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[The Hieno! Suomi 100 series] Interview with Katja Siberg, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at Finavia.

Finnish People, Official Finland 100 Series Endorsed by Prime Minister's Office

We have often heard that Finland functions as the world’s bridge between the “East” and the “West”. Today, as part of The Hieno! “What is Finnish-ness” series celebrating Suomi 100 in 2017, we feature Katja Siberg. Katja is responsible for brand and marketing communications at Finavia, operator of Helsinki Airport.

In this fun interview, Katja shares with us a brief history of Helsinki Airport, Finnish hospitality and service, “Finnish-ness” and her wish for Finland 100.

Enjoy the interview! ♡

TH: Hello Katja! Thank you for accepting our interview. Can you tell us more about yourself and Finavia?

Katja Siberg: Sure. I am a responsible about marketing for the whole Finavia and commercial services at our network airports. I have been working within the travel industry in marketing and business development for the most of my whole career. It´s a really interesting industry.

Finavia provides airport and air navigation services to facilitate smooth air traffic. We maintain and develop our network of 22 airports and Finland’s air navigation system. In addition, we security check passengers and luggage, keep the runways in working condition and ensure safe take offs and landings.

Our mission is to create prerequisites for competitiveness, mobility and international reach of Finnish society by providing our customers with safe, high quality and cost effective air traffic services. Our customers include airlines, other operators in the aviation sector and passengers.

Over 20 million passengers fly via our 22 airports yearly.

TH: Can you briefly tell us the history of Helsinki Airport?

Katja Siberg: Helsinki Airport was opened in July 1952 to coincide with the Olympic Games in Helsinki. Initially, the airport had an air navigation services building, one runway, an apron area and a shed for passengers.

The second runway opened a few years later in 1956. The first actual passenger terminal was built in 1969 and the extension, the international section, was finished in 1983. The second terminal was built in 1993. After that, the terminals have been expanded multiple times.

Today, Helsinki Airport is the leading transit airport in Northern Europe for long-haul traffic and it connects Europe and Asia with the shortest route. Thanks to transit travel, Helsinki Airport provides exceptionally comprehensive flight connections, given the population of Finland.

In 2015 Helsinki Airport served approximately 16.5 million passengers. There are flight to 17 destinations in Asia and overall to 135 destinations worldwide.

At the moment Helsinki Airport is developing again. The airport expansion will make it possible to serve 20 million passengers in 2020. The airport’s current terminal building will be extended by 45 %, and all services will become easily accessible under one roof. Distances to and from services as well as transfer times will remain short.

The development also entails increasing the airport’s eco-efficiency, doubling the number of wide-body aircraft bridges, increasing baggage handling capacity and improving airport services to better cater to passengers’ varying needs.

TH: Can you tell us more about the impressive Match Made in HEL- project headed by Finavia last year? Why and how did Finavia come up with this idea?

Katja Siberg: The Match Made in HEL campaign was a joint campaign by Finavia, the operator of Helsinki Airport, and Finnair, the airline specializing in Asia Europe connections. Hence, the campaign aimed to raise awareness of Helsinki Airport and Finnair as the best partners for smooth and fast air connections between Asia and Europe.

The campaign has been organized two times: in October 2014 we invited a bunch of top international skaters to skate at Helsinki Airport, and last May we organized a fashion show on a real runway at the airport.

The fashion show organised last May initiated from the idea that air travel has long played a key role in setting the pace of fashion trends across the world. A fashion show was a perfect way to bring Europe and Asia together in a new and exciting way.

By bringing seven inspiring designers to Helsinki Airport, we wanted to celebrate the connections between Europe and Asia, and showcase the work of some of the hottest designers from these two continents.

TH: It seems that it is in Finnish culture that Finns don’t smile unless there is a good reason to.

For instance, the “naama peruslukemilla” of Finnish people are sometimes “frowny”, “curt” and might come across as intimidating. Some Finns even have what we colloquially term the “resting bitch face”.

What do you think about Finnish service? How does Finavia deal with this cultural difference, such that tourists (especially Asians) don’t get the false impression that Finns are cold or uncaring service people?

Katja Siberg: Serving passengers is at the heart of our strategy at Finavia.

We are devoted to provide passengers with friendly and context-sensitive customer service. The amount of international passengers at Helsinki Airport is more than 50 %, and for example Chinese are the fourth biggest foreign nationality at Helsinki Airport.

