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Gugguu wants the perfect fit

Gugguu’s goal goes further than clothes: they’ve also wanted to create a community of families. Jan Lönnberg

If the shops don’t sell what you’d want to buy, it might be a good idea to try and do it yourself. Case in point: the two sisters behind the kids clothing brand Gugguu managed to create a whole community based on their distinctive design and sustainable production.

Anne Valli and Miia Riekki, two sisters with six children altogether, were never happy with the clothes they bought for their kids. If the design was nice, the sleeves were too short; if the size was spot-on, the material was anything but top-notch. Good quality, correct sizing and nice cuts and prints never seemed to meet.

Riekki lost patience. If no one else was doing things right, she decided she would. With no prior experience in the field but an enthusiastic friend onboard, Riekki founded a company and began uncovering the secrets of kids’ fashion.

Now Gugguu is one of the children’s clothing brands that people queue up to buy from both shops and online. The initial co-founder has since stepped aside from daily operations, and Valli took the spot of running the company together with her sister.

The name Gugguu sounds like the word kukkuu, the Finnish equivalent of ‘peek-a-boo’. This word emerged at the last possible moment, just when the sisters had already sent the first labels to print – but with a name that didn’t feel quite right.

“I was cooking at home and Miia rang me,” Valli recalls. “She said we have to come up with something and quickly, because once the printing machines are on, there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Just then, Valli’s youngest child peeked into the kitchen from around the corner and greeted his mum with a cheerful “kukkuu”. The call being on loudspeaker, Riekki thus heard one of the one-year-old’s first words.

“Miia instantly recognised that ‘this is it’. We had found what we had been seeking for so long!”

A series of siblings in the same shirt

Gugguu goes the extra mile to make its clothes worth the fuss. All materials come from Europe, and long-term partners in Finland and Estonia take care of the manufacturing.

The sizing is carefully thought through, and there’s a no-exceptions rule when it comes to double-sizes – which means a piece of clothing that can be made bigger or smaller with buttons, zippers or the like.

Gugguu goes the extra mile to make its clothes worth the fuss. Image: Jan Lönnberg

“Many manufacturers use double-sizing, but the clothes don’t tend to fit either size right,” Valli explains.

Children wearing Gugguu don’t need to look like they’ve been dressed in a cape. Gugguu clothes are a little narrower than usual, which makes them fit better and look nicer.

Well-fitting clothes mean that as the child grows (and boy do they, so quickly!), the shirt will evidently be too small for the not-so-little-one-anymore. As Gugguu’s clothes cost more than the average high-street brands, the investment might feel a bit too precious. Gugguu’s solution to this is simple: the clothes are of such high quality and appealing design that they can be used by younger siblings or sold forward once the first user has had their fun with them – for almost or even exactly the same price as new ones.

Gugguu’s goal goes further than clothes: Valli points out that they’ve also wanted to create a community of families. Customers can bring their children to photo shoots, visit Gugguu’s popup events, meet people and collect new experiences.

On social media, Gugguu has really taken off: on top of its official fan page (just under 50 000 likes), there are groups for second-hand Gugguu sales and discussions, the biggest of which has over 15 000 members.

It’s all just the beginning

The creator behind each Gugguu product is Riekki, with the help of professional seamstresses. Initially Gugguu wanted to focus on small sizes, but due to popular demand, Gugguu pieces can be worn by up to 12-year-old children as well as adults, too.

“Clothes for grown-ups has really been a sidetrack, as it wasn’t our original intention,” Valli says. “We want to only sell clothes we’d buy or wear ourselves. Sometimes we get requests to make adult sizes of a particular children’s product, but unless we really believe it’s a good idea, we won’t do it.”

Gugguu employs around 10 people, including its owners and part-time staff members. It runs operations from a warehouse in Tampere, Finland, and has resellers in Europe, North America and Asia.

At the moment, the biggest foreign fan crowd can be found in China. In general, international sales are up; according to Valli, Gugguu’s own webstore receives orders from abroad in growing numbers.

Valli believes there to be plenty more potential markets to be tapped. Countries with Finland-style weather are especially keen to get their hands on Gugguu products.

“It’s all just a beginning for us now,” Valli says. “Although we’ve worked long and hard on our internationalisation, it takes time and patience. Fortunately, things are looking promising.”

Gugguu is one of the children’s clothing brands that people queue up to buy from both shops and online. Image: Jan Lönnberg
By: Anne Salomäki