele walking straight into the shop to start with. Naturally, also the sneaker shop customers realise that there's a cool hair salon at the same space and might end up as Dandy's customers. Dandy's decoration and style is created by young designers and artists who created a colourful and unique-looking place that was an ideal spot for our shop. The shop stands out so noticeably from the surroundings that people are compelled to look inside when passing by.

Do you think it's a risky move creating a store that only hits one small demographic of such a large market? Few female driven stores have survived - as most of us know, us ladies are very picky when it comes to dropping coin on kicks and clothes!
We did consider this when starting. We believe in this idea and have received lots of supportive feedback and keep getting new customers. There's a gap in this market globally and we're targeting that niche, constantly observing and following what girls really want and need. Because women are so critical with their shopping, we at bElles just need to put in some extra effort.

What will we find stocked on the shelves at bElles?
All the killer stuff of course! Limited edition and unique sneakers. Label-wise adidas, Asics, Keds, Keep, Nike, Puma, Reebok, Roos, Shoe the Bear, Supra. Also Jeremy Scott ObyO and Badass Style (exclusive to bElles) clothes and jewellery lines, Nixon watches, Sneaker Freaker magazine and Jason Markk Premium Sneaker Solution. A lot of stuff we sell can't be found anywhere else in Finland.

What's the focus for the store right now, and how will it change to keep ahead of the game in terms of bringing only the best to the freakettes of the world?
We are constantly on the lookout for new and exciting labels. Opening a web store is a big thing for us - hitting the global market. So watch out girls! We're also pushing this new interesting label, Badass Style, stocked exclusively at bElles. Badass Style was founded by two dancers, Marika Peura and Kaisa Nieminen, who go by the name Badass Crew. They often found there were many labels for men with fresh street style gear, but not equally so for the ladies. They took it as their job to create one. All their pieces, clothes and jewellery, are one of a kind. So it's a perfect kind of label for bElles.

What's coming up for bElles that we should get excited bout? Any plans for your own label or sneaker collabo with any brands in the future?
We're planning a pop-up store in collaboration with another brand, which should be exciting. We would absolutely love to do a sneaker collabo with some brand or designer, and even better, maybe establish our own label one day. You never know what we will come up with!

Thanks ladies!

Photos by Kai Kuusisto

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