Our customer service personnel and other employees have received training on cultural differences and especially on Chinese culture, in order to offer all passengers a smooth and enjoyable experience at the airport.

We have also hired Chinese-speaking customer service personnel at Helsinki Airport so Chinese passengers can get help in their own language.

Even though Finns might tend to e.g. smile less when walking down the streets than people in some other cultures do, we do value good and friendly customer service.

I think the quality of customer service has improved significantly in Finland overall during recent years.

TH: Can you tell us the top 3 things/ traits you regard as “Finnish”, and why?

Katja Siberg: One of the things Finland is probably best known for is sauna – and for a good reason. We have over three million saunas, which is more than one sauna for every other citizen. Sauna offers us a total relaxation and it is deeply rooted in the Finnish culture.

Secondly, Finns drink a lot of coffee. We consume more coffee per person than does any other nation in the world. Even at Helsinki Airport, over two million cups of coffee are served a year.


Another thing that characterises us Finns is that we get almost a bit crazy when spring and summer come after the cold winter.

On April 30 and May 1, we have maybe the biggest celebration of the year, May Day. It combines Labour Day and the start of spring.

During the summer, all sorts of fun outside events are organised all over Finland – one example is the Wife Carrying Championships.

TH: What is the number one misconception foreigners tend to have about Finland that you feel that is far from the truth?

Katja Siberg: Maybe that people tend to think Finland is dark and cold all year round and people live mainly in the countryside.

It is true that we still have quite a lot of wild nature, but most people live in urban areas. For example, our capital Helsinki is a continuously growing, modern, and vivid city.

Helsinki has a really good restaurant scene and a cool design district, and you can for example go to sauna and swim in a seaside swimming pool right in the city centre.

During the summer it is very bright in Finland, and around midsummer the sun does not set at all in Lapland!


And another thing would be that people think we have polar bears in Finland. We don’t.

TH: Can you share with us some of the most memorable experiences you or your colleagues have had while working at Finavia, especially when dealing with foreign visitors?

Katja Siberg: We have a great people working at Finavia.

Therefore, the most memorable experiences are those when we work as a team to provide a smooth customer experience to our passengers as well as reaching a set goal as a team.

TH: What do you think is the role of Finland in the world today?

Katja Siberg: In Finland, we have highly educated people and a lot of technological know-how. Entrepreneurial mindset is on the rise and Finland has a strong startup scene.

So I think Finland is and will be a strong player especially in the digitalisation field.

In addition, our geographical location enables excellent connections to Asia, which can be exploited for both business and travel.

Our clean nature and somewhat mystical image makes Finland an attractive destination for people travelling from all over the world.

TH: Some of my friends used to comment on the “no-stopover” rule at Helsinki Airport.

For example, if they want to stopover in Helsinki, they have to pay extra. Icelandic Air in contrast has up to 7 days worth of free stopover, with no extra cost. What do you think about this?

Katja Siberg: Actually we are very much encouraging people to do a stopover in our beautiful Finland when travelling via Helsinki.

Finnair now offers stopovers in Finland from 5 hours up to 5 days without additional charge.

In addition, the organisation Visit Finland has a StopOver Finland program which aims to increase stopover travel in Helsinki and rest of Finland by providing special stopover packages.


TH: What is your biggest wish for Helsinki Airport/ Finavia?

Katja Siberg: We are working hard on continuously enhancing our customer experience and therefore, I hope that every passenger has such a good experience at Helsinki Airport that they want to travel again through Helsinki.

I also hope that together with other players we are able to promote Stopover product to get more people to experience the wonders of Finland.


TH: What is the one 100 year-old birthday wish you would make for Finland, since 2017 Finland’s 100 years of independence?


Katja Siberg: I hope we all appreciate the beauty and nature of our country.

We hope you have enjoyed this interview with Katja Siberg, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development of Finavia. The Hieno! is the official partner of the Finland 100 independence programme.This series  “What is Finnish-ness”? is endorsed by the Prime Minister’s Office. Feature photograph courtesy of Katja; Other photographs from Unsplash.

[The Hieno! Suomi 100] Interview with Jukka Autio, the wise and experienced Finnish lawyer.

Finnish People, Official Finland 100 Series Endorsed by Prime Minister's Office

Today, as part of The Hieno! “What is Finnish-ness” series celebrating Suomi 100 in 2017, we feature Jukka Autio. As the managing partner of Suomen Laki ja Talous SLT OY/ Finnish Law and Economy Pte Ltd, Jukka Autio has practiced commercial and legal expert advocate duties since the early 1990s.

