Papu weaves stories into its eco-friendly children’s clothes
Children’s clothing brand Papu wants to produce clothes good enough to make them collectables. Eco-friendliness and responsibility are the guidelines for not only Papu’s products, but also their production: their European collaborators have been checked out in person.
Papu’s clothes are born from adventures. The whole collection is presented not only in catalogues, but also in stories, poems, and activity books.
Anna Kurkela, the founder of Papu, thinks that having a story behind each collection can increase the clothes’ emotional value in the eyes of their users.
”Appreciating a product might sound superficial, but it makes it last longer and hence more ecological,” she points out.
Kurkela describes stories as an endless fountain of ideas. This year the collection is based on poetry; the summer collection goes camping with a turnip and a sweet potato, and come autumn, the collection walks down a path coloured by different shades of nature.
The story of the clothes isn’t only known at the level of fairytales. The people at Papu know exactly what the history of a piece of clothing is like.
”We know where our products are made, and we trust our collaborators 100 per cent,” says communications officer Marja Kurkela. “Our customers can get very specific information about our production if they so wish.”
Sustainability dictates practices
Papu’s clothes are designed by Anna Kurkela, and the books and clothing prints are illustrated by Hanna-Riikka Heikkilä. The production takes place in Portugal and the majority of GOTS certified cotton comes from Turkey.
Globally the clothing industry has a terrible reputation due to, for example, the exploitation of workforce and the usage of poisonous chemicals. The folks at Papu have personally travelled to check out how their collaborators work. The policy is to keep the production in Europe.
”In Portugal Papu products are made by professional adults. Small amounts of products have been ordered from seamstresses in Finland,” tells Marja Kurkela.
Responsibility doesn’t end there. Papu wants to sell clothes that not only last from one child to another, but also grow together with the child. Combination sizes can be enlarged or decreased with turnover ribbings and double buttons.
In design the aim is to be timeless. The models don’t focus on trends.
”When a new catalogue comes out, the products from the previous seasons still don’t get old. Hopefully the opposite will happen: sold-out clothes become sought-after rarities,” Anna Kurkela says.
By accident Papu has ended up making clothes for adults too. Initially the idea was to get everyone in the office a pair of leggings with a Papu print, but due to a surprising demand they stayed in the selection.
Going and growing internationally
The first steps of Papu were taken when the founder Anna Kurkela was studying fashion design. At the time she was interested in producing clothes as ecologically as possible. After her first child was born, she started to gain interest in children’s clothes. Things got serious in 2012.
Up until 2014 she alone was responsible for the company. She designed the collections together with Heikkilä, but everything else from marketing to delivering the orders she did mostly on her own.
”It became clear pretty soon that Anna’s resources wouldn’t suffice – and neither would the space in our living room,” says the CEO and Anna Kurkela’s husband, Jussi Kurkela.
In total Papu employs seven people, two of whom work part-time.
Last year Papu became a limited company. Its turnover more than doubled from the previous year, and it had resellers in Finland, Australia, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Italy.
This year’s collection will also travel to China, Austria, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Germany, and Portugal.
According to Marja Kurkela, the percentage of international sales is growing fast. Papu plans on looking for an international sales expert to strengthen the team.
“Our goal is that the majority of our turnover in 2016 comes from abroad,” Jussi Kurkela says.
Going international isn’t cheap. This spring Papu is going to carry out a crowdfunding campaign, in which it sells shares of the company.
“The aim of the campaign is to ensure our cash flow during the phase of fast growth and hence be able to employ new people,” Jussi Kurkela explains.
Text: Anne Salomäki