International women's week: Interviews with Camilla Engström, Cassi Namoda & Yoyo Nasty

Marimekko has always been about creating great art on canvas. In honor of International Women’s Week, we invited three artists to recreate this idea and discuss about the role of gender within their art. Their art pieces will be auctioned for a charity and then turned into unique, made-to-measure dresses. 

The art world is no different from any other field of industry – you face the same pressure and sexism as in any other environment. But for Camilla, Cassi and Yoyo, being a woman is an advantage, a way to challenge the norms of society and question the assumptions related to womanhood. Without their work having been labeled as feminist art, each of the women identifies as a feminist. This ideology is reflected in their personal remarks, integrity, honesty, and experiences as a woman. Femininity and softness do not mean weakness. An overload of cuteness, beautiful things, organic shapes, pastel shades, and vibrant colors can all be interpreted as a liberation, an encouragement for all of us to embrace our truest selves. Camilla, Cassi and Yoyo joined us for an interview to discuss femininity and the role of gender in their art. 

Hi, Yoyo! What sort of role does identifying as a female play in your work? Have you faced any pressures as a female artist?

Yes of course; unfortunately the art world is not different from any other discipline in that sense. As an artist, I don’t like to separate life/work so much, it’s all intertwined really. My work is personal, it comes from my thoughts and perspectives, so it naturally reflects my experiences as a woman. Cute aesthetics, pretty florals and female attributes are part of this perspective in my work. 

Yoyo Nasty

Yoyo is wearing an Aada-dress and Beyla-cardigan.

If you had to choose, whose work has impacted you the most?

Tove Jansson was one of my earliest and still very important influences. Her stories and detailed drawings of Moomins inspired me to create my own fictional universe of queer characters and wild nature. Another artist that I feel very connected to is Niki de Saint Phalle. Her work feels so powerful and joyous to me. It would be cool to visit her Tarot Garden in Italy one day. 

When talking about your work, what are the emotions you wish to evoke? 

It’s about creating my own universe of magical flowers and cartoon-like characters. I enjoy exploring queer expressions and identity through feminine attributes like a pink thong, nail polish and high heels. I’m trying to express my emotions and personality in a way that engages the viewers’ own imagination and new perspectives. Most of all, I want it to be fun! 

Who do you see wearing your piece of art after it has been turned into a dress?

Someone who builds their wardrobe like an art collection, adding unique pieces selectively over time. Someone with a personal expression that never goes out of fashion. I hope this piece brings the wearer a lot of joy! I imagine the piece as a tall tree growing around the body. Dolphins swimming around it, eating ripe bananas. At the top of the tree, two friends are kissing.

Camilla Engström

Camilla is wearing an Alvari-jacket and Annalina-trousers.

Hi Camilla! This project was centered on the idea of celebrating and supporting women. What would you like to say to other women during this special week?

I think we should continue to uplift and support each other. Let's empower ourselves so we can empower each other. We're stronger together. 

What sort of role does identifying as a female play in your work?

I want to bring femininity and female experience into the art world. Being feminine and soft doesn't equal weakness. Quite the contrary. I want to change the idea of women having to be like men to be able to be taken seriously. We must accept and be ourselves to be able to create a healthy balance in the world. I'm very grateful for the brave women who came before me and who paved the way for me to do this for my living – especially Guerilla Girls and the #MeToo movement. These women created a safer space for all women to work. We're far from equality but it's slowly getting better. Step one is to know our own worth, take space and ask for what we want. I hope I can inspire young women to do the same. 

If you had to choose, whose work has impacted you the most?

Oh, I have so many influences and I want to thank them all for paving the way. I love Luchita Hurtado, Georgia O'Keeffe, Yayoi Kusama, Hilma Af Klint, Leonora Carrington, Kerry James Marshall, Agnes Pelton amongst many others. 

What made you take that leap to pursue a career as an artist?

I was working in fashion in a very corporate and a bit toxic environment. I was very unhappy, and I felt like I couldn't express myself creatively. I was surrounded by artist friends at the time and their lifestyle and freedom inspired me to pursue something similar. That was seven years ago, and my practice is still evolving. I started by buying my website domain. That felt like a huge leap forward. I also set up a social media account which I've been very active on ever since. 

How would you describe your visual language?

I’d say I communicate with my viewer through bright colors and soft comforting shapes. I want my viewers to experience the spiritual side of nature. To feel something beyond what we witness with our own eyes. I want people to feel loved and nurtured when they see my work. I hope I can touch something calm and gentle inside the person exploring my work. 

Who do you see wearing your piece of art after it has been turned into a dress? 

I really hope it's someone who will love and cherish the dress forever. I hope they know what their incredible generosity contributed to. 

Cassi Namoda

Cassi is wearing a Fenja-dress.

Hi Cassi! What sort of role does identifying as a female play in your work?

I don’t think my work is feminist as such. The act of me living, breathing, and participating is feminism in my opinion. I don't want to be caught up on gender roles when I paint, I just focus on the craft itself. Of course, I do acknowledge that there is still a long way to go for equality, but I am also seeing some positive changes. That is so promising. 

When talking about your work, what are the ideas you wish to raise?

I wish to keep my paintings open for the viewer to just enjoy without getting too lost in the history or narrative of the work and just be open to the piece itself. Everything else is secondary.  I would describe my working as honest, present, transcendent. 

If you had to choose, whose work has impacted you the most?

Alice Neel has been the focus of my attention. I also love Tracy Emin’s, Simone Yvettte Leigh’s and Lynette Biakom’s works. There are so many.

How did you find painting at the Marimekko printing mill?

It was such an inspiring experience because of the heritage and history. Everything felt harmonious as I have a very natural connection to Marimekko. First, I was thinking aboutthe person who would wear the piece and how the dresswould look most appealing but,at the same time I wanted to stay open to any form that the artwork wanted to take. After I was shown tens of swatches of color, I narrowed the palette to five pigments, which reminds me of the way I normally paint

Marimekko literally means Mary’s dress. What is your relationship to dresses?

I love the sense and practicality of a dress. You slip it on and that’s it. No more pondering on what else might need to go with the outfit. It’s quite utilitarian, I think.

What would you like to say to other women during this special week?

I wish grand rising to all my soul sisters! Be kind to yourself and remember to take rest every once in a while, as the patriarchy can be exhausting.

Who do you see wearing your piece of art after it has been turned into a dress?

I see her as a woman-about-town, socially active and sophisticated, but also as someone who is relaxed and rested. She’s both, and that’s lovely!

Meet Camilla, Cassi and Yoyo

Join our Instagram Live on Thursday, 3 March at 17:00 CET, as Camilla, Cassi and Yoyo discuss the Marimekko collaboration, art, and femininity.

Charity supporting equality
The artworks will be auctioned at Bukowskis – and then turned into a unique, made-to-measure A-line dress in Marimekko’s atelier in Helsinki. Profits will be donated to Gurls Talk, a community-led non-profit organization promoting the wellbeing of adolescent girls and young women. The auction will take place exclusively online at from 28 February to 8 March 2022.