In this wise, engaging and informative interview, Jukka shares with us a brief history of Finnish law, interesting developments of Finland from the legal perspective, “Finnish-ness” and his wishes for Finland 100. Personally, I loved the parts where Jukka shares his thoughts about Mr Risto Ryti and Åland. Enjoy! ~

TH: Hello Jukka! Can you tell us more about yourself and what you are doing?

Jukka: Hello, I´m doing fine and all of us here at the office are doing our best to help our clients in various legal and other matters.


Our concept to practicing law is somewhat different to others as we see law mainly as a tool to help our clients to achieve their goals. As most of our clients are seeking help for multidimensional matters, we have also hired people who are not lawyers, and as well as we are co-operating with many coming from other than legal background.

In short, we see that there are three aspects to our operation: we are solving problems (simple cases, applying mainly only one law), we are finding solutions (more complicated cases, where several laws or skills are to be taken into consideration simultaneously), we are creating possibilities (a wider cross-expertise operation as well as a positive approach to helping our clients for the best of their future).

TH: As a distinguished Finnish lawyer, can you tell us a brief history of Finnish law and some of the major milestones in its developments?

Jukka: Finland was a part of the Kingdom of Sweden until 1809. The first codex of any importance in Finland today date to 1734, and is actually of Swedish origin. There are actually still some paragraphs in Finnish law from the 1734 law.

Finland became the Grand Duchy of Finland of the Russian Empire in 1809. As she was an autonomous grand duchy of the empire, the laws of 1734 stayed in force most of the 19th century as Finns were already then reluctant to be Russian. Any major new legislation was only imposed during the latter part of the 19th century as a consequence of industrial revolution in Europe. From this period of time there is still commercial regulation in force, also the foundations of the Criminal Code of Finland in todays law book are from the law of 1889.

During the turmoil of the Russian Empire in 1905 Finland was actually the first country in the world to give women full political rights, i.e. both the right to vote and to run for the office, and first country in Europe to give women the right to vote. The world´s first female members of parliament were elected in Finland, in 1907.

When Finland gained its independence in 1917, the laws of Finland were comprehensively updated. This work was mainly finished during the 1920’s. For example, the foundations of the Finnish constitution of today were imposed during these comprehensive legislative actions.

During the great global depression of 1930´s there were some major developments to Finnish law mainly through legal praxis still having at least some importance.

Finland was accepted as a member of the United Nations in 1955.

After the 2nd World War Finland was under the sphere of influence of the former Soviet Union, a super power of its time and a neighbouring country to Finland. This had its influence to laws and legal praxis of Finland until the Soviet Union broke down. Especially, when the baby boomers from the 1940´s started its working life in the end of 1960´s and in the beginning of 1970´s and became a major, rather radical, political force in Finland, the evolution of legislation gained new momentum in Finland. For example, the foundations of Labour Laws as well as the foundations of todays Family Law, Social Laws, Pension, and the Tax Codex date for most to this period.

Immediately when the Soviet Union broke down at the very end of 1980’s, Finland joined to the European Convention of the Human Rights in 1990. Finland also joined the European Union in 1995. As Finland was now unleashed from the sphere of influence of its politically active neighbour, which a little by little evolved to todays Russia, a massive updating of the Finnish legislation took place in a rapid paste. Actually, most of the laws of Finland of today have been rewritten since Finland joined the European Convention of Human Rights and the European Union, and these two developments have influenced also practically to all legal praxis there is.

For example, the regulation of legal and administrative processes, insolvency, entrepreneurship, and administration of todays Finland were rewritten after she joined the European Convention of Human Rights and the European Union.

As a summary, it is clear that the evolution of todays Finnish law has its roots in the major cornerstones of the history of Finland, and has occurred in a rather sudden bursts when the environmental and political pressures and restrictions to Finnish political decision makers have loosened up.

As todays world is in a stage of major restructuring, which process is still evolving and forming its shape in all over the world, it is to be expected that this global shift will have a major influence also in legal thinking and concepts in all corners of the world – also here in Finland. It is evident that, for example, the laws and practices of the laws of Immigration, Employment, Entrepreneurship, Taxation, Criminal Code, Association, Education, Social Security, Pension, and even Political Rights are under pressure to face changes in Finland. The only new feature to this evolution is the existence of the European Union in a sense that the future legal steps to be taken are openly more multinational than before.

