Stretch! Jump! Lift! Hit! Squat and up again, and then back down!
Despite the flawless images in sportswear catalogues, it’s not easy to look photogenic whilst doing sports. We sweat, turn red, can’t quite reach our toes – and our clothes need to be able to bear with us, whatever the position.
Minna and Milja Eerikäinen are well familiar with the challenges textiles face whilst being worn in action. The two sisters have a combined history in athletics, running, horse riding, dancing, gymnastics and yoga, many of which are still part of their everyday life. On top of this, they both have worked in the sports industry, and Minna Eerikäinen with textiles, too.
A couple of years ago, the duo started to think about the issues of the fashion industry, such as bad quality of clothing, lack of recycling and labour rights.
“We decided that we want to do something else,” Minna Eerikäinen says. “There are so many incredible and innovative technologies, companies and products that have appeared in recent years that we wanted to give them a go.”
In 2017, the sisters started to test the market with Garmendo, an online marketplace for sustainable, conscious and good-looking activewear.
Ethical from start to finish
As the sisters had taken note of the bad quality and dodgy manufacturing processes of many brands, Garmendo focuses on working exclusively with companies that are certifiably ethical and sustainable. It’s not just about production or materials; Minna Eerikäinen says that Garmendo’s approach is holistic and applies to the entire supply chain.
“Our business model is to sell ecological and ethical products, and this includes the treatment of workers at factories, as well as packaging and shipping,” she explains. “That way, our values are present all the way from choosing materials to manufacturing and the customer’s doorstep.”
Going online was a natural choice to Garmendo, as the goal was to go international from the start. Initially the target markets were the UK and Germany, and Finland is slowly following suit, as is the rest of Europe.
In addition to personal experience in sports, Minna Eerikäinen has a diverse background in international business: she has worked in Germany, the UK, Estonia and Spain, mainly with clients from Germany, the Nordics and the US.
“Australia and North America have a huge demand for ethical sportswear as well, so eventually we’ll head there are well,” she tells.
No to low quality
Although there are plans to set up a storage somewhere in Europe at some stage, currently all parcels are packed and shipped from Garmendo’s headquarters in Jätkäsaari, Helsinki, by the Eerikäinens. The show is run by the sisters, while subcontractors and other collaborators are of immense help.
“With our great partners, it’s easy to establish Garmendo in new markets,” Minna Eerikäinen notes.
However big the company grows, its vision won’t change: Garmendo doesn’t want people to be disappointed when they receive their parcels. She remembers all too well how it felt to get her hands on an order and notice it was nothing like what was pictured on whatever website she got it from.
“There’s so much low-quality stuff pumped into the market, so what you get might be very different from what you thought you would.”
Thus, Garmendo is picky when it comes to the brands it chooses to sell. Eerikäinen notes that although now some of the brands are relatively small, big ones are also welcomed – as long as they act ethically. She knows from her experience in the industry that large ships turn slower than small boats.
But the tide is changing for sure.
“The textile industry is one of the most polluting ones in the world,” Eerikäinen says. “We want to give people the best alternatives we can to help change that.”