October 12, 2015

Lovia creates sustainable products with a story

Transparency is essential to Lovia’s ideology. Each product can be traced down to its origin, and all items carry a written introduction of its makers.
Transparency is essential to Lovia’s ideology. Each product can be traced down to its origin, and all items carry a written introduction of its makers.
Jussi Ratilainen

Finnish design brand Lovia didn’t want to see valuable materials thrown into trash bins. Lovia produces sustainable and locally sourced luxury, and some believe it’ll be the next international success story of Finnish design.

When Outi Korpilaakso worked as a designer for an international department store, she started to feel the strain. It wasn’t just the amount of work that got to her; what added up to the exhaustion were the scandals echoing from faraway places regarding the unethical practices of the industry. Despite the plentiful certificates held by her employer, Korpilaakso felt like she couldn’t know for sure what was going on in the factories and their subcontractors in Asia.

“I started to realise this isn’t what I want to do, and the feeling grew stronger and stronger. I quit my job due to a burnout, which was partially fuelled by the ideological conflict I was experiencing.”

Korpilaakso describes quitting her job as “an opportunity to rearrange the pieces of the puzzle”. She didn’t need to wonder whether or not she had the courage; there were no alternatives.

The puzzle pieces turned into the design brand Lovia, which has been deemed to become the next big thing of Finnish design. Korpilaakso and her three colleagues share the goal.

“Hopefully we’ll be known around the world not only for our unique designs, but also for transparent production and sustainability.”

Transparency is essential to Lovia’s ideology. Each product can be traced down to its origin, and all items carry a written introduction of its makers. Thanks to Lovia’s openness, the production process isn’t hidden in social responsibility reports or behind factory doors.

No to dumps, yes to luxury boutiques

Normally designers create a collection, and only then start looking for materials. Lovia decided to overhaul traditions: material comes first. Vast amounts of valuable and high-quality materials are wasted in the world, and Korpilaakso wanted to bring them back to life.

Lovia makes use of, for example, sheepskin from an organic farm. Another material that’s gained a lot of attention is leather made of elk hide.

Lovia makes use of, for example, sheepskin from an organic farm. Another material that’s gained a lot of attention is leather made of elk hide.

Jussi Ratilainen

Lovia makes use of, for example, sheepskin from an organic farm. Another material that’s gained a lot of attention is leather made of elk hide.

All materials are sourced as locally as possible. Korpilaakso says that Lovia is interested in all sorts of surplus materials, be they from farms or recycling centres. Now Lovia produces bags, clothes, and jewellery, but there’s no reason not to expand to areas like interior design if suitable materials happen to be available.

“Lovia isn’t a fashion brand; it’s a design brand. We don’t want to fit a category, as we’re ready for all sorts of challenges.”

Finding collaborators has proven to be labour-intensive. Korpilaakso laughs as she explains how they’ve spent a lot of time going through phone books.

“A channel through which we could try and find professionals in Finland or Estonia simply doesn’t exist,” she points out.

Initially the founders of Lovia thought they could keep production almost fully in Finland. However, it turned out that the expertise required to produce Lovia’s bags simply wasn’t available in the country. Now some of the bags are made in Estonia, some in Italy, where even the most demanding techniques can be used.

“We wanted production to stay as close as possible. We met the goal, but “close” just isn’t as close as we imagined.”

Hoping to become a future employer

Lovia was officially founded in July last year. Korpilaakso and sales manager Tiina Kosonen had worked together before, and PR manager Anniina Mustalahti met them during an entrepreneurship course at Aalto University. Photographer Jussi Ratilainen joined the team later.

Indirectly, Lovia offers work to various professionals, from people who tan the sheepskin, to bag producers. Korpilaakso is hopeful that one day the team itself could be expanded.

So far Finland has been Lovia’s biggest market, but the focus has been international from the very first steps. The spring collection for next year was showcased at the Tesla showroom in Copenhagen.

Lovia’s products are available in three international online stores. According to Korpilaakso, Lovia’s eyes are now on Copenhagen and London. Although competition in a place like London is tougher than at home, possibilities and opportunities are more plentiful, too.

Lovia’s only target isn’t just to increase its own sale and conspicuousness, but also to employ people in sustainable production practices. The core idea is to provide customers with elegant items with nothing to hide in their production.

”There’s a vast amount of brands all over the world, but not many of them work sustainably. Fortunately a lot of young professionals view sustainability as indispensable.”

Lovia’s spring collection 2016 was showcased at the Tesla showroom in Copenhagen. Lovia’s designer Outi Korpilaakso pictured on the right.

Lovia’s spring collection 2016 was showcased at the Tesla showroom in Copenhagen. Lovia’s designer Outi Korpilaakso pictured on the right.

Jussi Ratilainen

Text: Anne Salomäki

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