TH: Finland is commonly said to be a country which values equality. How do you think “equality” is reflected in the Finnish law? Can you give us some examples?

Jukka: It is true that Finnish people value equality a lot, and this valuation has been existing for long. This drive for equality is also reflected in the Finnish law – for example, equal full political rights for both genders since 1906 as the first country of the world.

Also, we Finns have deliberately been building Finland as a welfare state, which is a concept of nothing more or less than equality. The idea of welfare state is to divide welfare to all through collecting taxes unequally.

The use and division of taxes collected is decided by the parliament and executed by administration – and occurs partly by distributing various kinds of social benefits to those, who otherwise would have less, and partly by using the collected tax funds for parliamentary decided purposes promoting the concept of welfare state and equality (equal possibility to education is a good example of this use).

There are also other laws in Finland, which have an objective to enhance equality – for example, the Marriage Act, Employment Law, Consumer Protection, and regulation related to rental relationships.

We Finns see that promoting equality benefits us all as social injustices are in general flattened, why there should not be fertile ground for extremism or radical confrontation between various groups of people.

TH: What is the one thing you are most proud of as a Finnish citizen?

Jukka: Finland has a rather small population and at the same time, her area is quite large.

Finland has a super power, even if some say a former one, as a neighbouring country, and also the Kingdom of Sweden was European super power of its time. Finland has been able to cope with multiple incidences, political interests and wars in between these two and other major European countries with a very limited number of population, and was yet able to gain its independence as well as it was able to maintain its rather unique own culture.

Therefore, I think most of the Finns are proud of Finland being what it actually is today taking all these past events in very difficult situations threatening the whole existence of the nation into consideration.

As you asked before, Finns in general value equality and equal opportunities for all, and Finland at the moment should be a good platform for this – this is the thing we have been able to achieve.

I think that most Finns understand that Finland has, as a whole, been successful in building something unique in very challenging circumstances.

TH: What is the one thing you are not so proud of as a Finnish citizen, and how do you think this can change?

Jukka: Finland is a somewhat parochial country; people are happy with themselves and do not always see nor want to see everything what is going on in the surrounding world.

This relates to whole nation, its population as well as to Finnish companies. There are certain fixed institutional structures in Finland, which are doing their best in order to keep it the way it is, as its their livelihood. Therefore, it takes sometimes quite a long time to make decisions and to adapt to changing environment.

I see, however, all of this changing naturally as the new generation grows – it is going to be more international by birth and, above all, it has lived all its life in the European Union and thinks and sees things through a different set of mind than the previous generations.

TH: What are some unique/noble/strange/interesting things about Finnish law that you think most people might not know?

Jukka: I would say that the freedom to roam, or everyman’s right. It is the general public’s right to access certain public or privately owned land for recreation and exercise. Even though this right in Finland is similar to other Nordic countries, it might be something most foreigners do not know.

In Finland everyone may walk, ski or cycle freely in the countryside where this does not harm the natural environment or the landowner, except in gardens or in the immediate vicinity of people’s homes (yards). One may even stay or set up camp temporarily in the countryside, a reasonable distance from homes, pick mineral samples, wild berries, mushrooms and flowers (as long as they are not protected species). One may also fish with a rod and line (only still waters), row, sail or use a motorboat on waterways (with certain restrictions), and swim or bathe in both inland waters and the sea. One can walk, ski and ice fish on frozen lakes, rivers and the sea. Income from selling picked berries or mushrooms is tax-free.


This right is a positive right in the respect that only the government is allowed to restrict it as in the case of strict nature reserves. However, the exact definition remains mostly uncoified and based on the principle of nulla poena sine lege (what is not illegal cannot be punished).

Another interesting legal thing in Finland which might be less known is that Åland Islands have an autonomous status meaning that those provincial powers normally exercised by representatives of the central Finnish government are largely exercised by Åland´s own government. Åland Islands were granted extensive autonomy by the Parliament of Finland in the Act on the Autonomy of Åland of 1920, which was later replaced by new legislation by the same name in 1951 and 1991.

This autonomous status was affirmed by a decision made by the League of Nations in 1921, and it was reaffirmed within the treaty admitting Finland to the European Union. By law, Åland is politically neutral and entirely demilitarised, and residents are exempt from conscription to the Finnish Defence Forces.

