Kasperi rethinks urban mobility through design
A defining feature of these leather bags is influencing the fashion of business: they are 100 per cent made in Finland.
The lion’s share of companies specialising in clothes and accessories in Finland eventually move their production abroad when they internationalise. For many, the local costs are too big an obstacle to overcome.
Not so for leather bag makers Kasperi. “Made in Finland” is a big part of their identity.
By utilising local raw materials and production, the Kasperi crew is keeping a close eye on maintaining a high standard of quality. This in turn encourages customers to form a long relationship with their bags.
“Consumption cycles are getting very short, especially in fashion and consumer electronics,” states Michael Tervanen from Kasperi’s office-cum-storeroom in the hip Helsinki suburb of Kallio. “But, if we give a consumer a product that they really like and they notice that it is only getting more personal and better with time, we can communicate the value of investing in more lasting stuff.”
At present there are around 16 different Kasperi models, ranging from shoulder bags to offerings that comfortably accommodate a laptop. This is in contrast to the situation that founder and photographer Janne Kasperi Suhonen was faced with back in 2011, when he sought to carry his camera equipment as he cycled between shoots.
Finding nothing suitably versatile and durable on the market, Suhonen began designing something from scratch that would suit his needs. Eventually the finished product was suitably large and adjustable, with an all-important stabilising strap that kept it from inconveniently swaying about as he cycled.
Fast-forward to May 2015 and Suhonen’s hobby had grown into a business. Taking his middle name as its moniker, Kasperi’s initial focus has been on bike bags, yet the door remains open to expanding their range.
“We want to rethink urban mobility,” Tervanen explains. “We want to keep it broad, so it can direct us in whatever we do.”
Attracting a broad range of customers, Kasperi’s wholly Finnish approach is already carving out a competitive advantage abroad.
“We thought Germany would appreciate the functional point of view of our bag,” Tervanen recalls. “It turns out they are really excited that everything comes from the Nordics; it’s made here. That’s something unique. Germans can do functional, that’s an oversold concept there.”
Cities such as Berlin and Munich are just the beginning, with the company setting its sights on the biking cities of Copenhagen and Amsterdam, as well as London and Paris, where peddle power is growing in popularity. Looking further afield, Seoul and Tokyo are also on the radar.
Regardless of where Kasperi travels with its bags, the one thing that Tervanen emphasises is that the company is doing everything it can to keep production in Finland. This includes encouraging younger generations attending local schools to make use of its production facilities to help spur their interest in leathercraft.
Alongside making direct sales, Kasperi is also teaming up with fellow small businesses, as part of a push to build a community based around the idea of urban mobility.
“If everyone could think about not selling through big wholesalers, but instead from partnerships with others and form their own shops or local places, they could get better value for their work,” he explains.
Text: James O’Sullivan