Outi Pakarinen doesn’t like full wardrobes. She likes purposeful wardrobes.
“I don’t design collections for changing seasons,” she emphasises. “What I do is the bedrock of style.”
Pakarinen, the founder and CEO of KUDE, created her very own brand when she realised she could no longer tolerate the status quo of the fast-fashion industry, let alone understand why everything seemed to be made for just one generic shape of the female body. She describes herself as “short and curvy” – and she knows she’s not the only one.
“I couldn’t find nice-looking, ecologically made and high-quality clothing, and at the same time I started to really feel fed up with the single-use culture of fashion,” she recalls. “I’m not the one for no-brain bulk; I wanted to do something that has a meaning and push the industry to change its habits.”
As a fashion designer with a background in digital retail and marketing in positions such as product manager and buyer, Pakarinen was well aware of the realities of the field. When she began to take note of how it all contradicted her values, she wanted to jump off the bandwagon and focus on what feels right – and looks good and is comfortable to wear, of course.
Timeless design with no eccentric bling bling
Pakarinen points out that it’s impossible to flatter all body types with one design. Thus, she decided to focus on her own, being confident that there are others who’ll be fond of it, too.
She designs the clothes in Finland, and the production happens in Finland, Estonia and a Finnish-owned factory in Portugal. That way, she can keep track of what’s happening in the factories, what materials are used and where they are sourced from.
Instead of collections that come and go, KUDE offers everyday classics that can be easily combined with all kinds of styles. Everything started out with a couple of T-shirts that Pakarinen created to please her personal taste.
“I couldn’t find high-quality ones that would fit my body type and have no ‘bling bling’. For years, I’ve spoken about ‘the cornerstones of wardrobes’ that don’t get ruined in wash and stand both time and use.”
The selection has since expanded, and Pakarinen has closely listened to the wishes of her customers. She has been keen to hear what colours, shapes, sizes and styles are lacking.
KUDE also puts emphasis on everyday items. Pakarinen has never understood why people are willing to spend big money on fancy dresses that are worn once or twice a year, but turn into cheapskates when it comes to daily outfits.
“It’s the wrong way around! It makes a lot more sense to invest in the clothes that are worn all the time.”
Say no to wearing sacks
KUDE’s philosophy of focusing on one body type has worked, and Pakarinen has no plans to start changing shapes.
“The same design simply can’t feel comfortable in XS and 6XL,” she explains. “Unless it’s just a huge sack, and I don’t want to make or wear huge sacks.”
Pakarinen has noticed that a lot of people have their wardrobes packed with items that don’t really fit. They might be too small, the wrong colour, have sleeves that feel uncomfortable or – it might be difficult to pinpoint what’s wrong – the fit just doesn’t feel right. To help people, Pakarinen used to organise training sessions to make the best of the wardrobes they had. Now she no longer has the time for training, but the lessons she learnt have impacted KUDE to this day.
“It was a great way to understand what’s expected from clothes and what the everyday struggles and challenges are. It was like doing field work in other people’s wardrobes.”
Now, KUDE is expanding its online store abroad, with Sweden, Germany, Austria and France in sight first and other countries quite possibly following suit.
“I’m sure there are curvy women all over the world.”