Contrary to other parts of Finland, Åland remains exclusively Swedish-speaking by law. This demilitarised status of Åland has often and also recently been in the spotlight, as Swedish generally see Åland, and anyone having control over her, as a dagger pointed directly to the Heart of Sweden.

TH: What are some things/ traits you would consider as uniquely “Finnish”? Would globalisation affect them?

Jukka: According to my opinion, every nation has its unique cultural features, history, and ingrown silent values / wisdom, which are all worth preserving.

I think that even though the world is getting smaller and smaller all the time as the knowledge of mankind increases continuously, and as the nations are constantly interacting in various fields more and more with each other growing, thus, more interdependent, globalisation should and will not lead to these unique national features to be lost.

If one defines Finland´s these unique features as “Finnish-ness”, one may be able to find a typically Finnish mix of certain national features – including drive for clean nature, love for summer-cottages, “sisu”, sauna, spells of midsummer night, drive for equality, stubbornness, stiffness, introverted-ness / sulky-ness, applying certain “engineering focus” to almost everything possible, over-politicising, triangular labor market, Finnish practice of following strictly the rules and regulations, etc.

These typically Finnish features are as they already exist, and as they are built-in in Finns and their culture they are bound to remain in some form or another regardless of the globalisation.

As of today, many of these features of “Finnish-ness” are under a pressure. I am, for example, sure that many Finns find it uncomfortable with many immigrants coming to Finland not so used to strictly follow rules and regulations set – however, the likely outcome is that it is the immigrants who will adapt to “Finnish-ness” and not the other way around.

I would regard as typically Finnish also a certain ability to understand various selfish power blocks of the world due to its history, and to be able to balance these blocks interests. This is why Finland has already for long underscored the operation of various international organisations and institutions.

TH: What are some popular misconception about Finland/ Finns that you would consider as far from the truth?

Jukka: As Finns are maybe regarded to be somewhat sulky as well as quite hard to get acquainted with, people may consider Finns as unfriendly and withdrawn by nature. People may, thus, also consider Finns to be slow and somewhat simple. However, I do not find these opinions to be correct, at least not with the younger generation.

Also in general, Finns are in reality quite open to new things, and are, at the end of the day, also quite friendly, loyal and trustworthy – of course, only after you get to know them.

As the Finns are spearheading many new industries and technologies, for example, in digitalisation, gaming, bio medics, and even in space exploration, the truth is that Finns are quite creative and innovative. People do not, for instance, generally know that Finland is as a country in top ten in the World to register new innovations.

TH: “Finns overly care about how the world sees them”. Do you think this is statement true?

Jukka: It is now and then argued that “Finns overly care about how the world sees them”. I see that there sure is a grain of truth in this argument, but at the same time this sensitivity should be understood in its historical context.

After the 2nd World War Finland existed for decades under sphere of influence of the former Soviet Union and Finland was considered to grovel in this relationship. The West more or less accepted all attempts from the former Soviet Union to pressure Finland to be a part of the Eastern block as Finland, whether Finns want to accept it or not, after all joined the Nazi German offence against the Soviet Union in summer 1942 in order to retrieve all Finnish soil that the Soviet Union took by force as a consequence of the Winter War of 1939-1940.

After the 2nd World War a concept of Finlandization was created by Germans to describe this Finnish behaviour of cautiously listening everything the Soviet Union suggested, and, at the same time, desperately doing all in their power there was to remain as independent as possible in these difficult circumstances. Especially during the years of Finlandization especially Finnish politicians were overly cautious of how the world saw Finland and Finns as there were always a real concern and fear that Western world would reach a conclusion that Finland had finally and conclusively slipped to the Eastern block. Due course of time this overly sensitive attitude of Finnish politicians and Finnish media spread out to cover the whole nation and its people.

I do not think that the Finns are anymore particularly sensitive over that of what the rest of the world thinks of them. As Finland has since long been a part of the European Union and as the younger generation is taking over a step by step, any possible over-sensitive attitudes of Finns of about how the rest of the world sees them is, to my opinion, only a mere reflection from the past.

TH: Who inspires you, and why?

Jukka: As there are many people who inspire me, it is not possible to name them all here.

For example, the former president of Finland, Mr Risto Ryti, inspires me as he was able to set his personal interests and wellbeing aside in order to save the nation in 1944, when it was absolutely necessary for Finland to get arms from Nazi Germany in order to stop the Soviet advance against Finland.

