Today, as part of The Hieno! “What is Finnish-ness” series celebrating Suomi 100 in 2017, we feature Jaana and Esko, the owners of Lapuan Kankurit. Personally, Michaela and I are super huge fans of Lapuan Kankurit–so it’s such a huge privilege to have the 4th generation weavers of Lapuan Kankurit on board our series!~
In this interview, Jaana and Esko share their views on heritage in Finnish design and fashion, “Finnish-ness” and tips for aspiring designers and creatives. Enjoy the interview! ♡
TH: Hello Jaana and Esko! Can you tell us more about yourselves and Lapuan Kankurit?
Lapuan Kankurit : We are the owners of the family company called Lapuan Kankurit.
Lapuan Kankurit is a linen and wool jacquard weaving mill, where weaving skills and material knowhow have been refined into excellence for decades. Esko is the fourth generation in the weaving family.
We live in the small town called Lapua, where our weaving mill and factory outlet is located. We also have another store and showroom in Helsinki by the market square.
Weaving mill is however “our heart”. Knowing every step from thread to product is of utmost importance to us. It makes our product development possible and produces a result we can be proud of.
TH: What does “Finnish design” mean to you?
Lapuan Kankurit : Finnish design means two things to us.
It means great old Finnish designers: Dora Jung, Alvar Aalto, Kaj Frank, Timo Sarpaneva… geniuses who have raised the Finnish design into the international fame.
Finnish design also means today’s talented young designers, who find inspiration from Nordic nature and Finnish textile traditions.
TH: What inspires the Lapuan Kankurit team in their designs?
Lapuan Kankurit : Clean Finnish nature, pure natural materials, textile traditions combined with the modern technology and simple Scandinavian way of living close to the nature.
TH: Heritage is commonly seen as important in fashion, or textile design. What do you think is the role of Lapuan Kankurit in the history of Finnish design?
Lapuan Kankurit : We feel that we have a very important role in carrying on our family’s 100 years of knowledge of weaving.
The first wool and felt factory in the family was founded 1917, the same year when Finland gained its independency. There have been several weaving mills in the family.
Esko’s father founded Lapuan Kankurit 1973, after working almost twenty years in the weaving mill owned by his two uncles. During these 100 years many big textile industries have moved their production outside of Europe.
In the meanwhile we, as a small weaving mill, have had a possibility to grow and develop our weaving here in Finland. We feel privileged that we are still able to carry on the Finnish textile heritage, with the help of our talented craftsmen in the weaving mill as well as young talented designers.
We work closely with Aalto University and give the young designers a possibility to work in our weaving mill with our weaving master.
This type of co-operation really gives us a feeling that we do have an important role in keeping the Finnish textile heritage alive.
TH: Sustainable and high quality design seems to be one important characteristic of Lapuan Kankurit. Would you say that the environment in Finland is supportive of brands like Lapuan Kankurit, which creates very unique and classy product based on local resources?
Lapuan Kankurit : As we are such a small weaving mill, we can not work alone. We need a lot of good co-operation with the others in textile field in Europe.
This is how we have learned to be very open in all what we do.
We believe that together we are stronger. We work closely with European yarn suppliers, spinning mills, yarn dyers, textile machine and equipment factories as well as designers, photographers etc.
However, we want to keep our production in our own hands and know our people. Together we are one big family, that share a same goal, to develop, design and produce textiles, which we can be proud of.
Sustainability has always been our natural way of working.
TH: It is commonly said that “the typical Finnish person is shy and humble”. Would you agree? Do tell us more!
Lapuan Kankurit : Somehow we do agree. It’s part of our culture.
To be shy and humble is maybe not a good thing in the field of marketing, but when we talk about the product development and design, it is important to be humble and listen also your customers.
The young generation in Finland is now more international and more prepared for global market, they are not so shy anymore.
TH: What do you think is the role of Finland in the creative world today?
Lapuan Kankurit : Finland is a country with a lot of small enterprises, start-ups and high technology.
Our strength and role is to work together and combine design and creativity with modern technology.
Finnish design and creativity can be seen in so many ways and in so many fields of business, not only in the traditional way of Scandinavian design.
Can you tell us the top 3 things/ traits you regard as “Finnish”, and why?
Lapuan Kankurit :
- Nature. Finnish nature influences us, our creativity and our way of living in many ways. The nature is beautiful but at the same time cruel. Still today Finnish people have a very strong bond to their roots, to our nature.
- Authenticity. Finnish people are authentic. We may be shy and humble, but we are also honest. We tell honestly what we think, but we are also able to listen to others.
- Nordic society. In Finland we have the privilege to live in the welfare society, where we have a great education system, health care etc. This we share with the other Nordic countries.
TH: Can you tell us some of the more memorable experiences you have had with your customers? It could be something funny, weird, unpleasant or moving.
Lapuan Kankurit : For us it has been a great experience to visit Japan and to learn about the Japanese culture and their way of living.
We have had the pleasure to have our Japanese customers also here in Lapua. Even if our cultures are so different, we have many things in common and enjoy each others company a lot.
In Lapua we usually invite our international customers to our home for dinner and we cook something together. We have spent so many nice evenings at our house with a lot of laughter, even if things do not always go as planned. We have had our barbeque; we have dropped the smoked salmon from oven straight into the snow etc. And we always have had a great time. It has been a pleasure to be able to show our international customers a normal Finnish way of living here in the countryside.
Quite often funny things happen because of the different languages. Our team speaks quite many languages, but for example French is not the strongest one. So in Paris, dinner with customers in a restaurant can be interesting. It is with excitement that we wait to see what the waitress will bring us to know what we actually ordered…
TH: What is the number one misconception foreigners tend to have about Finns/ Finland that is far from the truth?
Lapuan Kankurit : Foreigners tend to consider Finland as very cold.
However, we do have four beautiful and different seasons. Summers can be very warm, and in winter the temperature can easily drop to -20 celsius degrees, but it does not feel so cold because of the dry air.
Foreigners think life in winter with the snow is very difficult, but we Finns have a good system to keep the roads open and everything running even during the coldest seasons.
We have learned to dress against the cold weather and our houses are very warm even during the coldest winter days.
TH: What are your personal dreams and visions for the future?
Lapuan Kankurit : Our dream and vision is to continue to produce and develop beautiful textiles for our customers worldwide.
We want to concentrate to the quality of the production and products.
We would like to keep the production in our hands also in the future, so that we can continue to offer our customers sustainable design, products with natural materials and sense of Finnish wellness.
TH: What is the one advice you have for young designers wanting to design textiles in Finland?
Lapuan Kankurit : We would like to encourage young textile students to take all the benefits from our good education system and take a few courses also in business, marketing, production planning etc.…
We do need designers with a very deep and concentrated education, but also designers who can co-operate with companies and understand the whole wide field we are working in.
We think that good designers do not let limits effect their creativity negatively. When the designer knows the field they are working in, he or she can use creativity to combine the good design with solving a problem in some other field, like production or marketing.
TH: What is the one 100-year-old birthday wish you would make for Finland, since 2017 Finland’s 100 years of independence?
Lapuan Kankurit : We wish Finland will remember its past, which is a great success story here in northern Europe. To learn from the history and be able to make new kind of success stories in today’s challenging world.