Finland has a rich heritage of manufacturing quality home textiles, with the likes of Finlayson and Vallila on everyone’s lips. Staying true to their roots, Finnish design companies and textile manufacturers are offering new ways to make our homes cosy in a responsible way. They prioritise sustainable practices and eco-friendly materials, such as nettle, hemp, paper, wool and linen.
Add a soft touch to your home interior with this Finnish quintet.
For most people, the nettle plant triggers associations with something stingy and unpleasant to touch, and hence the very idea of “silky-smooth” nettle-based fabrics seems to defy logic. However, nettle was used for creating luxurious royal garments hundreds of years ago and is now being reintroduced as a responsible choice by Nummela-based Knokkon.
The company’s founder, Sanna Kuoppamäki-Luomansuu, became intrigued by nettle a few years ago and soon came to realise that this natural raw material has the potential to inspire change in the textile industry. Nettle grows without irrigation, flourishes without the need for chemical intervention and makes for surprisingly fine fibres with a wide range of benefits.
In addition to nettle, Knokkon uses hemp and sustainably sourced organic cotton to manufacture yarn and fabrics, as well as various consumer products, such as towels, napkins, bed linen and weighted blankets.
“We want to challenge cotton as the standard, go-to material in the textile and fashion industries,” Kuoppamäki-Luomansuu stated. “Our products offer a sustainable and extremely comfortable alternative.”
With its roots going back to 1917, Lapuan Kankurit manufactures sophisticated linen and wool home textiles at its weaving mill in the small Finnish town of Lapua. Now run by Esko Hjelt, a family entrepreneur in the fourth generation, and his wife, Jaana Hjelt, the company brings together the century-long traditions of craftsmanship, latest weaving techniques and a responsible attitude towards the environment.
A big emphasis is placed on the design, too. Lapuan Kankurit has been working with many renowned Finnish and Japanese designers, and fresh ideas are regularly brought about through the company’s long-standing co-operation with Aalto University, which also sees textile design students learn about production processes first-hand at the mill.
Having become a household name in Finland, Lapuan Kankurit is gaining plenty of traction abroad, with exports making more than half of its revenues. The growing demand also highlights the need for innovative production approaches. The company recently invested around two million euros in a new weaving and finishing line to create woollen textiles entirely from the wool of Finnish Finnsheep, including thread made from the waste wool.
“We stand out in the global market, because we have woven truly forward-looking characteristics into our fabrics and we offer high-quality, well-finished designs,” Esko Hjelt commented. “Our whole business concept is based on our own production, continuous product development, co-operation with top designers and our own technical innovations.”
For Saana Sipilä and Olli Sallinen, the Turku-based designer couple who founded Saana ja Olli, sustainability is the cornerstone of their work and brand philosophy. The choice of material is hemp, designs are timeless and production process is kept transparent and as local as possible.
“With Saana ja Olli we are fully in charge of what materials are used, where and how the products are manufactured and what the end result looks like,” Sallinen assured. “That’s how we want it to be, and, at the same time, we want to show other designers that it’s possible to stick to your values.”
On top of creating their own hemp textile collections, the duo have been actively collaborating with different domestic and international clients, promoting the Nordic design traditions of naturalness and simplicity. The collaboration partners are always carefully considered.
“We only work with companies that share our values: sustainability, high quality and design that lasts despite continuous use and changing trends and seasons,” Sipilä underlined.
Founded in 1987 by textile designer Ritva Puotila and her son Mikko Puotila, Woodnotes was born out of the idea to celebrate one of the most ecological and beautiful natural materials, paper yarn. Woodnotes became the first company in the world to use paper yarn in a contemporary way in functional textiles, such as rugs and carpets.
“Paper has properties that differ fundamentally from the other fibres I use,” said Ritva Puotila.
“Firstly, it’s a sustainable natural material. It’s renewable and biodegradable. It’s also non-poisonous,” added Mikko Puotila. Moreover, paper yarn is believed to be safe for people with allergies, as it collects neither dust nor dirt due to the density of fibres.
Over the years, Woodnotes’ collections have expanded from paper yarn carpets to furniture and various home accessories. In addition to paper yarn derived from sustainable northern coniferous forests, the main natural fibres the company uses are wool, linen, certified cotton and leather.
Thanks to their elegant design and superior quality, Woodnotes’ products are recognised around the globe and have won numerous international awards, including the 2021 German Design Awards.
The brainchild of designer and trend analyst Kati Hienonen, Bonden seeks to bring a piece of nature into our homes and introduce the concept of harmonious Nordic living to the world. The brand’s home textiles and accessories are designed with the less-is-more principle in mind – all the products are multi-usable and compatible with each other. For example, the Bonden Core collection is claimed to allow you to dress your sofa in 192 different ways with only three blankets and three cushions.
Bonden also finds it important to promote the revitalisation of Nordic handicraft skills and the use of traditional materials such as Finnish lamb wool, felt and linen. According to Hienonen, wool is particularly suitable for the home thanks to its water and dirt-repellent qualities, but due to a number of unfortunate reasons over half of it is thrown away at shearing. The brand is on a mission to change the situation and turn it into a feasible circular economy material.
Hyperlocal in terms of its material choices and production, Bonden has always had bold international ambitions, selling its products across Europe and beyond.
“The world evinces great interest in sustainability and Nordic design. Because our products are made entirely in Finland, the manufacturing costs determine the product price so that the market is where the eco-luxury segment is growing,” Hienonen explained.
Originally published in November 2021