[Interview] Helena Dunn, Founder + Designer of Tuulikki NYC

Photo: Tuulikki NYC

Through the creation of a sustainable performance surf-wear brand specifically tailored to women, Helena Dunn has captured the voice of the female surf community in Rockaway, New York. Tuulikki is the first east coast women’s surf-wear brand of its kind, designed in Rockaway and made in New York City, it addresses sustainability at every level of the supply chain by using the most progressive innovations in recycled fabrics. Equally a statement on empowering women in surf, Tuulikki stands for the values of the culture that inspired it and the community who has adopted it as its own.

To get the real story behind this new player on the scene, we spoke to the woman herself.

Nour Seikaly: How did you get into surfing?

Helena Dunn: I was introduced to surfing on a trip I took to Nicaragua in 2013. I still remember the feeling of catching my first wave and it just stuck with me. Within a year of that trip, I moved from Brooklyn to Rockaway and was surfing every day before and after my design job in the city. A couple of years later I’m teaching surf lessons in Rockaway beach and just launched a surfwear brand, so getting into surfing definitely changed the course of my life.

Helena, enjoying a sunset session out east. Photo: Tuulikki NYC

NS: When did you start thinking about creating a surf-wear brand designed for women?

HD: In moving to Rockaway and surfing every day, I met these incredible women who were leading similar lives and shared my love for surfing. We were definitely a minority in the water so we sort of banded together in support of one another, and I think in support of women in the sport in general. Through my own experiences and hearing of theirs, it became clear to me that the surf-wear in the market fell short of meeting the needs of female surfers—simply because it’s not function forward enough for most women’s bodies.

Essentially we don’t want to have to worry about falling out of our suits, we just want to be able to focus on surfing without readjusting and getting fabric in places it doesn’t belong. So Tuulikki was created with these considerations in mind and to address this need in the market.

Lido Shortie (Red). Photo: Tuulikki NYC

NS: What makes Tuulikki a sustainable brand?

HD: I grew up surrounded by nature—between the English countryside and lakelands of Finland during the summer—so I discovered my interest for sustainability in design early on. During my four month trip to Nicaragua, I ended up doing an apprenticeship with local artisans and learning about their techniques of handmade craftsmanship–which deepened my commitment to only introduce something to the market that was meaningful and stood for the values that I truly cared about.

Tuulikki is locally made in New York using recycled fabrics at the highest quality available on the market to ensure its durability. We also offer a complimentary year-long repair service to support the extended lifespan of the product and in turn, reduce over-consumption and waste. Tuulikki is also a ‘1% for the Planet’ certified brand—with proceeds going to environmental organizations dedicated to ocean conservation.

NS: Is there a story behind the brand’s name?

HD: Tuulikki is the name of a mythical Finnish goddess responsible for protecting the harmony between man and nature, so it pretty much captures my vision for the brand perfectly—it’s about equilibrium.

NS: Where can we check out Tuulikki surf-wear?

HD: Our website actually just launched so it’s all up on Tuulikki NYC, but we’ve also set up a pop-up shop on the Rockaway beach boardwalk at 68th Street by the surf schools—so we’d love to have you come by, we’ll be there every weekend through the summer!

Stay in the loop with Helena + Tuulikki via their Instagram, @tuulikkinyc.