Helsinki is in the midst of a snowstorm when I meet Raquel Alonso Miranda, founder of MoiMoi, at her studio. Despite her Spanish roots, after 12 years in Finland the cold doesn’t bother Miranda. In fact, it is the Finns’ fondness for clean lines and practicality that inspires her sustainable handcrafted bags.
“The main pillar of my design philosophy is to make bags to be used. Bags to fit the city life,” Miranda explains. “We try to keep their style as simple and minimalistic as possible because we want to make timeless design and products that can last a lifetime.”
This means working with materials that can stand, or even get better with, the passing of time. In MoiMoi’s case the answer has been using thick vegetable-tanned leather in all of its products, which include handbags, satchels, totes and wallets. Instead of trendy colours or seasonal collections, the bags come in natural shades and new items are added only once or twice a year.
In addition, Miranda and co-founder Kalle Järveläinen want to keep a close eye on how the bags are manufactured. To ensure they know every step in the production chain, MoiMoi only works with small producers in Spain and Finland.
The roots of MoiMoi can be traced back to 2006. Specifically, to an exchange year took Miranda took in Kuopio, Eastern Finland. This snowy city surrounded by forests was quite a change from her hometown on the warm Atlantic side of Spain.
“I studied textile and clothing design in Kuopio. It was really different from my school since I came from an art university in Spain,” she recalls. “I learnt a lot about handicrafts. I realised that if I learn to do things myself I can start a business without needing large resources. So, I learnt to sew and work with leather.”
It still took several years for MoiMoi to take shape. Miranda returned to Spain to finish her master’s degree and came back to Finland, this time to Helsinki, to do an internship at Finnish fashion brand Ivana Helsinki. Then she met Järveläinen.
“He encouraged me to start my own company in Finland. I was 25 so it was a bit crazy, but I did it,” Miranda says with a laugh. “He is a graphic designer and helped with all the technical details and graphics. We started MoiMoi in 2010.”
MoiMoi means “bye bye” in English and it is the first Finnish phrase Miranda learned. Yet eight years later the company is saying hello to wider international markets having established a loyal customer base in Finland and having fans as far afield as Australia and the US.
It is this international appeal MoiMoi wants to explore next. The brand’s bags are already available globally online and sold through a few selected retailers in Finland, Japan and Spain, but for Miranda this just scratches the surface.
“We have reached the top in Finland, we cannot grow much more here so we want to focus on two things,” she explains. “Firstly, the focus of our online shop is to get more into Europe. Secondly, we are testing wider opportunities to go the Asian market.”
This is where MoiMoi has enlisted a helping hand. The company is part of Business Finland’s trade programme which helps Finnish design companies enter the Japanese market. MoiMoi already has some sales in the country, but Miranda believes a growing demand for long-lasting, sustainable and functional design is the most important factor
“People abroad like the fact we come from Finland and Helsinki, they associate them with good quality and design,” she says. “We want to combine the best sides from both countries. The simple, practical style from Finland and the Spanish leather handicraft expertise.”