Thea beautiful pattern of wood would be difficult to copy.
The beautiful pattern of wood would be difficult to copy. Image: Aarni

Time machines with timeless design

An abundance of great ideas has been born in the heat and humidity of Finnish saunas. One of them is Aarni, Finnish company turning wood into beautiful and sustainable accessories.

Anne Salomäki

23.05.2017

Wood is an essential element of a Finnish sauna experience. Even if the stove is electric, the benches and walls tend to be made of wood, with its beautiful patterns of wood grain and natural scent.

A sauna is where it all came together for three childhood friends Niklas Tuokko, Pyry Alamäki and Samuli Koivistoinen. Two-and-a-half years ago, they were sweating in Alamäki’s home sauna, when one of them started to talk about a wooden watch he’d seen in Canada.

“Finns appreciate natural products and wood,” Tuokko explains. “We figured, if it works in Canada, then why would it not work here?”

They didn’t start from zero: Tuokko and Alamäki were business students on the brink of graduation, and Koivistoinen studied forestry. Business and wood were already big parts of the lads’ lives.

“It didn’t take us many weeks to found Aarni,” Tuokko tells. “We did some background research, signed the papers and started to contact relevant people.”

In about six months’ time, the Aarni webstore was opened. The trio had no outside funding and, despite their pre-existing expertise, had to learn a good deal of things about setting up an online shop, beginning from social media and digital marketing.

The process has paid off. Sales are constantly growing, and many orders have come in through the grapevine.

“It’s been great to hear from customers that they’ve actually seen someone wear an Aarni watch and liked it so much they want one, too,” Tuokko enthuses.

No sweat

On top of watches, Aarni also sells wooden sunglasses and wallets. Tuokko praises wood as a material for making accessories that touch the skin.

“A wooden watch is really light, always warm and doesn’t make its wearer’s wrist sweat,” he lists. “Similarly, wooden eyeglasses are softer than plastic ones and more than anything, they’re classy. It’d be difficult to copy the unique pattern of wood.”

Aarni watched carry the feeling of Nordic nature.

Aarni watched carry the feeling of Nordic nature. Image: Aarni

Aarni didn’t create a whole new market, as there’s already a handful (pun intended) of companies that produce wooden watches. That doesn’t put Tuokko off.

“If there was no competition, we could ask ourselves if there’s demand to begin with,” he rationalises.

Aarni’s selling point is in Finnish wood, particularly curly birch. Aarni also wants to make sure the price doesn’t hike too high for regular Joes. A watch can be purchased for about 200 euros.

Visions guiding the way

Although none of the founding fathers is a fashion designer, all Aarni watch styles are created by them. All eyewear is based on classy, traditional styles.

New models are constantly in development, based on customers’ wishes. For example, the first wallets were found too small by some, so bigger ones are in the making.

“In addition to the feedback we receive, we’re guided by our personal visions,” Tuokko explains. “We go for what we find intriguing and good-looking.”

The items themselves are manufactured by a partner in China, using Finnish wood and Swiss clockwork. Everything else is run by the trio in Finland. Responsibilities are distributed according to each owner’s personal interests, and routines are taken care of with joint effort.

At the moment, the vast majority of Aarni items remain in Finland. Orders are coming in increasing numbers from abroad. For example, Brits have seemed keen to wear Finnish wood around their wrists. Aarni is planning to localise its website for foreign markets and start pushing marketing efforts outside of the motherland’s borders.

Tuokko deems Nordic countries, the UK and central Europe particularly fruitful markets. Aarni is currently investigating the possibilities in the Middle East, too.

There are no set goals or targets – apart from one.

“As long as the percentage is up, the direction is right.”

Three men posing in a forest

From left: Niklas Tuokko, Pyry Alamäki and Samuli Koivistoinen are childhood friends and Aarni founders. Image: Aarni

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