When Johanna Vaissi’s now 13-year-old daughter was a toddler, there weren’t many small Finnish brands available to dress the child in. Now, a decade later, there is an abundance of choice.
“It’s astonishing really,” Vaissi says. “The most popular prints and designs can sell out really quickly, and they are much sought-after even as second-hand products.”
Although Vaissi’s family no longer needs small kids’ clothing, she’s all too familiar with the struggles of finding good-quality, ethically produced items – both as a parent and a businesswoman. For about two decades, she has worked in various professions within the fashion scene. Now, having taken the lessons of her career onboard, she is the co-founder and managing director of Mainio Clothing.
Mainio was founded in 2013, but the idea had been brewing in Vaissi’s mind for much longer, though.
“Meeting Outi Mäkinen, Mainio’s designer, was when the pieces came together,” she explains. “I felt like I had met someone who shares my vision and viewpoint.”
The first collection was launched in 2014. Since then, Mainio has released two collections every year.
Social responsibility is worth the money
The core idea behind Mainio’s brand lies in its relaxed, contemporary and street-style prints and cuts, convenience and comfort. Ambitious design doesn’t have to compromise practicality both in wearing and washing.
When it comes to durability and quality, materials make a difference. All Mainio items are made using certified organic cotton.
Vaissi also takes pride in the factories that produce all Mainio items. Mainio works with a company in India and later this year it will start collaborating with another in Lithuania, both with SA8000 certificates.
“We personally know these places and the people running them,” Vaissi notes. “I’ve known and worked with the factory in India for the past 16 years.”
Vaissi believes, and has noticed, that customers are willing to pay for social responsibility. Hence it’s not necessary to pursue cheaper production options just to keep the cost down.
Smells like team spirit
At first, Mainio only produced clothes for children. Soon parents wanted to wear Mainio, too, so Mäkinen and Vaissi decided to create a small collection for adults. On top of that, Mainio has a selection of home textiles.
Despite the popularity of Finnish brands within the country’s own borders, Mainio has set sail for overseas as well, with resellers all over Europe, the US and in various locations in Asia. Sales abroad are continuously growing, and Vaissi is particularly keen to explore new opportunities in the Asian market.
At the moment, the main challenge is the lack of pairs of hands: Mainio is run by two-and-a-half people, and Vaissi says there’s simply no more room on their tables. The team is on the lookout for a marketing and sales professional, maybe more than one, and agents who are present in the international markets and understand things such as cultural differences.
One source of support and advice can be found among other Finnish kids’ clothing brands.
“It’s been wonderful to experience the team spirit,” Vaissi tells. “People don’t think it’s dangerous to share information and help others. If anything, we’re all in the same boat, trying to go global together.”