Midwifery is Marjut Rahkola’s calling. The mother of six, who’d looked after her children at home for several years, always planned to go back to work by the time she turned 40.
In August last year, the round number was approaching. The thought was still in the back of her mind, but things around her had changed radically. She was, and is now, the founder, owner and CEO of internationally operating children’s clothing brand Vimma.
“I really had to contemplate it, as I love midwifery and respect it immensely,” she says. “Then I decided that I’ve still got too much passion for Vimma to let it go. This child isn’t ready to face the world without me yet!”
Designing clothes and sewing were initially just hobbies that Rahkola took up when, after three boys, her fourth child was a girl. She found herself creating one dress after another – and realised she’s not the only one keen on kidswear.
Together with her twin sister, she started importing children’s clothing from brands that weren’t available in Finland at the time. However, seeing the brands they had uncovered become available in more and more online stores made the siblings lose enthusiasm.
Rahkola continued sewing her own designs, and her and her friends had a habit of arranging photoshoots of the clothes and their children.
“There was no real reason for it; I’m not on Facebook or other social media so I didn’t even publish the photos anywhere. It was pretty intense though, a lot of resources and time went into it.”
Then one of Rahkola’s friends told Marimekko about her doings. Suddenly, what used to be a leisure pursuit turned into a job: for many years, she designed for the world-famous Finnish design brand, with no formal education in design whatsoever.
All in good taste
After years at Marimekko and studies at Helsinki Design School, Rahkola realised that she’d regret it for the rest of her life if she didn’t try her wings with her own brand. Some friends from the Marimekko times were immediately interested in helping her out.
With Rahkola creating the clothes and other people drawing the prints, the first Vimma pieces started to take form. The company was founded in 2013.
Rahkola’s core idea is to produce high quality, sustainable clothing that suits all situations, with practical cuts and cool, attractive prints. Initially, the collections were for children and their mothers. Now, the selection for women is expanding more and more, and there are unisex products for adults as well.
“Everyone in the family can wear the same print if they want to,” Rahkola says.
One of the guiding principles for Vimma is good taste. It doesn’t only apply to designs and prints; it also dictates each choice, from materials and packaging to production facilities. Vimma’s manufacturing happens in Lithuania and Estonia, and Rahkola visits the factories regularly to stay up to date and maintain trust between all partners – including customers.
“We bear the environment in mind with everything, transparently and honestly. Whatever our customers want to know about our production processes, we can tell them. There’s nothing we need to hide.”
Big plans abroad
At the moment, Vimma has two stores in Finland and a global online store, through which orders come in from all over the world. The next big steps that await are increasing international visibility and finding suitable business models to conquer new markets with.
Vimma is particularly keen to see what the nearby regions, as well as Japan and North America, have to offer.
“Hopefully, this year will be a big one for us when it comes to internationalisation,” Rahkola tells. “Although Vimma isn’t hugely famous in Finland, the growth has been rapid, and we’ve met all the targets we’ve set for ourselves.”
As the owner of the company, with her brother as a minor shareholder, Rahkola has a lot of power over the direction Vimma is taking. Despite the plentiful plans and ambitions, she hasn’t fully given up the thought of returning to the labour ward.
“If one day I feel like I’ve got nothing more to give, I can imagine going back to midwifery. Right now, the spark I have for Vimma is there and strong as ever.”