In order to give any supplies to Finland the Germans demanded Finland to commit itself to stand beside Nazi Germany until the bitter end regardless of the fact that it was already evident that Nazi Germany was to lose the war. Even though Nazi Germany was evidently compelled to supply Finnish army in order to save its armies at the Leningrad front, President Ryti gave his personal commitment to Nazi Germany that Finland would not seek separate peace with Allies during his presidency, which personal commitment proved to be enough for the Germans.

After the 2nd World War President Ryti was sentenced during the Soviet influenced war-responsibility trials in Finland because of him giving this personal commitment to Nazi Germany.

As we practice law also to create possibilities for our clients, I would name Mother Theresa an another example. Her unselfish work and deep commitment to help those less fortunate or underprivileged, has created possibilities for many in an individual level.

Her example proves to me that also individual people can and do have an influence. Of course there are many who could be used as an example of having an influence in an individual level, but as Mother Theresa and her life is commonly known to many, I chose to select her as an example.

TH: What is the one 100 year-old birthday wish you would make for Finland, since 2017 is Finland’s 100 years of independence?

Jukka: My birthday-wish for the 100th anniversary of Finland would be that Finns, especially younger generations, not to take everything for granted. The Finns should be able to turn the significant milestones of the past to wisdom and knowledge to guide Finland to its path for the next 100-years.

The history of Finland proves, for example, that it is sometimes wise to settle for less in order to keep something worth fighting and preserving for, individual decisions may make the difference when moral is followed, and that it is not wise for any nation to gamble in the long run. Also, the history has shown Finns that it is worth while to take time to reason rather than make hasty decisions, respect one´s environment, and to stay united in difficult times. All lessons to be learned from the Finnish history are, of course, rather generic by nature, which is why these teachings are easy to understand also for foreigners.

As what happened in history is actually all empirical know-how there is, lessons from the history is actually the only asset we have to cope with unforeseen challenges we all, as a humanity, will face in future. These future issues include, but are not limited to, globalisation, which is gaining momentum as ever before, present refugee explosion, leading sooner or later to global redistribution of wealth, and ongoing huge environmental challenges, like the climate change, threatening, at the end of the day, the whole existence of mankind.

TH: On a parting note, do you have anything else to add?


Jukka: As I am a lawyer and my point of view to this interview has derived from legal perspective, I must point out that there has, of course, been laws and legal practices in Finland prior to codex of 1734. Even today the Instruction for a Judge by Olaus Petri dated to 1520-1540 are to be found on the first pages of the Laws of Finland.

It is stated in these instructions, for example, that the good of the common man is the supreme law, and what is neither just nor fair cannot be the law; it is for the equity in the law that is accepted; all law shall by applied with wisdom, because the greatest justice is the greatest injustice, and mercy shall be included in all justice; the good of the common man is the supreme law, and therefore, what is found useful for the common man shall be deemed the law even if the words of a written law would seem to order otherwise.

Even if I am a lawyer, let us skip any references to law. These principal values of even todays Finnish society to be just and fair, and aim for common good in our everyday lives, are about 450 years old, are still valid and in no doubt will carry also for next 100 years. At the same time, I must stress that being just and fair does not in anyway mean the same than turn the other cheek – no, one has to be ready and have a right to defend important values and matters also in days to come.

We hope you have enjoyed this interview with Jukka Autio. The Hieno! is the official partner of the Finland 100 independence programme.This series  “What is Finnish-ness”? is endorsed by the Prime Minister’s Office. Please do not hesitate to contact the capable lawyers at Finnish Law and Economy Pte Ltd if you ever face any distress in Finland. All photographs courtesy of Finnish Law and Economy Pte Ltd.

[The Hieno! Suomi 100] Interview with Jaana and Esko, owners of Lapuan Kankurit.

Finnish Culture, Finnish People, Official Finland 100 Series Endorsed by Prime Minister's Office
Lapuan Kankurit

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 KankuritFinnish 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 KankuritClean 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 KankuritAs 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 KankuritSomehow 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 KankuritFinland 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 KankuritFor 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 KankuritForeigners 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 KankuritOur 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 KankuritWe 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 KankuritWe 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.

The Hieno! is the official partner of the Finland 100 independence programme.This series  “What is Finnish-ness”? is endorsed by the Prime Minister’s Office.